By Paul Goodman
Follow Paul on Twitter.
There is a mass of commentary about the Boston atrocity which agrees that it's too early to say very much about the dispositions, motives and connections of those who carried it out – because we know so little.
However, what we do know is extremely suggestive, and to claim that because we don't know everything we must say nothing looks suspiciously, in some cases at least, like an attempt to prevent views being voiced at all, for fear of them being politically incorrrect.
I think we can draw two clear conclusions from what's happened, as nurses in hospital try to save the life of a terrorist who took lives: a reminder, were one needed, of why the country whose virtues they show is better than the ideology whose evil he has spread.
- Terrorism and belonging – or the lack of it – are inextricably connected. Here is a list of British terrorists who were converts not usually to Islam itself, but in every case to Islamism – that pernicious distortion of it. Richard Reid (the "shoe bomber", and a covert to Islam), Dhiren Barot (a convert to Islam from Hinduism), Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (privately educated at Forest School,
Walthamstow), Omar Khan Sharif (a maths student at King's College, London), Mohammed Sidique Khan, (the leader of the 7/7 atrocity gang, and a teacher radicalised to extremism), Brian Young (a convert to Islam, and one of the 2005 liquid explosives airplane plotters) and Nicky Reilly (a convert to Islam who tried to blow up a restaurant in Exeter). None of these terrorists identified with Britain. But they were all a product of it – and at home nowhere, emotionally or culturally. It is striking that on a social networking site Dzhokhar Tsarnaev listed his "World View" as Islam and his "Personal Priority"
as "career and money".
- Anger about foreign affairs shouldn't be confused with anger about foreign policy. A conventional view of Islamist terror is that it is simply a response to the invasion of "Muslim countries" by the country in question – a take that was endlessly repeated in the aftermath of 7/7. Tsarnaev's social network postings help to demonstrate why this view is wrong. He "posted a video expressing sympathy with rebels fighting in Syria" and "also has links to pages calling for independence for Chechnya". But America has not invaded Syria. Nor did it invade Chechnya. One of Britain's earliest suicide bombers died in Kashmir 13 years ago. But Britain has had no involvement in Kashmir since the late 1940s. (I have written at length about Kashmir here.) Unless one is to argue that western countries are responsible for all the evils of the world, it makes no sense to blame (say) American foreign policy for foreign affairs – for example, the civil war in Syria, or what Russia has done in Chechnya.
It is certainly too early to claim, by way of a third point, that the terror in Boston proves the danger of the "lone wolf" – or, in this case, a lone wolf and his brother.
The British Security Services, in the wake of the decline of Al Qaeda as an organised force, are preoccupied by this threat – the self-radicalised extremists indoctrinated via the internet who strikes alone, as Roshonara Choudhry struck at the Labour MP Stephen Timms.
As I say, these are early days, and it may be that the Boston terrorists had help and training which we don't know about yet, but the possibility is worth keeping an eye on.