19 November 2014

The legitimate anger of the jihadis

As the season of wallowing in warrior worship wanes, we might think upon those warriors we love to hate—the young Muslim men from around the globe migrating (or trying to migrate) to the Middle East to fight for ISIS.

Their motivation is much discussed. Some, alienated from their society, seem driven by nothing more than a desperate search for meaning in their lives. The mentally-unbalanced, drug-addicted, homeless Michael Zehaf-Bibeau serves as an example. Others seem to simply want to participate in society, any society, in a meaningful way. Such is likely the case for youth in the Middle East and elsewhere where unemployment is rampant and the prospect of doing anything constructive for themselves or others is bleak.

And then there is another quite reasonable motivation not driven by desperation. It is dead easy to understand why any young Muslim who is aware of the treatment of his co-coreligionists in the Middle East over the past century would be deeply angry. I can get angry about it myself and I'm an atheist. Consider the invasion of Iraq: tens of thousands of innocents dead, millions of refugees driven from their homes and entire cites reduced to rubble. All this as a result of a Western aggression based on lies. And then there is the endless oppression of the Palestinians about whom the West often seems largely indifferent.

Hamilton lawyer Hussein Hamdan, an active member of the city’s Muslim community, has had considerable success in dissuading young men from joining groups like ISIS. He begins his counseling by recognizing their anger. "What we need to do is show them that whatever grievances they feel are legitimate," he said, "But if you really want to make a difference … you have to do something that pleases your creator."

Not all young Muslims will accept Mr. Hamdan's advice to reject violent jihad, even violence as thoroughly evil as ISIS, but in this country there are many alternatives for legitimate expression of dissent. These young men should be instructed in how to employ them and encouraged to do so. The West has committed many sins against the Middle East over the past century and honestly recognizing the grievances that result should be part of our policy toward that benighted region.


  1. A few hundred thousand unemployed, hopeless young men who have grown up with war and hatred of those who destroyed their land. What should we expect. Young men need goals and jobs and something to live for, whether in the middle east or their home countries.

  2. A good post. There is one simple way to stop the Middle East terrorism against the west, particularily the U.S. Get the hell out of their countries!