The current cover of Newsweek advertises a story on "Taliban Chic" in London, and it’s natural to assume it might be another story lauding the "burqini." Instead, it’s a chilling look at how the openness of London (and Western society) can create space for Islamic radicalism.
Newsweek reporter Sami Yousafzai clearly wrote in the spirit of the new Newsweek: a first-person account with no real objectivity or detachment. But it was gripping, as he began by describing how he came to London after being shot by Islamic radicals in Peshawar, Pakistan. Hoping for a safe environment, he was disturbed to discover London youths dressed like the Taliban: "I saw a tall young Afghan who reminded me of my would-be assassin, striding down the street like a bad dream."
His neighborhood nickname was "Talib Jan," a "friendly Afghan slang term for a Taliban member, something like GI Joe for Americans." He found "during my three-month stay in England I met a surprising number of Muslims who shared Jan's fascination with the Taliban...Few seemed troubled by the brutality that characterized Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar's reign, or by his banning of music or girls' education. Indeed, many looked back on Omar's rule as a kind of Islamic utopia, and they eagerly snapped up the Islamist leaflets handed out after Friday prayers at various mosques around town."
Yousafzai decided to try and befriend the man they called Talib Jan:
His fierce appearance to the contrary, Jan turned out to be friendly and outgoing. He listened with interest to my story, but mostly he talked about himself, his Islamist views, his fierce support for the Taliban and his contempt for the Brits and Americans fighting them.
His vehemence surprised me. Twenty-three years old, Jan had been born in eastern Afghanistan and attended a madrassa in Pakistan. The Taliban still ruled Afghanistan when his parents paid a people smuggler to sneak Jan to England at 14. There he applied for and was granted political asylum, claiming that the Taliban had persecuted him and his family. Now he's a legal resident, yet openly cheers for his supposed oppressors to defeat troops from his adopted homeland in Afghanistan. The irony seems lost on him.
The reporter also presented other "armchair jihadists," as he stood in a small mobile-phone shop:
The shop's 35-year-old owner, a Pakistani from Peshawar, loves to show them the latest Taliban videos on his mobile phone, featuring beheadings of alleged anti-Taliban "spies" and ambushes of U.S. forces. When asked if he worried that British authorities might discover his collection of videos, he told me: "If our Taliban brothers can stand up to B-52 bombing and modern U.S. war technology, it would be cowardly of me to be afraid to watch and share their heroic actions."
...Jan, too, is always glad to pull out his Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone and share streaming videos of Taliban training camps and Coalition convoys hitting IEDs. He even has Taliban ring tones – fire-and-brimstone sermons and Qur'anic recitals from jihadist mullahs. If you want copies, he'll transfer them to your phone or point you to the right Web site. "I'm winning converts to a holy cause every day," he says. As for the cops, Jan says he's careful to break no laws and claims he's never had problems with the police. They seem to regard him as a deeply religious man, he says, or at least as a harmless eccentric.
Many Western nations seem completely oblivious to to the tension between open societies and the advocates of tyranny that walk their streets espousing ideologies conspiring against open societies. It's astonishing that Europeans would campaign to close Guantanamo, but find nothing menacing toward civil liberties in Islamic dictatorships or their advocates. Yousafzai’s story concluded with a dark tone:
As I was riding the train one day, Owais, a 27-year-old Pakistani from Kashmir, began praising the Taliban and talking seriously of going to live in Afghanistan after Mullah Omar returned to power. "My fervent wish is that next winter we may be able to breathe freely in the restored Islamic state of Afghanistan," he declared in Urdu. Here you can breathe freely too, I told him. "No, only in a true Islamic state can we be free," replied his friend Ishaq. A 25-year-old Afghan immigrant, Ishaq wore a long, white tunic over his blue jeans. "The West is destroying the spirit, soul and values of Islam. Muslims should avoid contact with and coming to the West." As I go home to my family, I too wonder and worry about such men. There is too much of Peshawar in them, and in London.
In a related story, Little Green Footballs notes that Britain is funding Palestinian hate education. Why all the tolerance for Islamic intolerance?