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The myth of lone-wolf terrorism Would David Amess still be alive if someone had spoken up?

Radical Islam can still be defeated (TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)


October 20, 2021   5 mins

My heart sank twice last week: first when I heard about the brutal murder of Sir David Amess; and again when I started to read some of the disturbing commentary about the 25-year-old arrested on suspicion of carrying out the attack.

For many, the ethnicity and heritage of the only person facing charges in this case, Ali Harbi Ali, were wholly irrelevant to his alleged behaviour. Acknowledging that Ali is of Somali background, we were told, is racist and xenophobic. He must only be identified as British.

As someone who was born in Somalia, I find this absurd. Of course a suspect is not a murderer because he has a Somali background — and Ali is not a murderer until proven as such. But denouncing facts as racist — especially when the person in question was referred to Prevent, and police and security services believe he may have been inspired by al-Shabaab in Somalia — forces a dangerous ignorance on the public.

Yet it is just one of a number of fallacies that continue to dominate almost every discussion about Islamist-driven terrorism — fallacies that are promoted by both the media and British authorities. Indeed, it strikes me that our efforts to counter Islamist attacks are hindered by at least three other misconceptions: our insistence on describing a perpetrator as a “lone wolf”, our obsession with online self-radicalisation, and the idea that “all extremisms are created equal”.

Take that first fallacy. As unpleasant as it may be to acknowledge, I suspect numerous victims of Islamist extremism might be alive today, if those in charge of preventing terrorism recognised that Islamist extremists are anything but lone wolves.

In a liberal society, it is appealing to think of suspects of Islamist terror as solitary actors. As a matter of principle, we uphold the importance of individual freedoms, rights, and responsibilities, while our judicial system assumes that individuals are responsible for their actions. We also recognise the importance of not maligning an entire community because of the extremist views of a few of their fellow believers. This is particularly crucial when the historical relationship between a particular minority and their new country is fraught with memories of colonialism.

But while individuals responsible for terrorist attacks may conduct their attacks alone, they still emerge out of communities or networks of like-minded individuals, whether in-person or online. They learn from teachers, imams or instructors the radical ideas that inspire their violence. This is not to say that their entire family or community is extremist — only that these individuals find and are exposed to people who are. Little is known about the background of the murder suspect, Ali, but we can be certain that if found guilty, he would not have plunged a knife into a total stranger, possibly picked at random, wholly of his own accord. Someone or some group would have inspired these actions.

Since last Friday, we’ve heard from a number of people who reportedly knew Ali, all of whom have expressed shock at his alleged crime. Yet it seems hugely unlikely that no one in his immediate circle would have picked up on any extremist tendencies. After all, the Somalian communities are very social. Unlike in traditional Western families, where individuals live an atomised life within an atomised society, a Somali family typically lives together in one household, where everyone is involved in everyone else’s business.

Gossip is a way of life. Solitude is not an option, even more so during the pandemic when families not only lived together but were home more often. It is likely, therefore, that key signs of radicalisation — a shift in language, withdrawal from society, increased frequency of praying and attending mosque — would be noticed by various family members.

When that does happen, you might expect a person’s family to become more involved, to pull them back into their community. But that isn’t always the case. Imagine, for example, that you are a family member of a potentially radicalised individual from a highly tight-knit community. You notice something of concern — but might it be best to keep quiet? Are you a sinner if you report your brother to a programme led by non-Muslims? What does it mean for your relationship with God and the afterlife? What kind of traitor would report their own blood to the authorities?

Or perhaps you are just a non-Muslim colleague or friend of the individual. You may notice a change in behaviour, but are you really going to go forward and report them, with the possibility of being labelled a racist or an Islamophobe? Who would report a potentially innocent person, just for observing their religion?

Lone wolves, then, do not come out of nowhere. They are inspired by other radicals and they are noticed by their community. The problem is that the community then keeps quiet.

A similar fallacy looms over our understanding of online radicalisation, which does not occur in a silo, between the individual and their computer screen. The individual has to be susceptible, in a place of vulnerability, where Islamic radicalism can easily set in.

Though there is much about Ali that we are yet to learn, we do know that his father was Harbi Ali Kullane, a former government official in Somalia. Since the attack, reports have presented Kullane’s Twitter profile as a testament to assimilation, displaying his support for Captain Tom and the England football team. It has also been reported that, while working in Somalia, he faced threats from al-Shabaab.

