Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

9/11 Reflections--II


One of the great mysteries of 9/11 remains the identity of the attackers--not who they were, but why they were what they were, because what seems true of them all is that they had not only the means but also the psychological wherewithal to coexist with real Western-style freedom.  They all knew what life in the West offered.  They'd lived here.

In this week's edition of The Nation, Fouad Ajami spotlights the life of Lebanese-born Ziad Jarrah, the hijacker thought to have been at the controls of the passenger jet that went down in Pennsylvania when passengers rushed the cockpit. 

Jarrah, like the others, was not born to squalor or raised in abject poverty.  He did not watch his people suffer at the hands of the Israelis or anyone else.  Of suffering itself, he knew very little. He attended a fancy Catholic boarding school in France and went after a university degree is aeronautical engineering and aircraft design in Germany.  His Lebanese family was definitely upper-class, and it's likely that, when he was home, he spent vastly more time on the beach than in the mosque.  Ajami says his parents were, at best, nominal Muslim.

"But then there was a great rupture in Jarrah's life," Ajami writes.  "The boy who never missed a party in Beirut would now never miss a prayer in Hamburg." 

He got religion, militant religion.  His girlfriend remembers his getting angry with her about what she did or didn't wear, as well as her drinking.  To use evangelical language, he was born again; he found meaning and purpose in a life he'd never known before as a Muslim is a Muslim country, and he never told his parents. 

"Freelance religion," Ajami writes, "faith without mediation of religious authorities," faith without history or tradition--or history and tradition all its own was what he found--or what found him.  

In the summer of 2000 he went to the United States, just a year after pledging his loyalty to Osama bin Laden.  He enrolled in flight school in Venice, Florida, where no one noticed him.  But then he'd become a master chameleon--after all, he'd been a student in both France and Germany previously.  He knew how to fly beneath the radar.  "A boy educated in a Catholic school was now ready to kill and die for the faith," Ajami says.

He seems, even now, ten years later, such an unlikely martyr.  But then, I suppose, before his heartfelt conversion, he'd never suffered. 

"I did not leave you alone," he wrote in a farewell letter before his death.  "Allah is with you, and with my parents.  If you need anything, then ask Him for what you need.  He listens and knows what is within you.. . .We will have a very beautiful eternal life, where no problems exist and where there is no mourning."

The Lebanese kid who had everything bargained away his worldly pleasures possessions for deep and abiding faith, a faith that kills. 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is the imposition of "Shock and Awe" OK in Iraq and New York as acts jutified by "faith"? Our remembrance of 9-11 this week may be a reflection of the ongoing experience of many moderate people in Iraq and Afghanistan who are also suffering at the hands of alien powers.

Anonymous said...

How many civilian adults and children have been killed during the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, and at what cost?

Anonymous said...

It's a good thing more of forefathers didn't think or act in what you are saying. OR, we'd be talking in Japanese right now.

Anonymous said...

Si? Dotah!