As if a floodgate has opened. As if a dam has broken. As if some media outlets were impatiently waiting for an opportunity to bring malignant focus on Uzbekistan.
Sayfullo Saipov, a green card holder US citizen and formerly from Uzbekistan, driving a rented truck on 31 October 2017 in lower Manhattan, mowed down innocent people on a biker’s path, killing eight and leaving 12 injured.
Within a few houses of this act of ruthless lunacy, the articles started piling up in the media, creating the narrative that Uzbekistan was a hotbed of radicalization.
Here are just some of the examples of what media is churning out:
Observer – New York Terror Attack Points to Growing Radicalization of Uzbeks, by Les Neuhaus, 1 November 2017
Vox – The New York attacker was from Uzbekistan. Here’s why that matters. Uzbeks have become a prime recruiting target for terrorist groups. By Alex Ward, 1 November 2017
The Atlantic – Why Does Uzbekistan Export So Many Terrorists? The alleged New York attacker joins a long list of ISIS sympathizers and recruits from the country. By Julia Ioffe, 1 November 2017
CNN – How Uzbekistan became ripe recruiting territory for ISIS, By Sajjan Gohel, 1 November 2017
Newsweek – Where is Uzbekistan? Why young men from this Asian country keep threatening the U.S. And Europe, by Cristina Maza, 31 October 2017
Foreign Affairs – The Paradox of Uzbek Terror: Peace at Home, Violence Abroad, By Marlene Laruelle, 1 November 2017
Time – Uzbekistan’s History With Islam Might Explain a Lot About the New York Attack Suspect, By Simon Shuster, 1 November 2017
This is just a small sampling of the media buildup.
The outrage in these articles is fully justified; the direction of anger is wrong. Uzbekistan has nothing to do with the heinous crime of Sayfullo Saipov.
According to the available records, Sayfullo Saipov arrived in the USA in March 2010 under the diversity lottery programme and subsequently obtained the green card. He was 22 at that time.
In April 2013, he married Nozima Odilova, then 19, who is also an immigrant from Uzbekistan.
While in the USA, he had no criminal record except for four traffic violation tickets.
He attended a mosque but not regularly. The other worshippers describe him as a ‘transient stranger.’
He didn’t mix with the worshippers at the mosque or the people in his neighbourhood.
He tried his hand in some transport-related work and his last job was as Uber driver.
His parents run a small shop in Tashkent and they are not religious at all, let alone radicalized. While in Uzbekistan, he never tried to mix with the religious people.
His radicalization seems to have started some two years ago though it is too early to make a definite statement about it.
According to what we know so far, his main source of radicalization was the ISIS propaganda videos that are so readily and easily available on the Internet.
There are many paths that can lead to ISIS. To understand this properly, we need to register that ISIS is simultaneously an idea, an entity, a brand name, and a convenient ploy for anyone’s agenda. In any given situation, it can be any or all of these things.
The lone wolves, as was the case with Sayfullo Saipov, are mainly driven by what we call the ‘humiliation of the national consciousness.’ This is a complex and powerful phenomenon, capable of motivating the seemingly ordinary young people to most terrible crimes under an abstract sense of justification.
In our ongoing series on ISIS, three parts of which have been published already, we will soon deal with the roots of the ‘humiliation of the national consciousness’ and how to close this trapdoor to extremism.
Whatever else, Uzbekistan cannot be blamed for the radicalization of Sayfullo Saipov. /// nCa, 3 November 2017