The Richard Reid story

The Richard Reid story seems to be coming into focus. Conversion to Islam, fell in with the wrong crew at the local mosque, fab vacation getaway to Pakistan, all ending up with the martyrdom operation gone awry.

What really strikes me though is some of the talk coming out of the Brixton Mosque in South London.

When looking at cultures other than our own, certain traits and tendencies can appear alien even though they should actually be quite familiar.

Let me give an example.

In college I once went to a seminar on violence and misogyny in rap music (how I found my way there I honestly don’t remember). There were a bunch of Afro-Am studies scholars and literary critics there on the panel (Arnold Rampersad is the only one I remember clearly) and one white dude who I think was like the rock critic from the Village Voice or something. There was a great deal of erudite chatter about how rap was the authentic voice of the inner-city and so on and so forth.

But the rock critic was the only one on the panel who said something which struck me as really insightful. Perhaps this wasn’t something about African-American culture, maybe it was just something about adolescent men. Isn’t Heavy Metal music and the hard-up losers who listen to it pretty much the same thing?

Anyway, I had a similar feeling when listening to the comments of Abdul Haqq Baker, the Chairman of the Brixton Mosque, where Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui worshipped before hooking up with Al Qaeda.

About Moussaoui, Baker told the London Times:

We saw quite a stark change in him. He became infuriatingly arrogant. He would try and speak to other unsuspecting youths about his view. We would try and stop him.

He kept asking us: ‘Do you know where there is jihad which I can fight?’ He would wear military gear and a rucksack showing he wasn’t sleeping in a fixed place.

Baker told the BBC that Reid “came into contact with ‘more extreme elements’ in London’s Muslim community, started wearing military gear and talking about fighting a jihad or holy war.”

The military fatigues is what really strikes me. And the talk of arrogance and belligerence comes up again and again in descriptions of these guys. To be honest, take out the words Muslim and Jihad and they sound like a lot of the guys I grew up with in Southern California in the eighties.