They say that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. The “Charlie hebdo” atrocities of last week are many things; frightening, terrifying, atrocious, a horror, an attack on what we stand for. But, as a phenomenon they are not new, or exceptional or uniquely Muslim.
You do not have to be a young Muslim living in the 21 century to be subject to radicalisation. It has always, down the ages been possible to persuade young men (and a few – a very few young women) of all faiths and none to the believe that is noble to kill innocent people in pursuit of what they have been persuaded is a great cause. As far back as the first century, the Jewish Zealots did it against Roman rule. In the 11 century the Shia Muslim Hashashin added another word – assassin – to our vocabulary of terror by their attacks on the Persian Government of the day. In our own time we have had to deal with our own “home grown” so called “Catholic” terrorists of the IRA (who by the way killed and destroyed far more than the current wave of jihadist outrages) – as well as the outrages perpetrated by the anti-imperialist urban terrorism of young middle class white Germans in the Bader-Meinhof Gang and its successor the Rot Armee Fraktion.
Perhaps the closest parallel to what we are seeing now is the Anarchist movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. All entirely “home grown” and without any kind of formal command structures, they too were a collection of “lone wolves” inspired by texts and prepared to kill and maim to abolish states and replace them with borderless self-governed entities which, leaving aside that they were based on a political idea rather than a religious one, bear a striking similarity to the caliphate model of today.
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