The enemy's will is strong because his identity is strong. And we must match his strength of purpose with strong identities of our own.I.
- Natan Sharansky, 'Defending Identity'
The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions.
- Mohammed Akram, 'An Explanatory Memorandum'
Who are you?
What is your name?
What's the place you call home? And if you were taken from your home by force, how would you stay true to who you are?
The Israeli television series 'Hatufim' - adapted for American TV as 'Homeland' - tells the story of two Israeli POWs who return home after 17 years in captivity at the hands of a terrorist group. Throughout the series, Nimrod and Uri struggle with questions of loyalty and identity; over and over, both of them tell the women in their lives "I'm not the same man I was before."
The first episodes show Nimrod and Uri being taken to a "facility" for debriefing, where they're questioned intensively by the relentless Major Haim Cohen. Cohen wants to learn all he can about the enemy, of course, but he also wants to know whether the two men have given up information to their captors.
As the show progresses, we begin to wonder how much - and on what levels - they have been altered by their time with the enemy. Early in the second season, a psychologist is shown giving a lecture (for our benefit) on "Stockholm syndrome". Later, another soldier returns home from a deep-cover mission, having ostensibly converted to Islam and taken the name Yusuf to work with the Children of Jihad - but hearing the muezzin's call for the first time since returning to Israel, and standing in his own childhood home, he begins reciting the Muslim prayers. And late at night, he is still haunted by the guard's repeated question, "What is your name?"
One real-life prisoner who stayed loyal to his cause was Natan Sharansky. His valuable book Defending Identity recounts his experiences in prison, and the lessons he drew from those times. Despite being held by the Communists for nine years in a Soviet prison, Sharansky (then known by his Russian name, Anatoly Shcharansky) did not back down from advocating human rights and Jewish solidarity.
But are not these two things - universal rights and ethnic solidarity - in conflict with one another? Sharansky insists that they are not, and in fact believes that this truth is the secret of his strength. From his own experience, and from observing others in the gulag, he concludes that "those with the strongest identities were the least likely to succumb to tyranny" (p. 61). And very often, this identity is found in religion. Sharansky does not claim it can be found only there, but it's clear that he sees faith as a source of strength with few rivals.
Religion - Jewish religion, that is - is notably absent from 'Hatufim'. The Jews of 'Hatufim' are secular Israelis who go to the synagogue only for bar mitzvahs. It's unlikely that they are fastidious about observing the Sabbath or the kosher laws (although it's hard to tell on this latter point, as all the characters are vegetarian). The Bible is quoted only once - in a reference to the Mossad's motto, Proverbs 24:6.
Contrast this with the devotion to purpose the Children of Jihad (the fictional terrorist group), whose members pray regularly, listen to Koranic sermons, and are often found at the mosque. In a battle of wills - if we accept Sharansky's premise - which side is better armed?
Jihad is closer than we like to think.
On July 29, 1983, a guy named Stephen Paul Paster tried to blow up what was then the Hotel Rajneesh on SW 11th Avenue and Main Street in Portland, Oregon. The bomb exploded prematurely, damaging the building and injuring him; he escaped and the law caught up with him two years later. He was sentenced to 20 years, of which he served four, getting released early for good behavior. He immediately took off for Pakistan, where he's believed to be living to this day.
Paster was a member of Jamaat al-Fuqra, a jihadi organization founded by Sheikh Gilani and believed to be a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The incident was soon forgotten, and the Rajneeshees, for their part, staged a bioterror attack of their own the following year and eventually dropped off the radar.
Jamaat al-Fuqra dropped off the radar, too, but they haven't gone away. Back in 1993, after the first World Trade Center bombing, the Anti-Defamation League published (pdf) a report on Al-Fuqra listing known and suspected incidents involving al-Fuqra through that date. The India-based South Asia Terrorism Portal has an article on Jamaat al-Fuqra also:
One of the persons convicted in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 was Clement Rodney Hampton-el, a Fuqra member. JF was linked in a Congressional testimony to the planning of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.Islamberg, New York was founded by Gilani in the 1980s. Martin Mawyer's Christian Action Network alleges that Islamberg is part of a network of settlements built for the purpose of training jihadi fighters. Mawyer details these allegations in his book Twilight in America, which has brought him a lawsuit from Gilani; Mawyer says bring it on.
Gilani is now in Pakistani custody for the abduction of US journalist Daniel Pearl. Official sources in Pakistan have indicated that Daniel Pearl was attempting to meet Gilani in the days before he disappeared in Karachi. Pakistani police arrested Gilani in Rawalpindi on January 30, 2002 and shifted him to Karachi for questioning. Although he denied any link to the abduction, police also detained several of his colleagues. Consequent to his arrest, he reportedly told his interrogators that he had links with the Pakistani intelligence agencies.
A media report has indicated that the JF is also being probed for links with Richard Reid, a Briton, accused of trying to use explosives in his shoes to blow up a Paris-to-Miami jetliner on December 22, 2001. ...
Three suspected US-based JF members have been arrested on weapons charges in the year 2001, including two following the September 11 multiple terrorist attacks. Vicente Rafael Pierre, a 44-year-old native of Brooklyn and his wife Traci Upshur, both JF cadres, were arrested on gun charges and convicted on November 30, 2001. Pierre's Virginia compound, near the Red House Commune, is reported to have served as a JF base.
