Terror, not just for adults anymore

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 2, 2010

Later this month, I’ll celebrate my 27th birthday. And yet, just last week, a young man almost four years younger than me decided it would be a good idea to try and blow up a Northwest Airlines jet.

It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but Umar Abdulmutallab is arguably one of the most famous names in the world right now, after he failed at his attempt to destroy a U.S. passenger plane in mid-air on Christmas Day.

When you look at this young man’s biography, it just doesn’t make any sense that he would be drawn to do such a thing. He was far from poor — his father is the former chairman of the largest bank of Nigeria, and he was reportedly living in a ritzy apartment in the West End of London while he attended college. He was intelligent, studying mechanical engineering at the University College London.

For years, we have heard that terrorists are angry at Western civilization and the excesses of capitalism, that they want the world to return to a simpler time without money and greed. And yet, the two most famous terrorists in the world today — Umar and Osama bin Laden — both come from privileged upbringings and rich families.

It is also suspected that Umar was associated with an Islamic extremist leader named Anwar al-Awlaki, who is believed to have taught Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Almost certainly, Umar and Hasan and countless others were at least partially brainwashed by “teachers” like al-Awlaki.

Certainly, you cannot absolve Umar of any wrongdoing, and he did make the choice to go down the path of radicalized Islam. But at the same time, it is saddening to realize that even intelligent 23-year-olds from upper-class families can be led to commit horrific acts by shadowy imams and religious leaders.

When you’re 23 years old, you should be flying to Vegas to enjoy a bachelor party with your friends. You shouldn’t be trying to blow up the plane that would take you there.