Jihad Jane

Colleen LaRose is a white, middle-class suburbanite from Pennsylvania.  She became a terrorist recruiter known on the Internet as Jihad Jane.  She was arrested for her involvement in a plot to kill the Swedish cartoonist whose caricature of Mohammed inflamed the Islamic world.

Jihad Jane

from  BBC News – Profile: ‘Jihad Jane’ from Main Street:

The blonde middle-aged woman apparently raised no concerns with her boyfriend or her neighbours on Main Street, Pennsburg, near Philadelphia.

But online she had allegedly agreed to kill in the name of holy war, believing her European looks would allow her to blend in among Swedes as she homed in on her target.

Colleen LaRose, according to a US court indictment, posted messages online under the name Jihad Jane, expressing her desire to participate in jihad, or holy war.

Arrested in October 2009, Ms LaRose had exchanged emails over 15 months to recruit fighters for “violent jihad”.

Her activities apparently came as a surprise to her boyfriend Kurt Gorman, whom she met in 2005.

Mr Gorman told Associated Press: “She was a good-hearted person. She pretty much stayed around the house.” . . .

“Only death will stop me here that I am so close to the target!” she is accused of writing.

A Department of Justice statement said Ms LaRose and five others “recruited men on the internet to wage violent jihad in South Asia and Europe, and recruited women on the internet who had passports and the ability to travel to and around Europe in support of violent jihad”.

Ms LaRose, a US citizen born in 1963, is charged with “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, conspiracy to kill in a foreign country, making false statements to a government official and attempted identity theft.”

She was apparently approached by others after she posted a video on YouTube in June 2008, saying she was “desperate to do something somehow to help” ease the suffering of Muslims, the indictment said.

Web images show her wearing a Muslim headscarf, but Mr Gorman said he never saw anything like that at their home, nor did she attend any religious services.

Unknown to him, she had allegedly agreed to travel to Sweden and kill Swedish artist Lars Vilks, who had angered Muslims by drawing the Prophet Muhammad with the body of a dog.

As the folks at Get Religion complain, the media has done hardly any reporting on the religious angle, which is surely the biggest question of this story: How and why did Colleen LaRose become a radical Muslim? What is the attraction of a religion like that, especially to someone of Ms. LaRose’s demographic? Any ideas?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • MarkB

    Islam is a religion of Law. The old Adam in us wants a religion where we can do things to please god and Islam tell the person just how to please god. Satan works in this world and sometimes he is not so subtle.

  • MarkB

    Islam is a religion of Law. The old Adam in us wants a religion where we can do things to please god and Islam tell the person just how to please god. Satan works in this world and sometimes he is not so subtle.

  • Jonathan

    My guess is she wasn’t happy with her situation and didn’t want to be just another desparate housewife. Here was a way she thought she could break out and get notoriety. I mean, to go by “Jihad Jane” on the internet? Come on, this is a desparate cry for attention spurred on by too much internet.

    No wonder her boyfriend apparently never caught her during any of her obligatory 5 daily prayer sessions, nor going to mosque on Friday evenings.

  • Jonathan

    My guess is she wasn’t happy with her situation and didn’t want to be just another desparate housewife. Here was a way she thought she could break out and get notoriety. I mean, to go by “Jihad Jane” on the internet? Come on, this is a desparate cry for attention spurred on by too much internet.

    No wonder her boyfriend apparently never caught her during any of her obligatory 5 daily prayer sessions, nor going to mosque on Friday evenings.

  • Darren

    I don’t think either prayer sessions or going to mosque is required of females in Islam.

  • Darren

    I don’t think either prayer sessions or going to mosque is required of females in Islam.

  • Rod

    I suspect few groups are less equipped to judge the intentions of others than US Lutherans in the more insular, conservative synods, where anyone different from a Midwestern white, middle class Republican Trivent salesman is viewed with scepticism and not a little fear. Nonetheless, we have clue even the WELS could see: the woman said that she wanted to help suffering Muslims. And there are many who are suffering. Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer provides an interesting look at what motivates seemingly normal people to adopt fanatical behavior.

  • Rod

    I suspect few groups are less equipped to judge the intentions of others than US Lutherans in the more insular, conservative synods, where anyone different from a Midwestern white, middle class Republican Trivent salesman is viewed with scepticism and not a little fear. Nonetheless, we have clue even the WELS could see: the woman said that she wanted to help suffering Muslims. And there are many who are suffering. Eric Hoffer’s book The True Believer provides an interesting look at what motivates seemingly normal people to adopt fanatical behavior.

  • DonS

    Rod @ 4: Are you saying that only “US Lutherans in the more insular, conservative synods” would think that Ms. LaRose’s behavior was out of the ordinary or worthy of note? And that recruiting Muslims for holy jihad is a legitimate way of helping suffering Muslims?

    Wow. Just wow.

  • DonS

    Rod @ 4: Are you saying that only “US Lutherans in the more insular, conservative synods” would think that Ms. LaRose’s behavior was out of the ordinary or worthy of note? And that recruiting Muslims for holy jihad is a legitimate way of helping suffering Muslims?

