Independent, but idiotic

Harry’s Place (dead link; the blog was cracked very shortly after I posted this) drew my attention to a bizarrely stupid side column to a profile of Muriel Degaque, the Belgian convert to Islam married to a Moroccan who blew herself up in Iraq recently. “The article they run is spoiled by the faulty logic displayed here,” opines Marcus; I’d say it’s not just faulty logic but faulty facts.

Ever since the attack on New York on 11 September 2001, European governments have struggled to understand the phenomenon of the home-grown terrorist - the enemy within - in hopes of averting further attacks.

Some have middle-class backgrounds while others are drifters from broken homes. But most are known to have travelled to the countries known as the “centres of terror”.

In other words, there is no real socio-economic explanation and you can’t predict who will go and bomb by his background. But this claim, as you will see, is let down by the “examples” offered:

Western governments have been forced to recognise that the Iraq war and the televised brutal treatment of Muslims has radicalised an entire generation.

“Radicalised” seems to be one of these meaningless media words; if it means inspired to carry out terrorism, it is certainly not true. A substantial movement exists to move the community back to its traditions and reject the new-fangled interpretations and old schisms which tend to inspire extreme behaviour, both within the community and against outsiders; this carried on its work, indeed redoubling its efforts, since the 9/11 attacks.

Zacarias Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan origin who is accused of being the 20th hijacker, was a law-abiding student who became an extremist, taking flying lessons with the purported intention of committing mass murder.

Richard Reid, a Briton, has been sentenced for trying to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic in December 2001. Reid, from Bromley, south-east London, converted to Islam in prison, where he was serving a sentence for mugging. He and Moussaoui attended the radical Finsbury Park mosque.

The mosque itself was not radical but rather the group which ousted the legitimate management was. It was allowed to persist in this manner by the authorities for several years until it became an embarrassment. “Purported”, by the way, should read “alleged”; his purported intention was no doubt to become a pilot of some sort, as is normally the case when someone takes flying lessons.

In April 2003, two Britons walked into a Tel Aviv bar wired with explosives. Asif Hanif’s bomb killed three people and wounded 65, in Mike’s Place, while his companion, Omar Sharif, fled from the scene after his device failed to detonate. His body was found floating off the Mediterranean coast almost two weeks later.

So how does this relate to people travelling to the “centres of terror”? Syria, where they went, has never been a base for the al-Qa’ida gang, although it is likely to be the only place where they could have been recruited. It’s most likely that the two travelled to Syria seeking education, and any other plans were made while in Syria. While most of the young radicals are not the children of radicals, Asif Hanif in particular was not known for his sympathy for political Islamic groups while in England.

Sharif’s brother and sister, Zahid and Parveen Sharif, were cleared this week by a court of failing to tell police that their brother planned to carry out the attack.

However, the prosecutor told the court that Parveen, a primary school teacher, had asked her pupils shortly after the 11 September attacks: “Hands up who has relatives in New York? Well, they are all dead.”

She was also said to have told children the attacks on America were “a good thing” and that she was “on [Osama] bin Laden’s team”.

I’ve already dealt with this. The words were presented to the jury and apparently the jury was asked to speculate on what they meant. Her words, if she used them, are indefensible, but they don’t actually prove that the accusations against her regarding the Tel Aviv bombing are true.

The London bombings on 7 July, which killed more than 50 people, were carried out by four bombers of Pakistani origin, all from “ordinary” backgrounds in the Leeds area.Their families knew nothing of their plans.

Wrong. One of the bombers was of Jamaican origin and lived in Aylesbury. Where do the Independent get their reporters from?

The British government hope to find out how many Britons of Pakistani origin may have made their way to that country and become radicalised in the religious schools or madrassas.

They would not have “made their way” but travelled openly on commercial flights, and most madrassas in Pakistan are normal religious institutions which have existed for centuries. The institutions known for disseminating “radicalism” are well-known and there is no need to tar all these schools with the same brush.

According to the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, at least seven people from France have been killed in Iraq and elsewhere fighting for al-Qa’ida. Another 10 are known to be working for al-Qa’ida in Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Afghanistan.

Given that the Muslims in France are mostly of Algerian origin, and that Algeria has in the past faced a civil war involving such people, that’s not really surprising - particularly given the way France is known to treat its own Muslim population.

Now a Belgian has become the latest European, and the first woman, to join the lengthening list of bombers.

And so what? It’s not much of a shock; women suicide bombers have been a feature of terrorist activity for decades (not just in the Muslim world). It’s no great landmark that a European convert woman heard about it and decided to use her connections and join them.

This is one of the laziest, shoddiest pieces of writing I’ve ever seen in a supposedly respectable newspaper; not only do they present the “variety” of the few handfuls of westerners who have become involved in terrorism with repeated use of scary language, but they can’t even get their facts right. Of course, this newspaper is the weakest of all the four former London broadsheets, not least because most of its content is under a pay-per-view arrangement in which viewing costs more than the paper; its op-ed writers are the least distinguished and some are unknowns. The fact that western terrorists come from a variety of backgrounds is far less significant than the fact that they are, and have always been, very few in number.

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