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A recipe for ‘homemade’ extremism

Badria al-Bishr

Published: Updated:

All you have to do is turn on the T.V. and switch to C.N.N. to feel like you are in Boston. You can feel the terror through the screen, see the armed police, whose number exceeded 9,000, and hear the police sirens and the buzz of helicopters equipped with infrared technology looking for a 19-year-old called Dzhokhar whose photo appears at the top of the screen. He appears to have childlike features and a red flower is pinned to his jacket. The photo may have been taken on the day he graduated from school. Every minute detail about Dzhokhar was discussed, beginning with his Facebook page and ending with questions over whether he should be tried as an American citizen or as a terrorist akin to those held in Guantanamo Bay.

Boston is still living in shock following the explosions. And we are living in the same shock on the other side of the world. Will the whole thing end with the arrest of the young man and the death of his brother? What if Dzhokhar dies, taking his secrets with him? Will we, according to the police and security institutions’ analyses, remain victims of a pressure cooker? The young men’s parents do not believe that their sons are the perpetrators. No one is really certain, including the Americans themselves. The Muslims too have deeper suspicions and want more evidence to reassure them that these two suspects are indeed the perpetrators. They also demand more evidence which clarifies why two men, one of whom was about to be an engineer and another who was about to be a doctor, decided to walk in such a cold-blooded manner carrying a bag of explosives to kill and injure people.

Primitive explosives

Media reports published information that the explosives used were primitive ones that can be made in your mother’s kitchen! The explosives were made using a pressure cooker filled with nails, worn out tires and an explosive black powder. 3,000 people died in the September 11, 2011 attacks and only three died in Boston. But the incident in Boston was enough to remind onlookers of the terror of September 11. It was also enough to bring back the same illusions and rumors in addition to feelings of hatred and a lust for vengeance.

But the most important question that worries fathers and mothers is how do we protect our sons from being dragged into terrorism? How do we protect them from even encouraging or sympathizing with those game makers?

Badria al-Bishr

But the most important question that worries fathers and mothers is how do we protect our sons from being dragged into terrorism? How do we protect them from even encouraging or sympathizing with those game makers? How can we keep our youths safe as long as the weapons can be made in their mothers’ kitchens and as long as the recipe to prepare a bomb is available on al-Qaeda’s online magazine? Does the problem lie in the availability of tools of violence or in the availability of the culture that incites violence? When looking at the fate of Dzhokhar and his brother, why don’t people consider that one of their sons could be in his place if their ignorance and enthusiasm are exploited?
After the September 11 attacks, institutions in Lebanon, Kuwait and Jordan were established to protect youths from violence - either violence towards others or violence towards themselves, like suicide and drug addiction. These institutions work to protect youths by providing them with job opportunities, training them, developing them and revealing their creativity. Do you know what these institutions complain of? A lack of funds and governmental support. On the other hand, suspicious organizations receive plenty of funds. Not only that, but such organizations succeed in robbing people’s money under the slogan of aiding Muslims, like looking after orphans, digging wells and feeding poor people who fast. These funds, however, go to arming extremists. Boston’s incident still threatens us with its repercussions that I hope do not get worse. Our sons there, especially in Boston, live amid worries and terror of what may happen to them. Who benefits from all of this? Is it, for example, shops that sell pressure cookers?

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Dr. Badria al-Bishr is a multi-award-winning Saudi columnist and novelist. A PhD graduate from the American University of Beirut, and an alumnus of the U.S. State Department International Visitor program. Her columns put emphasis on women and social issues in Saudi Arabia. She currently lectures at King Saud University's Department of Social Studies.

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