    Wow. Just wow.

  • Rod

    DonS, your defense of this woman’s behavior is arther surprising.

  • Rod

    DonS, your defense of this woman’s behavior is arther surprising.

  • DonS

    I’m sorry, Rod. I didn’t follow your point.

  • DonS

    I’m sorry, Rod. I didn’t follow your point.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I can’t believe we’re coddling this terrorist in our US court system. She should be shipped off to Gitmo and waterboarded. She is an enemy combatant and has rejected the rights given to US citizens. When you type things on the internet, you give up your legal rights and are basically asking for extended interrogation techniques.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I can’t believe we’re coddling this terrorist in our US court system. She should be shipped off to Gitmo and waterboarded. She is an enemy combatant and has rejected the rights given to US citizens. When you type things on the internet, you give up your legal rights and are basically asking for extended interrogation techniques.

  • Rod

    DonS, I was returning the favor. You suggested that I thought her behavior was an appropriate response to her motivation, when I said no such thing. I merely pointed out that she has described her motivation; to explain her behavior, I suggested reading Hoffer’s book. I was mocking the pronouncements that she’s satanic or attracted to Islam because it’s ‘legalistic.’ Is she any different, substantively, from a right-winger who blows up US government buildings?

  • Rod

    DonS, I was returning the favor. You suggested that I thought her behavior was an appropriate response to her motivation, when I said no such thing. I merely pointed out that she has described her motivation; to explain her behavior, I suggested reading Hoffer’s book. I was mocking the pronouncements that she’s satanic or attracted to Islam because it’s ‘legalistic.’ Is she any different, substantively, from a right-winger who blows up US government buildings?

  • DonS

    Rod @ 9: Well, not exactly. All I did was ask you to explain yourself and clarify your remarks, because the comments you originally made seemed to paint concern regarding her behavior as being limited to right-wing Lutherans, and those same comments seemed to imply that inciting jihad was a legitimate way of helping oppressed Muslims. You, on the other hand, simply mis-stated my position by 180 degrees, in your attempt to “return the favor”.

    As for the comment about “a right-winger who blows up US government buildings”, I assume you are speaking hypothetically, since there has not been a recent instance of such events.

  • DonS

    Rod @ 9: Well, not exactly. All I did was ask you to explain yourself and clarify your remarks, because the comments you originally made seemed to paint concern regarding her behavior as being limited to right-wing Lutherans, and those same comments seemed to imply that inciting jihad was a legitimate way of helping oppressed Muslims. You, on the other hand, simply mis-stated my position by 180 degrees, in your attempt to “return the favor”.

    As for the comment about “a right-winger who blows up US government buildings”, I assume you are speaking hypothetically, since there has not been a recent instance of such events.

  • tonto2

    Rod @9
    Try living in a Muslim country for an extended length of time and you just may think differently. Human life means nothing to a Muslim. They kill each other, they kill strangers, they kill their own daughters because of the Koran. Imagine this; a Mullah rapes a young girl. The family runs a car over the daughter because she was defiled and they consider it her fault, not the Mullah’s. I have seen this very thing happen.

  • tonto2

    Rod @9
    Try living in a Muslim country for an extended length of time and you just may think differently. Human life means nothing to a Muslim. They kill each other, they kill strangers, they kill their own daughters because of the Koran. Imagine this; a Mullah rapes a young girl. The family runs a car over the daughter because she was defiled and they consider it her fault, not the Mullah’s. I have seen this very thing happen.

  • Rod

    @11 What have I said that you think I would not have said if I were to live in Muslim country? Both you and DonS strangely and wrongly suggest I view this woman’s works as legitimate. I merely noted that she told us what her motivation was, though others here think they know better.
    “Human life means nothing to a Muslim” is a particularly inane and bigoted comment. American drones kill innocent civilians every week in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The American invasion of Iraq set in motion the destruction of the Iraqi Christian community. One could say that “human life means nothing” to Americans who continue to stoutly defend such actions, but that would be unfair. Human life means a great deal to such Americans, but they can’t, or refuse to, acknowledge the horrific effects of their parochial political choices on the lives of people they will never know.

  • Rod

    @11 What have I said that you think I would not have said if I were to live in Muslim country? Both you and DonS strangely and wrongly suggest I view this woman’s works as legitimate. I merely noted that she told us what her motivation was, though others here think they know better.
    “Human life means nothing to a Muslim” is a particularly inane and bigoted comment. American drones kill innocent civilians every week in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The American invasion of Iraq set in motion the destruction of the Iraqi Christian community. One could say that “human life means nothing” to Americans who continue to stoutly defend such actions, but that would be unfair. Human life means a great deal to such Americans, but they can’t, or refuse to, acknowledge the horrific effects of their parochial political choices on the lives of people they will never know.

  • Jonathan

    tODD, I gather you are dripping sarcasm @8?

  • Jonathan

    tODD, I gather you are dripping sarcasm @8?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@13), I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.

