Numerous political-commentators and academics have postulated a ‘conveyor belt-theory’ for religious radicalisation, especially Muslim radicalisation, which ultimately culminates in terrorist activity. The theory goes that once individuals adopt a more religiously conservative or fundamentalist philosophy, this eventually takes on more political, proselytising undertones and then can ultimately manifest itself through terrorist violence. However, this theory is very controversial and it’s also a given that the overwhelming majority of Muslims, even Muslim ‘extremists’, are not terrorists.

Proponents of this theory contend that not all Muslim ‘extremists’ are Muslim terrorists, but all Muslim terrorists were at some point Muslim ‘extremists’. Again we are faced with the problem that ‘extremism’ is an ambiguous word but in this context I believe it is used interchangeably with ‘Islamism’ or Islamofascism. Islamism is a neologism coined to describe individuals who favour theocracies and want their country to be comprehensively governed by their understanding of Islamic jurisprudence. Essentially they resist the separation of Mosque and state and want the constitution to be derived from their interpretation of scripture; that the Quran and ahadith exclusively should be the foundational basis for society and enshrined in law. Apologies for this somewhat pleonastic, long-winded definition but I wanted to make it as unequivocally defined as possible.

So when you have the man and his female accomplice who were allegedly plotting a terrorist attack on the anniversary of 7/7, it raises many questions as to the veracity of that theory. He had a proclivity for smoking drugs, consuming alcohol, womanising, etc. and was therefore seemingly ignorant where Shariah was concerned. He didn’t live the most religiously austere lifestyle, to say the least. Similar vices have been noted with other perpretators of terrorist attacks but unlike them this individual was not ostensibly associated with any political movements (terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda and Islamic-State who have explicit political objectives and stated aims) rather he was initially resolved to kill because of his psychological state and personal circumstances, using the concepts of paradise and martyrdom for additional validation. Therefore I believe it is fair to say that while his actions were somewhat motivated or facilitated by religion, this attack was apparently devoid of a political ideology per se.

I would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that this is not an attempt to dismiss or underplay the possibility of interpretative scriptural justification for terrorist atrocities. Quite the opposite, in fact, as I believe this demonstrates how the suicidal disaffection of nominally religious individuals can, with the help of scripture, quickly transmogrify into homicidal and self-destructive aspirations. As they become overwhelmed with feelings of guilt, self-loathing and resentment towards wider society, their moral deterioration is expedited by their perception of martyrdom as an easy route to salvation, and as a spiritually-convenient method to absolve all their sins in the process.

Sorry if this seems a bit unstructured or dishevelled. Just some quick thoughts on the matter. I wish you all a successful, prosperous and happy New-Year.

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