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Op-Ed: Who Was the Boston Bomber's Role Model?

Mysterious Imam known as Misha may be the driving force behind Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s conversion to Jihad and his subsequent terrorist acts. There are others out there.
Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013 11:32 PM


It is the worst nightmare for a parent having a son, a young man with a passion for music and sports, who suddenly looks at you like a foreign object, who asks you to turn off the radio when he enters the room while you are listening to a song, quits the gym, replies to you as to someone who is not able to understand.

That’s exactly the way Tamerlan Tsanaev, the eldest of the Boston terrorist siblings, replied to his uncle, Ruslan Tsarni: “I put God’s businesses above work and school”.

Plenty of printer's ink has been spilled over the memories of Tamerlan’s radicalization, staring from his trip to Dagestan until the day he was thrown out of his mosque as he was yelling at those who held Martin Luther King as an example of a great man. “He is no Muslim” he shouted.  His mother's role is being investigated.

His constant rage has been reported by several people, who also described how he gave up boxing where he excelled, how he defined September 11 as an American conspiracy, how he stated the need to erase the American power with a holy Jihad in order to support Afghanis and Iraqis.

But all those who knew him in his more distant past life can’t help but wonder “How could this happen?”

A mysterious Imam named Misha is believed to have played an essential role. Nothing is known about him except that he is an Armenian native. “When Misha started talking, Tamerlan would stop talking and listen - his uncle said – and his father was upset because Tamerlan wouldn’t listen to him any longer.

His uncle recalled that his brother shared with him his concern about his son’s relationship with Misha. Mothers generally try to please their kids, which makes them blind at times, and there is evidence that this mother may have approved. Besides Misha,  the Jihadic Imam had influenced Tamerlan  well. He was, perhaps, the disastrous bad role model who could have led Tamerlan to the Boston attack.

“Bad role models” are common not only in the Islamic world, where the character of the master in the Madrasa depicts a majestic and hieratic typology, with the towering Bin Laden and Ayatollah Khomeini being the archetypes. In our country, Italy, universities were the greenhouses of domestic terrorism; academics such Professor Tony Negri have long been depicted as “bad role models” leading people down the road of the Red Brigades and other terrorist groups. The underlying assumption was the oppression of the proletariat (to which students would belong) by capitalism and imperialism.

The revolutionary assumption, changing the lives of young people (of course, not always to turn them into terrorists!) is no different on the right: the conspiracy idea of the revisionism of Shoah and all other conspiracy theories, the most favorite one being that September 11 is due to a CIA conspiracy, come from the teaching of numerous domestic intellectuals.

They explain to young people that they are living in a wold destoyed by deceit, exploited by imperialist powers. Unfortunately, some people do end up in this heap of deceits, which nonetheless also enjoy plenty of air time on television. The young people who buy them get blinded and dream; they might practice undercover a great revolutionary battle against the evil US or the power of the Jews.

And some might act, especially if the idea of jihad becomes an imperative.

Bad role models are narcissistic teachers who adore their subversive potential. One of the most important is Noam Chomsky, a self-hating Jew who shouts out against the American and Israeli powers from his academic podium.

It is not a coincidence that Bebbe Grillo frequently mentions him. Hard to tell whether he has ever read him.