'These individuals are part of western society, and their 'Canadianness' makes detection more difficult," was the way a report by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service described the radical Islamists charged with plotting to attack targets in southern Ontario with fertilizer bombs. "Increasingly, we are learning of more and more extremists that are homegrown," noted the declassified CSIS report. "The implications of this shift are important." And indeed they are. The dream of assimilation into western societies, of a new beginning beyond the burning grounds of Islamic lands, has been battered. Radical Islamism has come to mock the very principle of nationality and citizenship. A school-bus driver was the alleged leader of the band of would-be jihadists rounded up in Canada. The terror lies in the very banality of those who have brought the new menace within the gates of the West. A parliamentary report on last summer's subway bombing in London just released by Britain's House of Commons lays bare this menace and the difficulty of detecting it.
In words that anticipate and foreshadow the accounts from Canada, the British report said that three of the bombers--second-generation Englishmen born in West Yorkshire--were "apparently well integrated into British society." The fourth was a Jamaican-born convert to Islam who had come to England as an infant. Nothing announced the presence next door of genuinely evil men. "All four were open about their strict religious observance, but there was little outward sign that this had spilled over into potentially violent extremism." The oldest, 30-year-old Mohammad Sidique Khan, "appeared to others as a role model to young people." Shehzad Tanweer, 22, led, by all appearances, a "balanced life." He owned a red Mercedes bought by his father, the report notes, and was given to fashionable hairstyles and designer clothing. Even the wildest of the lot, the Jamaican-born Jermaine (Jamal) Lindsay, 19, was described as a "bright child, successful academically at school, and good at sport."
Acting alone. Tanweer had played cricket in a local park on the evening of July 6. On the day of the horrors, a surveillance camera filmed him in a store. "He buys snacks, quibbles with the cashier over his change, looks directly at the CCTV camera, and leaves." It had taken a paltry 8,000 pounds to finance the entire operation, from savings and bank overdrafts. Two of the four had gone to Pakistan some eight months before they pulled off the bombings. True, Ayman al-Zawahiri of al Qaeda would later claim that "London's blessed raid" was one of the raids his group was honored to launch, that the assailants were "hero brothers." But no conclusive evidence was to sustain that assertion. Most likely, the boys of West Yorkshire had done their terrible work alone. They had bonded over camping and white-water rafting trips. Khan was the father of a 14-month-old child.
In an earlier and a simpler age, migrants acknowledged the troubles of the failing, impoverished lands left behind. Religious faith was strictly that--private ritual and inner belief. Freelance preachers now sprout in all corners of the western world. They live off the industrial order of the West and its welfare system and plot against it. Storefront mosques are breeding grounds for religious-political agitation. And there is the Internet, mocking those who would promote it as a tool to bring the world together. Websites are cheap and easy to put up--virtual jihad is the name by which it now goes. The canons of modern liberalism serve the jihadists: Those norms make it immensely difficult for people in the West to name and to acknowledge the menace. Britain and Canada have been the most welcoming of places. Now that compact with the migrants is truly in the wind.
Little more than three centuries ago, John Locke ridiculed the notion that a Muslim could make a home in a Christian land. "It is ridiculous for any person to profess himself to be a Muhammadan only in his religion, but in everything else a faithful subject to a Christian magistrate, whilst at the same time he acknowledges himself bound to yield blind obedience to the mufti of Constantinople." The civilizational lines were sharply drawn in Locke's time. Modernity and globalism pretend otherwise. The terms of this new encounter between Islam and the West now unfold before our eyes.
This story appears in the June 19, 2006 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.