A certain American (or for that matter Westernized) resident or citizen — usually male, almost always young, born a Muslim, prone to guilt over temporary secularization or Westernization, as often (or more so) from Pakistan, a Russian Islamic province, the Balkans, Iran, the Philippines, or Africa as from the Arab Middle East, usually failing in American society, always absorbed within American popular culture and guilty over such absorption — at some moment channels his own sense of failure into radical Islam. He seeks some sort of cosmic resonance and redemption for his own personal inadequacies. Presto, a pathetic loser becomes a wannabe bin Laden jihadist, as murder becomes cause for publicity.
The would-be Times Square bomber, Major Hasan, those who killed Jews in Los Angeles and Seattle, and the Salt Lake City shopping-center killer find empowerment in the laxity and tolerance of American culture that seems to grant unlimited rights to the newcomer or second-generation without commensurate responsibilities about learning — and learning to love — the culture and history of their adopted country. We don’t call these killers “terrorists.” We claim that they have nothing to do with al-Qaeda. And yet they give proof that a post-9/11 Islamism energizes their violence — and sometimes enables it by contacts and training.