And yet I suspect his attitude to his new country is more nuanced than has been presented. It is striking, for example, that not a single news outlet has flagged a tweet by Kullane from 2017, in which he suggests: “the 5-pointed star [on the Somali flag] represents the aspiration of a nation and the misery inflicted by British colonialism. Let’s not sugar coat this #Somalia.” Given that Kullane moved to the UK in the Nineties, his comment suggests an antipathy to Britain that has so far been ignored.

The last fallacy that must be confronted is the belief that all forms of extremism are created equal and should be treated as such. Under the British counter-terrorism Prevent programme, Islamism is lumped together with other forms of extremism, such as far-Right extremism, and handled with a similar approach. But while Right-wing extremism is a threat that should not be downplayed, its causes and motivations are totally unrelated to radical Islamists. They should be distinct and handled separately.

The only way to prevent Islamist terrorist attacks is to understand the lexicon of the Islamists. It is vital to understand the historic heroes that inspire them, the hadiths that speak to them, the myths and legends that motivate them, and the materials that are put into their hands. It is important to know not just the history of Islam, but also the history of the nation that is connected to the radicalised individual.

This kind of specialisation is not possible when so many in the UK cry Islamophobia at every turn. The only way to ask family and community members to come forward and report potentially radicalised individuals is to win their confidence. Individuals have to feel that they can safely approach the authorities without repercussion. They also deserve to know that the situation will be handled by someone who deeply understands the issues at hand. As Nik Adams, a counter-terrorism police officer, explained brilliantly, we need people who can recognise “how significant the seemingly insignificant might be”.

Given the ineffectiveness of Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy, and the blinkered approach to reporting since Sir David’s murder, that will be an uphill struggle. But it is not impossible: Prevent is undergoing an independent review, led by the capable William Shawcross, that will report in December and produce suggestions on how it can be improved.

More importantly, I believe that, by and large, the Islamic terrorist narrative is waning. al-Qaeda is a skeleton of what it was two decades ago, while the spectre of ISIS continues to serve as a real-life deterrent to what living under a caliphate requires. Even the Muslim Brotherhood narrative is stale and petering out. Yes, the Taliban may have taken control of Afghanistan, and the threat of Islamism in Africa remains deeply concerning and often ignored. But taken in its entirety, radical Islam does not have the same potency it once did.

So even if Sir David’s death is proven to be a terrorist incident, the defeat of radical Islam in Britain is still attainable. But achieving that requires us to bin the fallacies regurgitated after every attack. If we don’t, the pattern of seemingly random terrorist violence will persist.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an UnHerd columnist. She is also the Founder of the AHA Foundation, and host of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast. Her Substack is called Restoration.

Ayaan

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Sharon Overy
Sharon Overy
2 years ago

The government and the media running cover for them are acting utterly bizarrely. They are not just ignoring the elephant in the room, but a whole herd of pachyderms and a few gazelles to boot – the real issue, we are told, is incivility to MPs on social media.

They’ve gone literally insane!

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I agree with you completely. But I don’t agree with the theme of the article.

If you are not a strong person and you join a club or a gang, you will do anything to look good in front of the other members, anything to be seen as one of the gang. In this gang, if someone says, “That MP deserves to die.” do all the other members run to tell the police? Of course they don’t. People say a lot of things they don’t mean; sometimes they say them over and over again. But that still does not mean they are actually going to do something.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

So you are sugar coating extreme Islamic beliefs?

Alan Hawkes
Alan Hawkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

But, sometimes, what they does mean that they are more likely to do something. Spotting which ones is spotting the insignificant.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Well said. But I should like to define what sanity might say and do. First, it would acknowledge that perpetual mass immigration into any society creates ghettoes and prevents assimilation – see Kaufman. Second, it would acknowledge that ghettoes are by nature clannish and defensive. Third, it would realise that crimes committed by denizens of that enclave are therefore less likely to be reported. Fourth it would accept that the very “sensitivity” cultivated among the hosts or former hosts will also militate against police activity. This, I put it to you, is not just a blip or a particular circumstance; it is a sociological law. Throw into this mix the unchallenged, old-style nationalism and traditionalism which prevail among certain communites; add the fact that many of them operate by conventions diametrically opposed to the ethics of the west; season with the realisation that “woke” must seem even more insane to them than it does to most of us, and you have the complete breakdown of communication. Hence the ease with which our idiotic masters fret about the “threat” from the “far right” – see the latest report from the Henry Jackson Society. They can’t even contemplate the real source of danger – it discombobulates not only their ideology but the last twenty or thirty years of their practice.

