Ramadan informs us that Mohamed Merah was neither religious nor political; he was just a confused angry guy flailing around.
He seems to have had very precise aim for someone who was just flailing.
Religion was not Mohamed Merah’s problem – nor was his politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress: Afghanistan and Palestine. He attacked symbols like the army, and killed Jews, Christians and Muslims without distinction.
Wut? Religion was not his problem, nor was politics; it’s just that he found two political (or religious, or religious-political) causes and murdered people for the sake of them. He “articulated his distress” by shooting up a Jewish school, yet that was neither religious nor political.
Politically, he was a young man adrift, imbued neither with the values of Islam, nor driven by racism and anti-Semitism. Young, disoriented, he shot at targets whose prominence and meaning seem to have been chosen based on little more than their visibility.
What visibility? What was so visible about that school?
I think Ramadan is probably right that Merah was no deep thinker. That’s my view of most jihadis. But that’s not the same as being driven neither by Islam nor by racism – on the contrary: Islamist xenophobia and anti-Semitism are very simple-minded. Islamism is crude; Merah was crude; wholesale murder of enemy Others for the sake of a simple-minded “cause” is crude. It’s all crude, but it’s no less religious and political for that. Ramadan the academic of course wants us to think that “the values of Islam” are both profound and benevolent, but alas that’s a hopeless ambition.
A substantial number of French citizens are treated as second-class citizens. Mohamed Merah was French (whose behaviour was as remote from the Qur’anic message as it was from Voltaire’s texts). Is it so difficult to acknowledge this fact? There, indeed, lies the French problem.
Wishful thinking in action.