Friday, March 19, 2004

“The President versus David Hicks”

This 90-minute doco was broadcast on SBS last night.

As its prime subject was plainly unavailable for interview (while still very much alive), the story necessary relied on a patchwork of impressions from other parties to fill in the picture. In this respect, the doco crew’s following Hicks’ father on his retracing-the-steps-of-his-son mission into Pakistan and Afghanistan was an inspired – and brave – decision.

One of the most interesting insights into David Hicks’ character, for me, was actually made without any interpolation or comment. From the text of Hicks’ letters, it is plain that the guy is no dumbshit, despite dropping out of school at Year 9 (= 15 y.o.), at most. From years of teaching business students at uni, Hicks’s literacy would be median, or a bit above, this cohort's.

Hicks’ truncated high school career was to play an important part in his later conversion to Islamofascism – a just-back-from-Kosovo, trigger-happy, but yet-to-be-brainwashed Hicks was rejected by the Australian Army from joining its ranks, because he didn’t have Year 10. Given this, it was disappointing that the doco makers either didn’t try, or couldn’t get access, to sources from Hicks’ high school days. When a reasonably smart boy leaves school early to do nothing in particular, there is invariably a story behind it. I’m guessing that Hicks was severely fucked-over by student – or more likely, teacher bullies. If so, Hicks’ joining the Taliban ten or so years later surely owes much to his unhappy school experiences. Hicks evidently moved on psychologically, rather than bottling-up his anger, but his rejection many years later by the Australian Army – and its reasons, in particular – would have come as a shock; an unwelcome flashback of himself as a tortured adolescent.

The doco didn’t really seek to pinpoint the moment of Hicks’ conversion/brainwashing to Islamofascism, instead suggesting a slow spiral into anti-Semitic mumbo-jumbo, which narrative itself petered-out a full 18 months before Hicks’ post 9/11 capture in Afghanistan. In any case, it seems clear that it was Hicks’ time in a 20,000-student madrassah (= a group of buildings used for teaching Islamic theology and religious law) in Lahore that was Hicks’ turning point.

Hicks’ father went into the madrassah for a look around (the crew was not allowed to film anywhere inside it); when he came out, the only impression he could give of the place was – quite tellingly – how engrossed in their books everyone was; in other words, by way of subtext, not a peep of hatching terrorist plots was to be heard.

Quite. Let’s just get this place sorted, though. This madrassah is definitely NOT (i) a school, (ii) a university, (iii) a theological college, or (iv) a monastery/place of contemplation. It houses 20,000 men (mostly GenX, I’m assuming) from all over the world, apparently charging them no fees or board (nor making them work for it), and it is ultra-secretive, to the point of not allowing cameras anywhere inside, period. I’m sure it does teach the Koran, inter alia.

Otherwise though, it is a curious place indeed – a holiday home for Muslim men past their peak years of educational development (5 to early-20s), that is open to all comers, and on a stay-for-as-long-as-you-like-basis. And all for free. What are the chances that this place might, just might, therefore have some other kind of purpose?

Don’t get me wrong – I think the mass-provision of holiday homes for male GenX fuck-ups is an excellent idea, generally. It’s just that Saudi Arabia doesn’t seem too keen on plenarily funding GenX slacker-lodges unless it’s going to get a R.O.I – that is, the guys eventually “graduate” from the madrassah. Mind you, this does not involve receiving a piece of paper, nor even leaving equipped with the newfound skills and knowledge to become an Islamic cleric back home (like their age-group everywhere else, boomer muftis aren’t letting go of their cosy little sinecures lightly).

“Graduation”, then, is a one-way ticket to terrorist boot-camp – certainly it was in David Hicks’ case.

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