Tell the story

suicide bomber -- femaleShe was raised as Catholic and she died as what could be the first European Muslim suicide bomber. So starts the story, as written in The New York Times, that is so thick with religious issues that go deep into history, you could start writing a intriguing book tomorrow on the situation.

Here’s how it all starts:

MONCEAU-SUR-SAMBRE, Belgium, Dec. 5 — Muriel Degauque, believed to be the first European Muslim woman to stage a suicide attack, started out life as a good Roman Catholic girl in this coal mining corner of Belgium known as the black country. She ended it in a grisly blast deep inside Iraq last month.

Ms. Degauque, 38, detonated her explosive vest amid an American military patrol in the town of Baquba on Nov. 9, wounding one American soldier, according to an account received from the State Department and given to the Federal Police in Belgium.

Her unlikely journey into militant Islam stunned Europe and for many people was an incomprehensible aberration, a lost soul led astray. But her story supports fears among many law enforcement officials and academics that converts to Europe’s fastest-growing religion could bring with them a disturbing new aspect in the war on terror: Caucasian women committed to one of the world’s deadliest causes.

And the plot thickens as we find out that European women that marry Muslim men are one the largest segment of conversions on the continent, though many are in name only, experts say. Apparently Muriel Degauque was not one of them so let the speculation begin:

Most of those in the conservative ranks are motivated by spiritual quests or are attracted to what they regard as an exotic culture.

But for some, conversion is a political act, not unlike the women who joined the ranks of South American Marxist rebels in the 1960′s and 1970′s.

“They are people rebelling against a society in which they feel they don’t belong,” said Alain Grignard, a senior official in the antiterrorism division of the Belgian Police. “They are people searching through a religion like Islam for a sense of solidarity.”

He said there were many such women married to the first wave of Europe’s militant Islamists a decade ago, and some of them followed their husbands to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But while they supported their husbands’ militancy, he said, they never acted themselves. “This was the first,” said Mr. Grignard, “and it’s clear there could be others.”

Unfortunately I am not an expert in this, and I doubt I will ever be an expert, but I would like to be educated in the matter. Female suicide bombers have been around since a Syrian nationalist blew up her vehicle killing two soldiers in 1985 and most documented incidents have occurred by Muslims in the Middle East. But this incident is special as it is a European Catholic-turned-Muslim that is the bomber and that marks a monumental step in Europe’s transformation.

The New York Times should be a good place to start when it comes to coverage of this story, but watch other papers, like The Independent and the Christian Science Monitor, which are the only organizations at this point to have published something of their own on this story.

The NYT magazine piece Sunday on female Muslims in Europe is a solid piece of journalism that gives plenty of historical context that relates in several ways to this suicide bomber story. Reporters must tell this story of the suicide bombers, from all angles and they must get it right because if they don’t, we will have lost something.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Since so much of Europe has lost any enthusiasm for the Christian Faith it looks like G.K. Chesterton’s observation that “those who believe in nothing, will believe anything” may be coming into -at least- partial play. Since it is part of the human condition for most people to believe in at least something of a “higher” spiritual nature–take away strong faith in he who said “love your enemies” and it looks like some will then choose a powerful faith that says–”Even if it means killing yourself, take out your enemies and their mothers and their wives and their babies.”

  • Bartholomew

    Is this really so weird? There have been plenty of Western women terrorists in the past: Ulrike Meinhof, Patty Hearst, Mairead Farrell. Muriel Degauque is only an “incomprehensible aberration” to those with rather limited knowledge of women, and seems to me to be rather hysterical.

  • Lucas Sayre

    Deacon Bresnahan, thanks for mentioning that Chesterton quote. I am a fan of his work, though that I had somehow forgotten about that quote.

    That a European woman would do this is not altogether surprising to me either–especially when we look at the decent number of European male Muslim-converts who have been found aiding or part of terrorist groups in the middle east.

    Further, Osama bin Laden’s ideological roots are not in Islamic fundamentalism but in European nihilism and anti-industrialism. If anyone’s interested, I can dig up the article which discussed this, but I’d have to do some digging.

