Fareed Zakaria: The United States Needs Your Input on Domestic Terrorism

I recently wrote a piece on Fareed Zakaria commending him for explaining Islamic terrorism to the people of the United States one-month post-9/11. The bottom line of the piece: Zakaria believes terrorism is rooted in politics, not religion. The Middle East’s resistance to modernity left young men in despair. Mosques quickly became a place for them to voice their angst. Mosques quickly became a place for them to gather. Mosques quickly became a place where villagers could gain power. Nonetheless, in the United States, mosques quickly became a place of horror.

Zakaria’s article Why Do They Hate Us? eased religious tensions and cleared up the common misconception that Islam teaches terrorism. The piece is timeless; his explanation of terrorism will always be valid and widely accepted. In June, almost 15 years after 9/11, Zakaria posted a follow-up article titled Why They Hate Us. In his most recent follow-up, Zakaria reiterates his idea that terrorism is not an act of Islam but a response to the lack of modernity in the Arab World. Nonetheless, in light of the most recent terrorist bombings in New York and New Jersey, Zakaria has some more explaining to do.

This morning Ahmad Khan Rahami, the terrorist who is allegedly responsible for setting off a bomb in Seaside Park, New Jersey and in New York City, was arrested. More information quickly circulated. Ahmad Khan Rahami moved to the United States in 1995 when he was just seven years old. Ahmad Khan Rahami attended Edison High School. Ahmad Khan Rahami dropped out of Middlesex County College. The last two facts stunned me. I went to high school a mere seven miles away from Rahami’s alma mater. I reside in the same moderately sized central New Jersey county.

I’ve walked the halls of Edison High. I’ve played tennis at Middlesex County College. We probably frequented the same shopping mall in Edison — one of the biggest in the county — and ate at the same local restaurants. Edison, New Jersey is diverse; it is a melting pot where those of all races and religions are widely accepted; it is modern. It is not comparable to the Middle East. Rahami did not face the hardships of living in an economically, socially, and politically failing world. Nor did he lack the means to become an educated part of society. So, why did he do it?

Rahami is not the only domestic terrorist. In Why They Hate Us, Zakaria briefly addresses this ongoing problem. He writes:

“It’s not theology, it’s politics. Radical Islam is the product of the broken politics and stagnant economics of Muslim countries. They have found in radical religion an ideology that lets them rail against the modern world, an ideology that is now being exported to alienated young Muslims everywhere — in Europe, and even in some rare cases in the United States.”

In the three short months following the publication of this article, the “rare cases in the United States” have become even less rare. New York City. New Jersey. Orlando. The question stays the same, why do they hate us? But the “they” has expanded. “They” are now people within our own borders.

So, Zakaria, I sit here waiting, two days and 12 hours after the New Jersey bombing. I am waiting for an explanation; waiting for clarification; waiting for your public insight on why individuals living in the United Sates would take the risk of blowing up former classmates, neighbors, and family all because the Middle East — a foreign land — resists modernization.