The deadly snicker
Bullets and explosives may kill anti-Iraqi fascists, intelligence may round up and imprison their cells. But the most lethal weapon--the power that corrodes, weakens and will eventually break their morale--is laughter. When the world, especially the Muslim world, ceases to perceive Islamoterrorists with admiration and fear, but with ridicule and contempt, the ability of the reactionaries to inspire, recruit and execute plans--and people--will diminish and fade, like a desert wind.
And so it is with much curiosity and hope that we read this article by Steve Negus and Dhiya Rasan in yesterday's Financial Times. The headline and first few grafs say it all:
Television helps break mystique of holy warrior
Say the word mujahid--or holy warrior--these days and many inhabitants of Baghdad are likely to snigger.
An appellation once worn as a badge of pride by anti-American insurgents has now become street slang for homosexuals, after men claiming to be captured Islamist guerrillas confessed that they were holding gay orgies in the popular Iraqi TV programme Terror in the Hands of Justice.
For Iraqis opposed to the predominantly Sunni Islamist insurgency [the show] has broken the mystique of a force that used to strike terror into the hearts of anyone working with the Americans or the new government.
Adds Mr. Negus:
One long-bearded preacher known as Abu Tabarek confessed recently that guerrillas had held orgies in his mosques, knowing their status as holy warriors would win them forgiveness of sins.
This is the end. Of course, the anti-Iraqi criminals will continue to kill--as evident by their attacks yesterday on police and female translators. But the psychic engine driving Iraqis to enlist in the so-called "insurgency" has been honor-shame dynamic. Shamed by their swift fall from power, many Sunni Arab men seek to rehabilitate their sense of masculinity, self-esteem and social status by inflicting pain upon those who humiliated them: America and her allies. But when participation in the "insurgency" no longer absolves shame, but stains the reputation even further, the other psychic obstacles to maintaining a futile insurrection will prove increasingly difficult to surmount. When your older brother is accused of holding sexual orgies in mosques, how willing will you and your friends be to follow his footsteps into the "insurgency?"
This shame-honor dynamic is less operative with the foreign jihadists who comport to to fantasies of omnipotence and godhood. Accordingly, we will probably witness a slow diminution of home-grown Iraqis in the fascist ranks, replaced by increasing numbers of ever-more fanatic minions of Mssrs. Zarqawi and bin Laden.
Lastly, the shame-honor dynamic concerning the "insurgency" combined with outbreaks of feminine erotic energy (see below) suggest a fundamental shift in the psychic orientation in the Middle East. It's too early to make sweeping predictions, of course. And its possible that I am only focusing on a few fledgling shoots of new growth, ignoring the withered, blasted fig trees of tribal-religious repression that have stood for centuries, casting their long shadows over the region. Deserts are not known for rapid change. But hope, like waters from the well of Zamzam, springs eternal.