Inside the mind of a Muslim terrorist

Jamal Khashoggi

Published: Updated:

Dzhohkar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who has serious injuries preventing him from talking and answering investigator questions, is surrounded by investigators who wish they were able to read his mind and search for answers.

How did a young Muslim man change after he arrived to America as a teenager, fused into the community, became a “U.S. citizen like any one of us” (as one of his friends said), and then turn from a young man who loves life and money (as he wrote on his page on a social networking site) to a terrorist, killing innocent people?

What mostly frighten security analysts, are the amateur terrorists who are not associated to any organization and who recruit themselves through the internet: analysts cannot consequently find any lines to track them down and expose them before they commit their crime.

Last week, security officials uncovered two similar cases, one in Canada and the second in France. In both cases, there were young men like the Tsarnaev brothers, the suspects in Boston bombings. This phenomenon can ignite a new wave of Islamophobia. Most probably, someone is now asking in an American right-wing newspaper or TV channel “How can I be sure that my young Muslim neighbor who looks nice and friendly, and is no less American than I am, will not suddenly turn into a terrorist?”

Despite our uneasiness as Arabs and Muslims regarding this question, it is a legitimate question that recalls the words of Al Arabiya General Manager Abdulrahman al-Rashed, who was brave enough to say that it is a “fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain, and exceptionally painful, that almost all terrorists are Muslims”; these words pushed some people to harshly criticize him.

Coming wave of terror?

I will help security officials and investigators who wish to wander into the mind of Dzhohkar Tsarnaev and convey to them some of what is roving inside the angry Muslim mind in general, even though I know that American and western politicians reject any attempt to answer the causes behind Muslim anger.

Someone must have the courage to tell the West: your double standards are the reason behind the anger generating terrorism.

Jamal Khashoggi

They believe it “justifies” terrorism; they know that discussing the reasons will lead to hold them accountable and open some files they want to block out, even though their main goal should be to fight terrorism by treating its causes. American and western politicians also prefer to discuss with the Russian administration issues like promoting security cooperation, rather than to ask President Putin who is responsible for the Chechnya massacres, “what did you do there” and send a Congress committee to investigate his crimes.

Amid the heightened security efforts that will occupy the attention of the politicians worldwide, they will not anticipate the coming wave of Islamic terrorism, which I expect. The earlier waves launched in the middle of the 1990s were a reaction to the events in Bosnia and Algeria.

The second millennium wave focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya, and will be followed by a third wave that will be provoked by the massacres in Syria, which is now fueling Muslim anger through images of never-ending injustice. They are real images that young angry Muslims can see today on YouTube and WhatsApp and are usually rated 18+. There are videos that news channels cannot broadcast, depicting members of the Syrian regime slowly killing and torturing their victims, and cutting off arms and legs.

These pictures should be handed to the International Criminal Court and not to social media sites. They are also endorsed by a wave of images coming from Burma, where the world praises its support for Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate; while nobody implicitly or explicitly condemned the flagrant human rights violations after the killing, burning and raping of the Muslim minority there.

Provoking images

Perhaps Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother watched some of these videos and images that resounded in their angry minds, which was already accumulated as Chechens. They must have seen a lot of pictures showing Muslims being tortured; they have maybe watched the videos where the Russian officer slays a Chechen fighter with his small Swiss knife – the worst kind of slow murder; the victim wobbles and he gradually bleeds as the Russians laugh about it.

I reiterate that such videos should be sent to the International Criminal Court, but how would that happen if no one was sent to trial. What Bashar al-Assad is doing in Syria today is the same as what Putin did in Chechnya; there are images of the fully destroyed Grozny. The angry Muslim mind is observing again today, that those protecting Bashar and his regime are those who destroyed Grozny and killed more than 100, 000 Chechens. The angry mind does not see any other detail, such as the international scene or the balance of interests; it is a mind that is not able to think. If the Tsarnaev brothers were logically thinking they would not have targeted the Boston Marathon and the compassionate city that nestled them.

The effect of these videos on the angry Muslim mind is substantial; it stimulates the accumulated feeling of injustice because it sees itself as a targeted minority and that the whole world is against it. It believes that Americans secretly support Bashar, and are keeping mum towards Putin’s crimes and the Burmese leader’s hypocrisy. It believes (and it has the right to) that the ugliest crimes of the last century and today have been committed against Muslims. The only exceptions are the Jews after being tortured by the Nazis, and the Armenians who were tortured by the Ottomans.

This angry mind also perceives that these two communities have gotten the world’s apologies and compensation. The only ones who do not receive apologies are the Muslims; we should not disregard the Palestinian soreness in the Arab Muslim conscience: there have not been a community that was displaced as the Palestinians were, and yet, no one is ready to apologize to them. Who dares to ask for a museum in New York commemorating the exodus? Who dares to ask for an official Russian apology for 1.5 million Chechens who were forcibly displaced from their homes and dispersed on the borders of the Soviet Union, where hundreds of thousands died from diseases and starvation?

When the Chechens revolted asking for their independence, the Russians waged arbitrary wars against them, and again, the world did not react upon seeing the documented and truthful photos. Many stories are invading the angry Muslim mind in a way that paralyzes its logic and transforms the kindhearted young man into a dangerous terrorist.

Some will think that in this article, I am trying to find excuses for terrorism, but no, no one can justify terrorism; the only way to eradicate it is to treat its causes. Someone must have the courage to tell the West: your double standards are the reason behind the anger generating terrorism.

This article was first published in al-Hayat on April 27, 2013.

Jamal Khashoggi is a Saudi journalist, columnist, author, and general manager of the upcoming Al Arab News Channel. He previously served as a media aide to Prince Turki al Faisal while he was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States. Khashoggi has written for various daily and weekly Arab newspapers, including Asharq al-Awsat, al-Majalla and al-Hayat, and was editor-in-chief of the Saudi-based al-Watan. He was a foreign correspondent in Afghanistan, Algeria, Kuwait, Sudan, and other Middle Eastern countries. He is also a political commentator for Saudi-based and international news channels.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.