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September 4, 2015 / 20 Elul, 5775
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Blow People Up? What a Surprise!

Abdul Waheed Majeed (left), of Crawley, England, poses for photographs moments before driving a truck-bomb into a prison in Aleppo, Syria.

Abdul Waheed Majeed (left), of Crawley, England, poses for photographs moments before driving a truck-bomb into a prison in Aleppo, Syria.
Photo Credit: Jabhat al-Nusra video

All of which is so par for the course that it would hardly be worth mentioning, if it were not for what this attack in Aleppo tells us about Britain. The fact evidently is that many people from around the world have travelled to Syria to fight on one side or other of this vicious, sectarian war. What is noteworthy is that there is precisely nothing in the profile of Majeed that would suggest that he would not at some point take part in an operation of violence. We might be happy that he did not carry out his attack in Britain, or we might feel shame that a British man should go out and carry out an attack in another country, but what we should not be is at all surprised. It seems as if we have been lying to ourselves.

All the time, we have been pretending that a process of “extremism” could happen to anyone. We talk about “alienation” and “counter-narratives.” We hear people amazed at each turn at the “Britishness” of the culprits. We were amazed that the 2005 bombers played in cricket teams and ate fish and chips. We wonder that someone could come from the sleepy town of Crawley and go by self-detonating in Aleppo. Yet, amid all the pretend bafflement and shock, there is a more serious truth that sits unaddressed — and it is not about the sport they like or the food they enjoy. It is also not about the sleepiness or otherwise of the town which they inhabit. And it certainly has nothing whatsoever to do with the country in which they happen to have spent most, or all, of their lives.

It is purely and solely about the extremist religious ideology which they have inhaled — so predictable, so by rote, one could have written the career trajectory of Abdul Waheed Majeed on a napkin ten years ago. Yet we continue to express surprise. And in that is a problem not just for the world at large, and any particular battle-ground of jihad, but a problem for us. When you continue to be surprised by the obvious, it is clear that the obvious must be a problem for you. If we cannot see what is happening, it seems likely that we simply do not want it to be happening. But apparently not enough to try to stop it from happening. “Oh my, have you heard, another suicide bomber from West Sussex.” Now why would that be?

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