On Saturday night, Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly tried to murder as many Swedes as possible by blowing up his car and himself in crowded areas where people were busy shopping for Christmas gifts. Amazingly, and perhaps due to an inadvertent early detonation, he was the only person killed. Two others were severely injured. All signs point to radical Islam as the motivator for the deadly violence. It’s interesting to see how different media outlets lead their early stories on the terrorist once his identity was established. Here’s the Telegraph:
Stockholm bomber: family blame Britain for radicalisation
Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly showed little interest in religion as he was growing up in Sweden, channelling his energies into sport and partying.
But after he began attending Bedfordshire University in Luton “everything changed” as he became a strict Muslim with increasingly extremist views, even naming his baby son Osama in honour of the al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden.
On Saturday he blew himself up in a street full of Christmas shoppers in Sweden’s first suicide attack, after recording a message which promised to kill “your children, daughters, brothers and sisters” partly in revenge for the country’s support role in Afghanistan.
Yes, naming your son after Osama bin Laden would be a sign of radicalization. The Telegraph focuses on whether British universities are doing enough to stamp out terrorist development. Al-Abdaly went to school in Luton, which is also where four of the London subway bombers gathered before they headed to the transit system to blow themselves up and kill as many people as possible. And Luton was where British soldiers were met by a crowd of Muslims hurling insults at a homecoming parade.
Most stories mentioned Luton, but not all mentioned the town’s ties to terrorism. In fact, some led with a different approach. The Associated Press headline:
Stockholm bomber seen as radical by UK Muslims
The story says that authorities are trying to learn when he was radicalized and how he was able to escape official notice considering he was so public with his radical views. Reporters Jill Lawless and Malin Rising have a huge, informative story. It’s interesting to me that the headline and lede are focused on mosque elders’ alarm about his views, particularly since this alarm didn’t rise to the level of alerting the authorities.
If you want more details on what folks at the mosque are saying, I thought this BBC report did a nice job:
However, [the Luton Islamic Center's] director of finance, Farasat Latif, said he tried to present a “distorted view” of Islam.
“He was pushing across the ideas that most violent radical Muslims hold, pronouncing other Muslims to be disbelievers, encouraging rebellion against the Muslim lands and Muslim leaders,” said Mr Latif.
“Although we found his beliefs reprehensible, there was nothing to suggest he was about to commit a criminal act.
OK, maybe some more questions are in order in terms of what it would take for Latif to categorize someone as a terror threat, but these are very helpful quotes that explain specifics about why mosque elders were concerned. That story also has interesting details about how he was seeking a second wife.
But for all the confusion about where this radicalization occurred, I thought this New York Times story from 2004 might be helpful to review. It’s about Muslim militants in Europe openly calling for jihad and the rule of Islam. Note the dateline:
LUTON, England, April 24– The call to jihad is rising in the streets of Europe, and is being answered, counterterrorism officials say.
In this former industrial town north of London, a small group of young Britons whose parents emigrated from Pakistan after World War II have turned against their families’ new home. They say they would like to see Prime Minister Tony Blair dead or deposed and an Islamic flag hanging outside No. 10 Downing Street.
They swear allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his goal of toppling Western democracies to establish an Islamic superstate under Shariah law, like Afghanistan under the Taliban. They call the Sept. 11 hijackers the ”Magnificent 19” and regard the Madrid train bombings as a clever way to drive a wedge into Europe.
On Thursday evening, at a tennis center community hall in Slough, west of London, their leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, spoke of his adherence to Osama bin Laden. If Europe fails to heed Mr. bin Laden’s offer of a truce — provided that all foreign troops are withdrawn from Iraq in three months — Muslims will no longer be restrained from attacking the Western countries that play host to them, the sheik said.
If this were what was being reported about Muslims in Luton in 2004, it might be worth more focus today, too. The latest New York Times says that the mosque that viewed Taimur Abdulwahab al-Abdaly as too radical once had ties to Sheik Omar Bakri Mohammad. That profile doesn’t ignore religion, per se, but focuses more on Abdaly’s personality profile.