    I do think, however, that this arrest does raise some interesting issues regarding the typical cries from some on the right that terrorism can only be solved via racial profiling of young, dark-skinned males. To state the obvious, this lady is none of those.

    Every time there’s a discussion of airport security and the like, someone complains about some hypothetical (almost certainly white) old lady getting strip-searched while some “swarthy” dude goes through the scanner without issue, all in the name (so they say) of “political correctness”.

    Perhaps the arrest of “Jane” here makes it clear why we’re better off looking for terrorist behavior than just skin color.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Jonathan (@13), I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.

    I do think, however, that this arrest does raise some interesting issues regarding the typical cries from some on the right that terrorism can only be solved via racial profiling of young, dark-skinned males. To state the obvious, this lady is none of those.

    Every time there’s a discussion of airport security and the like, someone complains about some hypothetical (almost certainly white) old lady getting strip-searched while some “swarthy” dude goes through the scanner without issue, all in the name (so they say) of “political correctness”.

    Perhaps the arrest of “Jane” here makes it clear why we’re better off looking for terrorist behavior than just skin color.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Rod,
    What Lutherans do you hang out with? personally I view the Thrivent salesman with much suspicion, he might be ELCA!

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Rod,
    What Lutherans do you hang out with? personally I view the Thrivent salesman with much suspicion, he might be ELCA!

  • cj

    I’m not sure reporters aren’t asking the religious question as much as perhaps they haven’t found a good source yet.
    According to news reports, the man who lived with her for five years about the time she began her activities said she didn’t attend religious services and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
    She “never talked about international events, about Muslims, anything.”
    If Jihad Jane didn’t talk about her religious views or otherwise communicate them, there isn’t much to write about on the religious angle that isn’t speculation. By all accounts, she seems obviously mentally ill — not simply religiously motivated.

  • cj

    I’m not sure reporters aren’t asking the religious question as much as perhaps they haven’t found a good source yet.
    According to news reports, the man who lived with her for five years about the time she began her activities said she didn’t attend religious services and noticed nothing out of the ordinary.
    She “never talked about international events, about Muslims, anything.”
    If Jihad Jane didn’t talk about her religious views or otherwise communicate them, there isn’t much to write about on the religious angle that isn’t speculation. By all accounts, she seems obviously mentally ill — not simply religiously motivated.

  • Economist Doug

    Ethnic background is a useful tool but anti-terrorist activities have to also focus on behavior. In Fort Hood sensitivity to racial profiling led an officer of middle eastern descent to openly speak terrorist sentiments without coming under discipline. On the other hand we need to be looking out for terrorists of all sorts as Islamic terrorists aren’t the only kind.

    For those not familiar there are 8 signs that indicate terrorism:
    http://8signs.jmhelfgot.com/toc.html

    The biggest defense against terrorism would be if we’d keep alert and contact authorities when we observe suspicious activity.

  • Economist Doug

    Ethnic background is a useful tool but anti-terrorist activities have to also focus on behavior. In Fort Hood sensitivity to racial profiling led an officer of middle eastern descent to openly speak terrorist sentiments without coming under discipline. On the other hand we need to be looking out for terrorists of all sorts as Islamic terrorists aren’t the only kind.

    For those not familiar there are 8 signs that indicate terrorism:
    http://8signs.jmhelfgot.com/toc.html

    The biggest defense against terrorism would be if we’d keep alert and contact authorities when we observe suspicious activity.

  • Bob H

    Here’s another interesting story about a seemingly unlikely woman involved in the plot who was recruited by Jihad Jane via the internet. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14667509

  • Bob H

    Here’s another interesting story about a seemingly unlikely woman involved in the plot who was recruited by Jihad Jane via the internet. http://www.denverpost.com/ci_14667509

  • Peter Leavitt

    Who knows what’s in the hearts and minds of these Americans who become radical Muslims. My guess is that they are confused and disturbed souls trying to make sense of our modern, listless, decadent culture and somehow find solace and certainty in the simplicity and crudity of radical Islam. The grass, as the saying goes, tends to look greener on the other side, besides which one gets rather a lot of attention becoming the village idiot or radical.

    Todd ironically suggests that we water-board them; I should say that we ignore them unless they get involved in serious crime in which case we simply clap them in jail for a time. They are hardly worth water-boarding, as they don’t have important information. Water-boarding is reserved for major players in the terrorist game.

  • Peter Leavitt

    Who knows what’s in the hearts and minds of these Americans who become radical Muslims. My guess is that they are confused and disturbed souls trying to make sense of our modern, listless, decadent culture and somehow find solace and certainty in the simplicity and crudity of radical Islam. The grass, as the saying goes, tends to look greener on the other side, besides which one gets rather a lot of attention becoming the village idiot or radical.

    Todd ironically suggests that we water-board them; I should say that we ignore them unless they get involved in serious crime in which case we simply clap them in jail for a time. They are hardly worth water-boarding, as they don’t have important information. Water-boarding is reserved for major players in the terrorist game.


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