The New Threat from Islamic Militancy by Jason Burke, review: ‘persuasive’

“…Today’s Islamic terrorists are not, Burke says, “lone wolves”, any more than their predecessors were. In virtually every case, they have drawn on support from militant networks overseas, often travelling abroad for training. Yet where the al-Qaeda of old would subject Western recruits to a rigorous curriculum of bomb-making and tradecraft, today’s unholy warriors are usually just shown which end of an AK-47 is which and sent on their way with a pat on the back.

The bulk of their support, in other words, comes not from overseas sponsors, but a source closer to home. In case after case, Burke shows how young men who became killers were part of communities that subsisted on a diet of prejudice, ignorance and victimhood. Merah’s older brother Abdelkader denied any involvement in the killings but told the police that he was “very proud” of his brother and regretted “nothing”. Their sister Souad, although she later publicly condemned his acts, was filmed without her knowledge by a French television station saying she was “proud” of her brother, and that she “detested” Jews. To talk about terrorists such as Merah being “radicalised”, says Burke, is as misleading as to claim their peers are “radicalised” into liking particular music or football teams.”