  • cneil

    It doesn’t surprise me that something like this would happen. I am an American who has lived in Singapore for the past six months and I have had to throw all of my ideas about Muslims out the window. I am hearing about more suicide attacks than ever, but I also see Muslim women in head scarfs working out at the gym, attending the science museum and looking at Star Wars props, and eating all kinds of foods.
    I wrote a blog entry about this subject.
    Please read it and make comments.

  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    cneil– I read your slog of a blog and found it quite interesting. But I don”t think it is the McDonald’s and KFCs that really bother devout Moslems (they are just convenient targets). What I believe is a large part of the friction between our culture and the rest of the world is in large part the complete and utter moral and sexual decadence the Western media promotes as “entertainment”. Polls in former Communist countries have shown that that is the major reason Communists and other such radicals have retained or come close to regaining power in many of these nations. I grew up in this culture being turned into a cesspoolo by “Hollywood” and yet sometimes my head spins at the blatant way things are getting worse. Last night on TV – which I used to love–there were dozens of ads for sit-coms permeating all the other shows. EVERY SINGLE ad was built around sex jokes, ridicule of traditional moral values or promotion of moral decadence (by traditional standards) in one form or another. Shows I used to love have become propaganda forums for the “New Morality.” Last night “Law and Order” was a political-religious tract attacking the Catholic Faith and Catholic-Christian morals. NCIS puts pro-fornication propaganda around its murder mysteries. The original CIS has had major characters give anti-Christian morality sermons repeatedly this year. For the “mystery” and scientific detective work I used to be fans of these shows. How did Agatha Christie write so many brilliant mysteries without becoming near x-rated in her works??? Yet these “Hollywood” creative????people seem determined to turn mainstream America into a version of the Playboy Channel–no wonder from what they see and hear from this nation so many people of strong other traditional cultures fear and then hate us for sending things their way they consider more damaging and devastating than nuclear bombs.

  • dk

    unrelated point about reporting on islam–what do you guys make of pictures and stories today about saddam’s trial where he is seen kissing the koran? How is he using Islam to try for broadly arab and muslim sympathies? Who buys this? Anyone?

  • P4P

    the code here is very difficult to see-if you have a vision problem(like i do)I almost didn’t try.Not good to start off by grumbling.Yep,it’s the decadence of the West.However,let’s keep in mind that Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular addresses that.Not by bombs,suicide attacks, attacking ppl particularly the innocent.The terrorists even kill Muslim women and children.What does that have to do with Western Decadence-even if we all know that is true? Nope.i happen to think it’s about power and control too.One thing we all believe in is free will even if that means ppl do bad and terrible things. We pray for ppl that they convert.We pray for ppl to not do bad things.We do what we can to stop bad and evil things in the world,but we don’t bomb innocent women and children deliberately and then try to coerce them into accepting Catholicism.We don’t scare ppl to death and then try to topple their governments to they become Catholic.
    But yes,i do see our Western decadence as causing outrage among Muslims,but it also causes outrage among Christians(which Catholics are).I don’t believe Terrorists are actually religous-not even fanatic Muslims. It comes down to wanting power and control. That’s evident if you look at ALL the facts.Check out the attacks.That’s when you get the idea.

    Now i will see if i can figure out the code.

  • P4P

    My apologies.Evidently my not seeing the code had something to do with my own puter.
    A side note too:his names escapes me but an Italian cardinal has spoken out against Catholics marrying Muslims in Italy.I can see the point and the secular culture there is already attacking him.

  • Lucas Sayre

    Here is that essay, “The Western Roots of Islamism”

    I definitely recommend it.

  • Bartholomew

    Lucas: there’s a kernal of a serious argument in the essay you link to (and to the original it was a rehash of), but it’s all absurdly overegged and ideologically driven – rather than seriously look at any one writer’s influence, all the author does is link various names and dig out a few unreferenced quotes for us to cluck at.

    I prefer the theory that bin Laden actually got his ideas from Isaac Asimov:

  • voice of reason

    oh no! not “the race card”-oooh and a White woman! (gasp)!

    i didnt know yall still put them on pedestals
    (just like so callled pedestal victims like back in antebellum south)

    tsk, tsk,tsk!!!