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Their Own Talib

Kay S. Hymowitz

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Kay S. Hymowitz discusses how the failure of John Walker's parents to raise their son within any enduring moral or religious or cultural tradition helped drive him into the arms of the Taliban.

September 11 reminded us of the dangers of religious extremism. But John Walker, the young American captured fighting beside the Taliban in Mazar-e-Sharif, reminds us of the opposite: the risks of open-ended tolerance, absent all conviction.

Before his life took its amazing turn, Walker was a doted-upon son of upscale, anything-goes Marin County, California. At 14, he spent his time listening to hip-hop and surfing the web. As he began what at first looked like typical adolescent soul-searching, his parents stayed lovingly supportive. They sent him to Tamiscal High School, where, the school's website announces, students pursue "self-directed, independent study." They endorsed his growing attraction to Islam, bankrolling his study of the Quran in Yemen and Pakistan. Even after his capture in Afghanistan, Frank Lindh remained the devoted dad: "I don't think John was doing anything wrong."

But no matter how loving, such tolerance is at the heart of their son's fanaticism. Certainly there was no cultural wisdom these adults felt impelled to pass on to him. In school, he could study what he wanted, on his own; he reportedly met with his only teacher but once a week. Likewise, in what one paper calls the "Bay Area's bustling religious bazaar," John could explore Buddhism, his mother's adopted creed, or Native American religion, or Islam.

Read the complete article at the City Journal website.



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