The story of the Times Square bomber reads like some Urdu dinner-theater production of Mel Brooks’ “The Producers” that got lost in translation between here and Peshawar: A man sets out to produce the biggest bomb on Broadway since “Dance a Little Closer” closed on its opening night in 1983. Everything goes right: He gets a parking space right next to Viacom, owners of the hated Comedy Central. But then he gets careless. He buys the wrong fertilizer. He fails to open the valve on the propane tank. And next thing you know, his ingenious plot is the nonstop laugh riot of the Great White Way. Ha-ha, what a loser! Why, the whole thing’s totally - what’s the word? - “amateurish,” according to multiple officials. It “looked amateurish,” scoffed New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Amateurish,” agreed Janet Napolitano, the White House’s amateurishness czar.
Ha-ha-ha. How many jihadists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: 27. Twenty-six terrorist masterminds to supervise six months of rigorous training at a camp in Waziristan, after which the 27th flies back to Newark, goes to Home Depot and buys a quart of lamp oil and a wick.
Is it so unreasonable to foresee that one day one of these guys will buy the wrong lamp oil and a defective wick and drop the Camp Osama book of matches in a puddle as he’s trying to light the bomb, and yet this time, amazingly, it actually will go off? Not really. Last year, not one, but two “terrorism task forces” discovered that U.S. Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan was in regular e-mail contact with the American-born, Yemeni-based cleric Ayman al-Awlaki but concluded that this was consistent with the major’s “research interests,” so there was no reason to worry about it. A few months later, Maj. Hasan gunned down dozens of his comrades while standing on a table shouting “Allahu Akbar!” That also was consistent with his “research interests,” by the way. A policy of relying on stupid jihadists to screw it up every time inevitably will allow one or two to wiggle through. Hopefully not on a nuclear scale.
Faisal Shahzad’s curriculum vitae rang a vague bell with me. A couple of years back, I read a best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid called “The Reluctant Fundamentalist.” His protagonist, Changez, is not so very different from young Mr. Shahzad: They’re both young, educated, westernized Muslims from prominent Pakistani families. Changez went to Princeton; Faisal to Connecticut’s non-Ivy University of Bridgeport, but he nevertheless emerged with a master’s degree in business education. Both men graduate to the high-flying sector of Wall Street analysts. On returning to New York from overseas, both men get singled out and questioned by immigration officials. Both men sour on the United States and grow beards. Previously “moderate,” they are now “radicalized.”
The difference is that Faisal tries to blow up midtown Manhattan while Changez becomes the amused, detached narrator of a critically acclaimed novel genially mocking U.S. parochialism and paranoia. If only life were like an elegantly playful novel rich in irony. Instead, the real-life counterpart to the elegant charmer holes up in a jihadist training camp for months, flies back “home” and parks a fully loaded sport utility vehicle in Times Square.
He’s not an exception; he’s the rule. The panty bomber is a wealthy Nigerian who lived in a London flat worth 2 million pounds. Kafeel Ahmed, who died driving a flaming SUV into the concourse of Glasgow Airport, was president of the Islamic Society of Queen’s University in Belfast. Omar Sheikh, the man who beheaded the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Pearl, was a graduate of the London School of Economics. Mohamed Atta was a Hamburg University engineering student. Osama bin Laden went to summer school at Oxford. Educated men. Westernized men. Men who could be pulling down big six-figure salaries anywhere on the planet - were it not that their Islamic identity trumps everything else: elite education, high-paying job, Western passport.
As for the idea that America has become fanatically “Islamophobic” since Sept. 11, au contraire: Were the United States even mildly “Islamophobic,” it would have curtailed Muslim immigration, or at least subjected immigrants from Pakistan, Yemen and a handful of other hotbeds to an additional level of screening. Instead, Muslim immigration to the West has accelerated in the past nine years, and, as the case of Faisal Shahzad demonstrates, being investigated by terrorism task forces is no obstacle to breezing through your U.S. citizenship application. An “Islamophobic” United States might have pondered whether the more extreme elements of self-segregation were compatible with participation in a pluralist society. Instead, President Obama makes fawning speeches boasting that he supports the rights of women to be “covered” - rather than the rights of the ever-lengthening numbers of European and North American Muslim women beaten, brutalized and murdered for not wanting to be covered. The U.S. is so un-Islamophobic that a 13-story mosque is being built at ground zero - on the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory damaged by airplane debris that Tuesday morning in 2001.
So, in the ruins of a building reduced to rubble in the name of Islam, a temple to Islam will arise.
And, whenever the marshmallow illusions are momentarily discombobulated, the entire political-media class rushes forward to tell us that the thwarted killer was a “lone wolf,” an “isolated extremist.” According to Mr. Bloomberg a day or two before Mr. Shahzad’s arrest, the most likely culprit “maybe” was “someone … that doesn’t like the health care bill or something.” Even after Mr. Shahzad’s arrest, Associated Press, CNN and The Washington Post attached huge significance to the problems the young jihadist had had keeping up his mortgage payments. Subprime terrorism is a far greater threat to the United States than anything to do with certain words beginning with I and ending in slam.
Given the demographic advance of Islam in Europe, the de jure advance of Shariah in Europe (the Geert Wilders blasphemy trial) and de facto in America (Comedy Central’s and Yale University Press’ submission to Islamic proscriptions on representations of Muhammad), you wonder why excitable types like Faisal Shahzad are so eager to jump the gun. The Islamization of the West proceeds apace; why draw attention to it and risk a backlash?
Because the reactions of Bloomberg & Company are a useful glimpse into the decayed and corroded heart of a civilization. One day the bomb will explode. Dozens dead? Hundreds? Thousands? Would we then restrict immigration from certain parts of the world? Or at least subject would-be immigrants from those places to extra roadblocks on the fast track to citizenship? What do you think?
I see, as part of the new culturally sensitive warmongering, that the NATO commander in Afghanistan is considering giving out awards to soldiers for “courageous restraint.” Maybe we could hand them out at home, too. Hopefully not posthumously.
Mark Steyn is the author of the New York Times best-seller “America Alone” (Regnery, 2006).