Tuesday, September 06, 2011
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.
The Lebanese kid who had everything bargained away his worldly pleasures possessions for deep and abiding faith, a faith that kills.