Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Making of a British Suicide Bomber

Jason Burke, a journalist for The Observer (The Guardian's saner little sister publication) has published a long report about how young Britons, mostly from Pakistani families, become suicide bombers. The first section is here, and the second (longer but more interesting) is here.

He deals with the subject in as serious a way as he knows, meaning he uses the tools of a journalist as well as he can: he interviewed all sorts of people, he traced down stories, and so on. There is no indication he uses any of the tools of a scholar: read books, search out the fundamental texts, learn the relevant languages, immerse himself in the relevant culture. As a result, his description is deeply unsatisfying, even while being significantly better than most of the mumbo-jumbo you'll pick up from the media most any day of the week.

Ultimately, after he has told us all sorts of interesting things, we notice that there is nothing particularly unusual in any of it. Which, given that the crime he's trying to describe is very unusual indeed, seen from just about any historical perspective, is quite unsatisfactory.

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