The phrase “homegrown terrorist” is being thrown around a lot these days. ABC News used it in reference to Colleen LaRose, a Pennsylvania woman who has been charged with using the Internet for terrorist recruitment. She has also been accused of planning to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who drew cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed with the body of a dog.
In a similar story, Jamie Paulin-Ramirez from Colorado was detained in Ireland under the accusation to kill the same Swedish cartoonist. The story didn’t get as much media coverage in the U.S., but Canada’s The Globe and Mail published an article about Paulin-Ramirez in which Christina Mott (her mother) described her as a single mother with the “mentality of an abused woman.” This quote portrays Paulin-Ramirez as a victim who would probably be easily persuaded to do something against her will.
These two women’s stories bring up a new type of fear: that Americans can easily be reached via the internet and influenced to be part of terror plots abroad. However, when these Americans are women, the fear carries a little bit of sympathy with it, as if women like LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez couldn’t have made these decisions on their own. The idea that these women have been brainwashed or influenced is integral to the idea that Islam is dangerous and makes women do otherwise irrational things.
How strong would these influences have to be to make a person agree to travel about 3,000 miles in an attempt to commit a crime? Although persuasion may play a role in these situations, I’d say the individual’s mentality plays a much bigger role.