Jihad You Can Believe InThe Times is always willing to expand the breadth of its readership. We can only assume the troubling economy is the reason for Katherine Zoepf's piece in today's New York Times Magazine about militants who are rehabilitated by the friendly Saudi government and by Penn State's International Center for the Study of Terrorism. Her considered and sympathetic portrayal of those caught up in the jihad rat race might sell some newspaper subscriptions, assuming the rehabilitation plan includes a new car to go buy the paper in. Apparently, it usually does:In Zoepf's formulation, all Saudi militants need to see a nonviolent path is a little helpful instruction, and maybe a new wife:
"All right, Ali,” the sheik said. “Why do we answer calls for jihad? Is it because all Muslim leaders want to make God’s word highest? Do we kill if these leaders tell us to kill?” Ali looked confused, but whispered, “Yes.” “No — wrong!” Jilani cried as Ali blushed. "Of course we want to make God’s word highest, but not every Muslim leader has this as his goal. There are right jihads and wrong jihads, and we must examine the situation for ourselves."
At some point though, Zoepf is forced to define jihad, which she says "usually refers to armed conflict with non-Muslims in defense of the global Islamic community." Oh, armed conflict. Like arm wrestling and such. That makes sense. She details all the rewards organizations offer to reformed jihadists: candy bars, wives, Toyotas, employment. It almost makes you want to join the revolution just to get reformed. We're not against fighting the war of ideas, we just have some questions about how it's being fought. The basic principle that Muslims join the revolution through chance is fine, but is that also the way to get them out of the revolution? By the end of the article, you come to respect the Saudi approach more than ours:
Though it might seem out of place in a society whose religion proscribes the representation of animal or human forms, art therapy is practiced. Awad al-Yami, who studied the subject at Penn State, leads the classes, and chalk drawings by former jihadists decorate the walls of his classroom. Although the sketches — mostly ornate Arabic calligraphy and depictions of flowers — do not especially suggest that demons are being wrestled with, art therapy helps inmates to examine the consequences of their actions, Yami says. “I ask them, ‘If you blow up a car, what will happen?’ The paper gives them a safe place to express some destructive emotions.”
Time for fingerpainting, you guys!