Bill Quick quotes Theodore Dalrymple on why so many young converts to Islam are violent.

What these cases show is that it is not Islam that makes young converts violent; it is the violence within them that causes them to convert to Islam.

Adds Bill Quick:

The only reason these violent young men turn to Islam (rather than, say, Presbyterianism) is that the innate violence of Islam calls out, and their own violent natures respond to that call.

Converts to any religion (or for that matter, any belief system, regimen, or “ism”) tend to be more fanatic than the people who were born and raised that way. As to why, I am not a shrink, so I cannot issue definitive pronouncements.

However, earlier today I was intrigued by the story of a Guantanamo military prison guard who converted to Islam, and now demands the release of those he guarded. A young Arizonan, he says he was horrified by mistreatment of the inmates, but that did not strike me as a logical reason for converting to their religion, so I was puzzled. I read that he came from a family of drug addicts, and had turned to the military. But  finally, out of his own mouth came what seemed like the most likely explanation:

In the summer of 2004, Holdbrooks left Guantánamo and was later discharged from the army on the grounds of a “general personality disorder”. The alcohol problem that had plagued him before enlisting returned, and when his marriage dissolved, he sought solace in the old comforts of drinking, casual sex and music. “I was having nightmares about my time in Guantánamo,” he says, “and I spent the best part of three years just trying to drink Guantánamo out of my mind.”

Today, Holdbrooks is a practising Muslim again, but he does not seem to be at peace. There is a blankness in his gaze that hints at the scars his childhood and Guantánamo have left on him.

Why had this hard-living Arizona boy embraced Islam? The question needles me throughout our conversation. It is only when, towards the end, Holdbrooks reveals that his favourite words are “structure”, “order” and “discipline” that the pieces fall into place. Holdbrooks’s life had been a search for order: the regimentation of army life had appeared to offer structure, and when it let him down, he turned to religion.

Holdbrooks has more in common with his former colleagues than he realises: their allegiance to the army is matched by his adherence to faith. “Islam is a very disciplined, regimented faith and it requires a great deal of effort and conviction,” he says. “I’ve had an unbelievable fascination with structure and order for as long as I can remember: structure, order and discipline – I just love them.”

Searching for structure, order, and discipline certainly seems more mundane (and more socially acceptable) than searching for violence.

What worries me is people who would seek structure, order, and discipline externally, rather than finding it within themselves. It strikes me as the epitome of weakness to look to outside forces to discipline yourself.

People who lack self discipline will never find it by becoming followers.

Just ask those who have joined cults. (After they have left, of course…)