The Martyr Next Door

Yesterday in a Philadelphia court, a white, suburban American woman calling herself ‘Jihad Jane’ pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of Lars Vilks, the Swedish cartoonist who so enraged Muslims a while back with his drawings of the Prophet Muhammed as a dog.

The woman, real name Colleen LaRose, is a petite 47-year-old from Main Street, Pennsburg, PA. Three years ago, she posted a video on YouTube showing sympathy for the Muslim cause, which attracted the attention of recruiters for an organisation linked to al-Qaida. Thus began a process of grooming that in 2009 took her to Sweden, where she began her preparations in earnest.

In an email to fellow jihadis, she proclaimed her readiness to become a martyr: “Only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target!” Fortunately for Vilks, the FBI were monitoring her communications and arrested LaRose and her co-conspirators – including another American woman – before they could carry out the threat. Lars Vilks now lives under armed guard.

The two women are not the only North Americans to have been involved in Islamist extremism. A couple of weeks ago, Asia Times reported the presence of ethnically English and French Canadians at a training camp in Pakistan, where they were learning terror techniques to be used at home. A Taliban source told the newspaper:

“In the first stage of their journey, the Canadians went to Afghanistan in February 2010; there were 12 of them. After nine months, al-Qaeda’s leaders decided to send them to North Waziristan and they reached Darpakhel in November last year.

“In Afghanistan they received basic jihadi training, while currently they are busy doing some special courses. Their main learning is how to use sophisticated weapons, and how to connect with local smuggling networks in North America. They are also learning how to use ordinary material like sugar and basic chemicals to make powerful explosives. These militants will then return to their country to execute al-Qaeda’s plan of targeting big cities in Canada”

A 2007 survey of Muslim Americans found that around 7% of them are native-born white converts, mostly former Protestant Christians. Estimates of the total number of Muslims in the U.S. vary wildly, from 1 to 7 million, but even if the lower estimates are accurate, it still means there is a sizeable pool from which to recruit Caucasian martyrs.

According to a study conducted by the organisation Faith Matters, around 100,000 Britons have converted to Islam. The typical convert is a white woman in her twenties. Clearly, as in America, most of those people will be opposed to violent extremism, but still a small minority of converts may be susceptible to its pull. Converts like Nicky Reilly, the 22-year-old Asperger’s sufferer groomed by extremists to set off a suicide nail bomb in Exeter in 2009; 7/7 bomber Jermaine Lindsay, who was of Jamaican origin; and English/Jamaican shoe bomber Richard Reid.

In the U.S., France, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and other countries, native converts to Islam have been imprisoned for planning terror attacks. Six years ago, a 38-year-old white Belgian called Muriel Degauque blew herself up in an attempt to kill U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Evidently Degauque, who came from a respectable, middle-class Christian family, had been radicalised after marrying a Moroccan man and converting to Islam.

In 2008, CIA director general Michael Hayden warned that al-Qaeda is training “operatives that… wouldn’t attract your attention if they were going through the customs line at Dulles [airport]“. Jihad Joes and Janes who can blend in, arousing no suspicion and evading detection.

So next time you’re at the airport, breaking into a sweat because some Arab has just checked in to your flight, it could be that your anxiety is misplaced: that the one you should really be worried about is the blue-eyed red-head you were chatting up at the bar earlier.

The strategy of converting and radicalising disaffected Westerners and then using them to carry out terror attacks must seem to jihadi leaders like a stroke of genius. But for us, it is an evil that can only get worse as more of our people are exposed to radical Islam. Once again, the enemies of the West have shown themselves to be cunning and adaptable.


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