LT. COL. JAMES G. ZUMWALT: TO FRANCE’S ISLAMIST TERRORIST: “FOR WHAT REASON DID YOU KILL ME?”
To France’s Islamist Terrorist: “For What Reason Did You Kill Me?”
It was eventually bound to happen in a nation home to the largest Muslim population in Western Europe that has largely been spared terrorist activity linked to fanatical Islam. At some point, it was destined to feel its sting. A 24- year-old French national of Algerian origin and self-proclaimed Islamist militant, Mohammed Merah, who had trained at a Taliban camp in Afghanistan, callously murdered three French paratroopers, a rabbi and three French-Israeli children. He was close enough to his victims in each case that his .45-caliber pistol left powder burns on them. Clearly, each victim was an intended target.
Ironically, the soldier who was Merah’s first victim, on March 11, was Muslim as well. As Merah fired his weapon, he was heard to exclaim, “You kill my brothers, so I am killing you.”
Eleven days later, as French police surrounded Merah’s Toulouse apartment, communicating with him through a barricaded doorway in a 31-hour standoff, he voiced his regrets—not for the killings but that he had been found before he could launch another killing spree planned for later that day. The loss of seven lives meant nothing to him as he had every intention of adding to his tally.
At 11:30 am on March 22, in a violent exit from this life, Merah fled toward a sliding glass door leading to a balcony—his gun blazing as commandos entered the apartment. When the shooting stopped, the cold-blooded murderer lay dead with a bullet to his head.
Although police had Merah on their watch list due to his visits to Afghanistan, his link to the killings was made due only to an observant motorcycle dealer. Press reports had put the public on notice the killer’s means of transportation was by motorcycle. So, when someone made an unusual inquiry of a dealer, he alerted police. The odd inquiry concerned the tracking device hidden on a motorcycle to help locate it in the event it was later stolen—and how one might disconnect it. The inquiry was made, not by Merah, but by his devoutly Islamic brother, raising questions as to what support Merah was given during his killing campaign. In addition to his brother, Merah’s mother and his brother’s girlfriend are also being questioned.
The late Eric Hoffer was a social psychologist who wrote a book in 1951 entitled “The True Believer”—a work that explores the causes of fanaticism. It was Hoffer’s belief that critical to one’s psychological well-being is one’s self-esteem. Absent self-esteem, one’s life lacks meaning. Absent meaning in life, one becomes easily drawn into a passionate obsession with the outside world that appeals to his self-worth, becoming a “true believer.” Unfortunately, like a moth drawn to a candle’s flame, such believers are easily drawn to fanaticism based on self-hatred, self-doubt and insecurity. It is this appeal that fanatical Islam provided Merah.
An examination of Merah’s background reveals a person who struggled to find his way in life. He had been arrested 15 times for crimes including purse-snatching and possession of stolen goods. He was never perceived by friends as a particularly devout Muslim—even going through a phase in life when he wore “punk” clothes. Obviously, he was a young man lacking self-esteem. Ultimately, he would go looking for it in the wrong place.
Almost six decades after Hoffer’s book, French Islamic studies professor Mathieu Guidere wrote “The New Terrorists” in which he forewarned of the threat homegrown terrorists pose in the form of unfocused youths, such as Merah. Guidere suggested they provided a much lower profile for police as young people ingested Islamist doctrine from the internet, effectively becoming loose cannons rather than part of organized terrorist groups.
Merah was one of those loose cannons. Although during his standoff he cited a laundry list of reasons for his murderous acts, including revenge for the French law banning veils for Muslim women, France’s participation in Afghanistan and the deaths of Palestinian children in Israeli-occupied territories, it is much more likely Merah saw himself as a rebel without a cause who, possibly influenced by his brother and other staunch fundamentalists, grabbed the opportunity to become a rebel with one. By acting as he did, Merah finally achieved the self-worth he so desperately sought. It was probably his need to have that self-worth reinforced afterward that he strapped a video recorder around his neck to tape his attacks.
In the Jewish religion, it is believed there is nothing as pure as children. It is a status afforded, not due to religion, but due to one’s innocent age. Islam too values life, at least as stated in the Koran. Islam’s holy book provides on the Day of Judgment, as to children deliberately killed, those responsible for their deaths will be held accountable as their child victims confront them asking, “For what reason did you kill me?” (Chapter 81:8, 9).
If Merah was a true believer, his actions in brutally killing three innocent French-Israeli children raises the question whether he grasped the Koran’s teachings. Undoubtedly, those who played Merah’s self-worth card would explain away such concerns, claiming only the life of a Muslim child is to be so valued, demonstrating that Islam—in the wrong hands—is a loaded gun pointed at non-Muslims.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor James. G. Zumwalt, is a retired U.S. Marine Corps officer who heads Admiral Zumwalt and Consultants, Inc. He is author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will — Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields” and “Living the Juche Lie — North Korea’s Kim Dynasty.”
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