We don’t know whether Dzhokar Tsarneav and Tamerlan Tsarneav were aligned with any Muslim terrorist organization, but there is no reason that they had to be.
Most recent Muslim terrorist plots were carried out by “lone wolves”, individuals or small groups, who received their Islamist indoctrination and explosives training through the Islamic internet of Jihadist social media.
It may turn out that the Tsarneavs attended a terrorist training camp at some point in the past. But it may be just as likely that they never did. Terrorist training camps still exist, but they are becoming relics when it comes to the new type of pop up terrorism favored by Jihadists abroad.
The ideal Muslim terrorist has never attended a training camp or met with a terrorist chieftain. He has never even traveled to a suspect country. His indoctrination comes from Jihadist videos of Islamic sermons and battle scenes from the front lines of Islamic terror. His bomb making knowledge comes from Jihadist training materials scattered around social media which tell him to make bombs and how to use them to the most devastating effect.
Sleeper? Every believer in Islam is potentially a sleeper, ready to undergo what the experts call “radicalization”. But radicalization is largely a misnomer. The proper term is religiosity.
As a Muslim becomes more religious, his thoughts turn to Jihad, whether supporting it directly or indirectly. The religiosity need not be overt. The terrorist can be outwardly secular, but inwardly religious. He doesn’t have to grow a beard or leave Korans everywhere. Many don’t. The essence of Jihad is that it allows a Muslim to live a secular life so long as he dedicates himself to the fight against non-Muslims.
Every believer in Islam is a potential terrorist. Islam is the ultimate sleeper cell. Terrorism is coded into the ideological DNA of a religion built on war.
The populist strains of Islam today are still militant. There is a sizable gap between the government clerics who only promote some forms of terrorism and the populist clerics who preach doctrines of total war.
The Tsarneavs need not have been sleepers. It is enough that they were Muslims. Like so many others, they were ticking time bombs who could at any moment decide that the Jersey Shore lifestyle so many Muslim youth adopt in the West isn’t enough for them and turn to Islam. And that is almost certainly what finally happened.
Islam carries its own transnational patriotism with it. It merges with a hundred ethnic nationalisms, like Chechen terrorism, but it links together Sunni Muslims everywhere. Its message is of a better world under Islamic rule.
Muslims who admire the Jihadis in Afghanistan, Syria, Chechnya, Mali, Israel, Thailand and a hundred other places eventually either want to join in or help out.
What Dzhokar Tsarneav and Tamerlan Tsarneav did may be horrific to us, but in their culture, cruelty and brutality are the privileges of the warrior. In Islam, the blood of non-Muslims is worth less than that of Muslims. Countless Fatwas have provided justification and even encouraged the murder of non-Muslim civilians.
To us the actions of the Tsarneav brothers may be baffling, but from their point of view all they did was the equivalent of joining the US Army. Except they joined the Army of Islam.
The experts will talk about radicalism, about disaffection and foreign policy and all the rest. And all those empty words will miss the point.
Dzhokar Tsarneav and Tamerlan Tsarneav were Islamic patriots. They believed in a world ruled under Islam. That is a belief that was born with Islam and predates any local conflicts with Russia. It’s a religious war and it’s a national war. It’s Muslim patriotism for a fatherland that encompasses a world of slaves under the dead boot of their prophet.
The Tsarneav brothers probably weren’t sleepers. We’re the ones who are sleeping.