Jamaat al-Fuqra think long-term, like their parent organization the Muslim Brotherhood. That's one of the hallmarks of the MB - they're disciplined, dedicated, and very patient. Their goals are set forth in a document, authored by Mohammed Akram and dated 1991, which became public during the Holy Land Foundation trials. If you haven't read the Explanatory Memorandum (pdf) yet, go take a look (English translation starts on page 16). You can also order a printed edition of the translation.
Akram, a member of the Brotherhood's board of directors and a senior member of Hamas, describes the process of Islamic "settlement" in North America as a "civilization-jihadist process". This process is projected to happen in five phases: settlement, establishment, stability, enablement, and rooting. It's not just a plan to address the needs of Muslims living in North America, or to improve Islamic education. Here's what it's really all about:
The Ikhwan [Brotherhood] must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions. Without this level of understanding, we are not up to this challenge and have not prepared ourselves for Jihad yet. It is a Muslim's destiny to perform Jihad and work wherever he is and wherever he lands until the final hour comes ...
Michael Totten has traveled all over the world and he's spent a lot of time in the Middle East. He's published books about Iraq, Lebanon, and the former Communist world. But his first novel - a story about a kidnapping - is set in the United States, in the Pacific Northwest.
In 'Taken', Michael Totten (the author as character) is abducted from his home in Portland and held hostage by American jihadists. The premise is chilling and entirely plausible.
Ahmed, Michael's interlocutor for much of the story, presents an articulate and reasonable-seeming face. Calmly and confidently, he outlines what he sees as the inevitable victory of Islam. Ahmed claims that he does not want to convert America "at gunpoint" (p. 67), and insists that "there is no compulsion in religion."
"The Jews don't like converts," Ahmed asserts. (That hasn't been my experience.) Ahmed, himself from a secular Muslim family background, sees the advance of Islam as inevitable. For him it's a choice between dynamism and stagnation, between meaning and emptiness, between something and nothing.
One of the most disturbing passages in 'Taken' comes near the end, where Totten, as narrator, describes his feelings of attraction toward Islam after feigning an interest in conversion to please his captors.
Does the narrator begin to succumb to Stockholm syndrome? Despite explicitly denying it, despite giving a knowledgeable discussion of the subject, is Totten's narrator in fact slipping into Stockholm syndrome himself towards the end of the story? I'll let you read the book and decide for yourself.
In Hatufim (Season 2, episode 4), the professor explains the process of Stockholm syndrome, citing the importance of creating a total dependency within the prisoner. She enumerates three essential conditions for this dependency: the prisoner's certainty that his life or death rests within the captor's hands; absolute isolation and deprivation of knowledge about the outside world, except for what the captor tells him; and finally, arbitrary kindness, which renders the prisoner defenseless and makes his identification with the captor "complete and absolute".
Totten brings out another aspect of the process, though, which I think is especially interesting. "I realized I was changing," the narrator admits (p. 109). "I was building invisible chains for myself." He realizes that even without being physically chained, "my own mind would create invisible walls for myself."
If the jihadis succeed in creating an atmosphere of intimidation, they will prevail. The Muslim Brotherhood will not need to resort to spectacular, mass-casualty attacks like al-Qaeda's destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; instead, by incrementally circumscribing the actions of free people into an ever-tighter sphere, they will achieve their goals with scarcely any resistance at all. We will have built our own invisible walls, and tied ourselves in our own invisible chains.
If you walk up to Jaffa from Tel Aviv, you'll pass an old, gutted brick building - once a soap factory - with its arches covered, jail-like, by iron bars. If you stand still in the afternoon heat and listen, you can hear the rustling and squeaking. It's full of bats.
I'm thinking about that building this afternoon.
On a day like today I can look out at San Francisco and think it'll last forever. The sky is clear, and it's warm outside - 80 degrees, and it's not even September yet! From the air-conditioned office where I work, the buildings of the Financial District appear immaculate, geometric, impregnable. In a century or two, will there be bats in these buildings? Will they be fit to live in, or even still be standing?
I have lived a pretty sheltered life. I haven't seen death up close, except once or twice. One night in a desert far away from my home, four of my buddies lost their lives to one of our own missiles outside of Khafji. The blast had obliterated their vehicle and there wasn't anything left to bury; we just held a short memorial service in the cool, damp January air and moved on. I could easily have been one of them. That was the night before my 28th birthday.
A year and a half later, my sister - who had just turned twenty-eight - was lying on a stainless steel table in the coroner's office. She looked so much smaller than she had in life, and healthier - like a child. Her face looked peaceful; her body, wrapped in the sheet, made me think of a cocoon or a chrysalis. Perhaps her soul had broken free like a butterfly; if so it flew in a hidden dimension of space where I could not see it.
She was a poet, and what she left us was her memories and her words. Every one of us will have to leave some day, and we will all leave something behind. What we build, and what we leave for others, exists in that invisible space, in that untouchable dimension. And that's what we're fighting for.
I think of my teenage son and my little girl. What kind of world will they live in? What words will they have? Will they write poetry? Will they know Hebrew? Will they light Sabbath candles with their children?
"A man with no children has no home," says Yusuf's Muslim mother-in-law when she's begun to suspect that his loyalties still lie with the other side. And she's right.
Our true homes have their foundations deep in the invisible inner space of our minds and souls, but they become part of the larger world in the children we leave behind.
More than the physical space of our cities, it's our mental and spiritual space that we're fighting for. Will we be as defenseless as the villagers in Totten's dream image? When we are asked 'What is your name?' will we know how to answer?