The bomber from Bromley

The 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid is another example of how radical Islam is finding a fertile home in countries like Britain.

Josie Appleton

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It now transpires that the ‘shoe bomber’ Richard Reid, who tried to ignite plastic explosives in his trainers on American Airlines Flight 63 over the Atlantic, was born to a Jamaican father and English mother in Bromley, south-east London.

Reid converted to Islam, not in the religious schools of Pakistan, but in Brixton prison in London, after being charged with mugging offences. He became radicalised and eager to fight what he saw as the holy war, not after visiting the Middle East, but after meeting recruiting agents at Brixton mosque, where he was sent for rehabilitation after prison.

Reid is just the latest in a series of individuals who became devoted to a radical form of Islam, and became prepared to fight the jihad, while living in Western society.

The alleged ringleaders of the terrorist attacks of 11 September, hijackers Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah, studied and lived in Hamburg, Germany. Frenchman Zacarias Moussaoui – now accused in the USA of being the twentieth hijacker – lived in London and was a former worshipper at Brixton mosque. John Walker, a 20-year-old Californian captured during the siege at Mazar-e-Sharif, was an all-American boy who converted to Islam at the age of 18.

And it has now been reported that Hervé Djamel Loiseau, an al-Qaeda fighter found frozen to death after the retreat from Tora Bora in Afghanistan, was a 28-year-old born in Paris to an Algerian father and French mother, who became a practising Muslim during his military service in Colmar, eastern France.

It has been claimed that these were vulnerable, unstable individuals, who were attracted to the certainties and sense of mission offered by radical Islam. Whatever it was that attracted them, any explanation for the anti-American nihilism of the hijackers and Richard Reid does not lie in the Middle East, but in the USA and Europe. The 11 September terrorist attacks were the acts of a few individuals, but it has become clear that they were on the extreme end of a general trend of disaffection with Western society.

There has been no exodus of Westerners joining the Taliban, as has sometimes been implied – but while the USA ponders expanding the war on terrorism across the countries of the Far and Middle East and Africa, it is increasingly clear that neither the problem nor the solution lies ‘over there’.

The USA and its European coalition partners would do better to face up to the fact that these recent acts of terrorism are home-grown, and to look to their own societies for an explanation of what could turn somebody like Richard Reid into a potential suicide bomber.

Josie Appleton is speaking at the spiked conference After 11 September: Fear and Loathing in the West, on Sunday 26 May at the Bishopsgate Institute in London. See here for full details.

Read on:

The fundamentalist question, by Josie Appleton

One thing that did not change in 2001, by Mick Hume

Value-free Britain, by Josie Appleton

Made in the USA?, by Josie Appleton

Blair’s gospel of despair, by Michael Fitzpatrick

spiked-issue: After 11 September

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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