So no, he's not coming home. The mother's anguish is because it is such a shock. People may ask why she didn't even have an inkling what he was up to. Mothers know about their children right? Well if the intelligence services of our country don't know, practised professionals, why should his mother be any more in the picture? The Jihadi training doesn't start in camps abroad. It begins by learning the techniques to disguise the conversion to the cause of militant Jihad while you still reside in Britain. To carry off the act of living a normal life, including respecting one's parents, until the moment is ripe to decamp for foreign battlefields. Just like the 7/7 bombers who were described as "Clean Skins" by the authorities in Britain, that is those with no history of terrorist activity. They don't need a history if they are suicide bombers, they just need that one strike and out.
I wrote about the genesis of homegrown terrorists in my novel "Not In My Name". I wrote of the complexities of the political ideals behind the drive to recruitment. Of the twin-track approach of the spiritual and the military professionals. Of the alienation within the home countries that was the launch point for joining the militant Jihadi cause (similar alienation that leads folk to join cults). And how this cult in particular embraced and celebrated and welcomed death as the ultimate aspiration. When writing of those who went to resist Western forces in Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya, or the aftermath of post Saddam Iraq, I put it like this:
"This is not just defiance, a refusal to acquiesce. It’s more actively seeking the chance to mix it with someone. To prove their mettle and uphold their misguided notion of honour. The one emasculated by the unabated actions of the West. They’re after accosting the 'Crusaders', not necessarily withstanding them (that’s why recruitment of succeeding fighters to jump into the suicidally vacated breach, is so crucial for sustaining it as an ongoing campaign). Bottom line, what’s actually on offer, is an Oriental Grand Tour, whereby the disaffected sons of the rich can get to kill a GI in each of the Cities with a holy shrine. In truth, they have become a death cult. Venerating and worshipping carnage. Bringing in blood sacrifices as proof of election. Thus I say there is no ideological struggle at stake here."
The mother could not see the crisis of masculinity in her son that contributed to him enlisting to Jihad. A cultural nausea caused by an abhorrence of things in the British way of life that threaten masculinity, that lead to patrols in Whitechapel in London demanding all women cover up their flesh when walking in the area and that alcohol is not to be consumed either. But impromptu street patrols cannot cut it, especially when the authorities clamp down on them as illicit public behaviour. Again I quote from my book:
"They market death as a lifestyle. Conferring an off the peg posterity. Of soldier; freedom fighter; liberator; hero; martyr; patriot; bomber. When life circumstances have prevented the volunteer from being secure in the roles of lover, father, son, worker, provider, man of leisure. Such appeals strike at the very core of anxiety and neurosis. Become a sapper rather than merely sapped."
I wrote these things in a fictional narrative back in 2011 and yet three years later our society still seems shocked and disbelieving that boys from Cardiff and Aberdeen can abandon their studies and go fight in Iraq or Syria. (I wrote of boys and girls from Wakefield, through Madrid to Palestine and Iraq). Nobody seems to be asking the right questions, or suggesting the mechanisms behind such a mindset. But I managed to penetrate it to some extent, (without offering any easy answers), so maybe we all better just catch up and start dealing with the issues involved here.
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