Running with Scissors
In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence. Laurence J. Peter
Incompetence is a better explanation than conspiracy in most human activity. Peter Bergen
This week I am addressing the phenomenon of terrorist incompetence. Regularly we are being exposed to news stories that report on various terrorist attacks across the US and around the world. What few of us realize is that of the many terrorist attacks we hear about, there are twice as many failed ones. They go unreported because of their lack of newsworthiness.
In spite of the devastating effects of many terrorist attacks, there are as many which never come to fruition due to the complexity of carrying out coordinated attacks. Most importantly, we need to be reminded as we approach the end of 2017, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” Psalm 20:7
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In the early morning hours on Monday, 1 December, Akayed Ullah, 27, an immigrant from Bangladesh, nervously attached the wires he had earlier prepared to an explosive device he had velcro-ed to his chest. He tried to blow up a metro station near Times Square in New York City. The would-be catastrophic event was filmed completely by subway closed circuit TV cameras. Instead of blowing up the metro station he blew up himself and he didn’t even do a good job of that. Within minutes of the explosion New York Transport Authorities had subdued Akayed and put him into custody.
This incident highlights a series of both orchestrated and lone-wolf terrorist events being conducted around the world today. It is a good example of the complexity of pulling off an effective terrorist attack. Terrorism is not just about killing people. Terrorism is about creating terror. It is about fomenting fear. It is really important that this point not be forgotten. “Terrorism is theater.” This is why terrorists of every kind seemingly attempt to carry out attacks that are above their skill level. They are not just trying to kill someone. They are trying to make a statement of one kind or another; the bigger the better.
Mr. Ullah’s attempted bombing of New York’s subway system was the 101st publicly known attempted or completed terrorist attack in the USA since 9/11. So as you can see there are a plethora of attacks being planned and/or attempted, but only a few of them are actually making the news. That is good news and bad. It is good in that the media is beginning to realize that they can strip the terrorist attacks of their meaning by not reporting them. It is bad in that there are many more happening than any of us are aware. Unbeknown to most of us, there are literally thousands, if not tens of thousands, of people who are currently under terrorist watch or surveillance. Plots are being foiled regularly, but at an enormous cost, both financially and to the liberties normally enjoyed by American citizens. Presently, there are close to 1 million people on the FBI’s “watch list” at airports and the number is growing at an alarming rate.
I can go on describing the erstwhile attempts of terrorist wannabes but you can easily click on this link to get that run down of individual attempts and timelines. It is important to remember that regardless of extremist violence attacks, there is a larger picture. 1.) Many, if not most terrorists are relative amateurs when it comes to terrorist tradecraft, especially bomb-making, “the holy grail” of terrorism. 2.) We saw earlier this year that even in highly planned and coordinated attacks, such as in Barcelona, mistakes easily creep in causing years of planning to go to waste. 3.) Even when terrorists fail there is usually a cost of human life. Let’s not ever get to a point where we accept terroristic murder as the “new norm.” I have heard analysts say, “It could have been so much worse,” as if that will somehow soothe the pain in a mother’s heart as she embraces the lifeless body of her child. Terrorism is an unacceptable act of the highest order. Let’s not stop fighting against it until it is completely eradicated.
This is an extremely important matter for us because there is the potential of radicalizing people in our communities even today. One of the primary causes for this radicalization is marginalization and loneliness among immigrants in the USA and throughout Europe. I have written extensively on this subject and will continue to highlight that there is much we can do to stop this creeping reality of radicalization, both Islamic and otherwise.
The stopping of radicalization is a matter in which we can all participate. It is a matter of Americans getting out of their homes and reaching out to their new neighbors. I have said it before and will continue to say it because the data supports it. Newcomers to our communities are deeply desirous to become part of a community. It is difficult for them to even conceive of life without community. They want so much to be accepted and embraced as new Americans. Often they are not integrating into our communities because no one will allow them. The slow process of marginalization among youth, especially young teens can be stemmed through their effective integration into their host communities. This does not entail the stripping away of their cultural heritage, but the blending of their culture into the American people-scape and the acceptance of their distinctiveness with grace and hospitality. This, of course is not all our fault as Americans but perhaps we as Christians can help with the integration of new Americans if we are willing to open up our homes and lives to them.
Who knows, perhaps if they were invited into our communities and offered our help, their lives would be eternally changed for generations to come. I cannot predict that with absolute certainty, but why not give it a shot? No matter what the outcome, it would be embodying the character of Christ, and that is enough.
What can we do? How do we live in a world where it appears that the only thing between us and the effects of a terrorist attack is blind luck and coincidence? First, understand that your life is in the hands of a loving Father, who neither slumbers nor rests from watching over you. Your fate does not rest on a bunch of angry young guys running with scissors.
“Our starting place must always be love.” As Christians, this is non-negotiable. That does not mean that we stick our heads in the sand or believe everything we hear. It means that we hear with an ear to bless and not to curse. It means that we listen with a desire to contribute to solutions. We should be informed people, not ones who by merely emotional appeals contribute to the confusion. Here are some ways we can be part of the solution.
1. Get to know a Muslim. We might find that they are appalled at the notion of extremist violence. We will probably discover that they know little about the Qur’an. Before we are too quick to judge, we should remember that many of us who claim to be Christians probably understand little about the Bible.
2. Be prepared. 1 Corinthians 16:13 “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” Nothing will ever replace preparedness for being able to be used by God to meet the needs of others. We need to be ready, spiritually, physically and materially to be used by God. If we are not ready, we really have no vote as to how this will work out.
3. Learn something about Islam. There are several good, and what I would call accurate portrayals of Islam. Here are a few:
- Muslims Next Door by Shirin Tabor… https://www.amazon.com/Muslims-Next-Door-Shirin-Taber-ebook/dp/B0033SA592/ref=sr_1_13?ie=UTF8&qid=1513635735&sr=8-13&keywords=Witnessing+to+Muslims
- Here is a study course that you will find very helpful. https://encounteringislam.org
- My friend, Shane is producing a newsletter called: Muslim Connect. It is a short weekly article on understanding Islam that you might find helpful. http://shanebennett.us1.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=d29944800aacc3e14aab102e1&id=96050a1d62
- Denison, Jim. Radical Islam: What You Need to Know (Unlocking the Truth) (Kindle Location 1). Elevation Press. Kindle Edition.
- Warraq, Ibn. The Islam in Islamic Terrorism: The Importance of Beliefs, Ideas, and Ideology (Kindle Location 1). New English Review Press. Kindle Edition.
- Morris, Charles. Fleeing ISIS, Finding Jesus: The Real Story of God at Work (Kindle Location 1). David C. Cook. Kindle Edition.
- 9/11 Through My Muslim Eyes… https://clarionproject.org/911-through-my-muslim-eyes/
- I want to show that there are multiple positions on the matter of Islam in America… https://aifdemocracy.org/our-work/our-team/dr-jasser/
- Ways to Pray for Terrorists… https://atfp.org/prayer-resources/ways-pray/
- 5 Prayers for protection Against Terrorism …http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2016/08/16/5-prayers-for-protection-against-terrorism/
- Praying for Terrorists… https://missiononeness.com/pray-terrorists/