Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Interesting, Very Interesting

Via the NYT's Sunday Magazine:
A team of C.I.A. analysts, however, has devised a new, and possibly potent, way of looking at the problem. The agency’s “Ziggurat of Zealotry” arrays Islamists into a pyramid in the Mesopotamian style, with each ascending level representing a leap in radicalization. At the bottom of the ziggurat are peaceful individuals who concern themselves with what some call the greater jihad, the personal struggle to be a dutiful and pious Muslim. Some of those individuals step up to join groups like Tablighi Jamaat — a missionary organization founded in India — that organize devout Muslims to effect change in their societies. Above that, you find groups with more radical political agendas, typically the overthrow or replacement of governments they regard as repressive and hostile to Islam as they believe it should be practiced. The next step abandons politics for violence exclusively. The top level covers only those who extend this mandate for violence globally and seek to destroy the Western nation-state system.

The ziggurat is said to be the brainchild of Cindy Storer, an analyst at the C.I.A.’s counterterror center, who presented it publicly at the University of Pennsylvania in March. The model usefully implies that recruiters from one level draw almost exclusively from the level directly beneath them. It also implies that radicalization is neither fluid nor inevitable; radical Muslims are not destined to become violent. The task for counterterrorism, then, is to disrupt the “elevators” that pull individuals and resources up the ziggurat without taking steps to incur the ire of lower levels and nudge them upward.
While it is hard for me to understand how any intelligent person with any knowledge of Islam and the myriad ways Muslims practice their faith can believe Muslims are inherently violent, this easy to understand 'ziggurat" may help the black-and-white types to acknowledge gray when thinking about Muslims and violence.

Remember, if you look back to any civilization you will find a historical epoch where violence was the major social currency: the European genocide of the indigenous of the Americas anyone?