David Owsley
David Owsley
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

outstanding comment

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  David Owsley

Many thanks. These threads demand a degree of effort…

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Stockholme Syndrome by the chattering and opinion forming classes?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Yes – I think so. It’s a “Fire-raisers” situation, isn’t it? The old Max Frisch allegory about fascists infiltrating one’s home and burning it down. Likewise, the chatterboxes in their complacency have allowed a degree of demographic transformation and academic corruption which they cannot now challenge. So the Stockholme Syndrome sets in, with Panglossian intensity.

andy young
andy young
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Ah! The Fire Raisers. Peter Vaughan & Dudley foster, both splendidly sinister, all in black. As a 13 year old I didn’t really understand what I was watching, but I felt it was something important, something significant. I’d love to see it again.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
2 years ago
Reply to  andy young

Peter Vaughan – a.k.a Grouty – first class actor…

Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Very astute comment! You just about nailed it.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

Ah yes, but what produces sanity? Where have we failed?
We cannot foster sanity if we do not understand what produces it. We lack adequate conceptual tools for understanding normality, so the problems we face are mystifying, we don’t know how to tackle insanity.
See my response to Jeremy Bray for details.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
2 years ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

What you say about reluctance of police to be involved in this community also partly explains how little fraud crimes get cleared up in the Uk . Insurance fraud , bank fraud , all kinds of fraud will proliferate in clannish communities with a disinhibiting animus to mainstream society , as well as drug dealing and other crimes . The closeness of Pakistan to the heroin producing centre of Afghanistan , and constant movement to and fro , suggests an obvious point of entry . But do the police /customs officials undertake sufficient random searches to act as a deterrent ? That no cases come to court of people smuggling heroin from Pakistan to the UK suggests not .

Last edited 2 years ago by Alan Osband
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

You for got to mention that whatever the issue the greats threat is white people

gillian.johnstone
gillian.johnstone
2 years ago

Eh? Can you explain please.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago

Sure. Not only does the government look to attribute cause for these incidents everywhere except where it is due but it is also not slow to take advantage of them to further there own hobby horses, hence how they have used Mr Amess’ death to argue for a ban on online anonymity.
Since our government seems to view white people as the enemy I assume that that they and their allies will be looking to work this angle

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

It’s worse than that. No longer even “ignoring” the elephant, now they give it an absent-minded pat before heading for a gossip by the cocktail sausages. Hence: widespread, if quiet, acknowledgement of the facts as known so far (Islamist attack; nothing to do with social media incivility)
 and then, without breaking stride, straight on into drafting “David’s Law”, intended to curb the excesses of, er, online incivility!

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

Yes, the problem is incivility to politicians, said by the very people who are usually pretty uncivil to them, a lot of the time.

Eric Sheldon
Eric Sheldon
2 years ago
Reply to  Sharon Overy

I was very struck by the BBC’s initial take on this. One report on Radio 4 set the scene with a recording of Brexiteers bellowing at Remainers that they were traitors; this was followed by an unchallenged statement that an atmosphere of aggression and rudeness is increasingly common, especially against politicians. We were then given more details on the stabbing.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

I listened to Jordan Peterson speaking at the Oxford Union yesterday. He explained that social ‘cures’ can make things worse without due consideration of what could go wrong. It strikes me that denouncing people with ‘phobia’ or ‘denier’ labels as a cure is creating more problems than it solves. If anyone who asks questions about Islamism is called Islamophobic; or anyone questioning the new gender dogma is transphobic; or anyone finding faults in a Covid strategy is a Covid-denier; then the wrong people will end up in charge as the wise people become silenced.

Roger le Clercq
Roger le Clercq
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

How did he get past the bouncers?

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

Roger, he was warmly received.

Hilary Easton
Hilary Easton
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

That is very good news. Does that mean JP is no longer persona non grata in academe?

marielandry25
marielandry25
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Well said. I’ve quoted you.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago

It is good to get the views of an intelligent woman of Somali origin who therefore knows the community from whom Sir David’s killer came. Quite rightly she has pointed out that Ali’s father held anti-colonialist views thus perhaps providing the seedbed for his son’s extremist radicalisation.
Unfortunately, the views expressed merely confirm that the father was well integrated into British society in the sense that large numbers of native Britain’s hold very similar views. The seed bed of radicalisation lies not simply in the Islamic community but in widespread racial and anti-colonial views that are widespread among the leftist elements of the native British population.
The pernicious view that Britain is a racist society and should hang it’s head in shame at it’s history of slavery and colonialism and the even more perniciously racist doctrine imported from the United States of Critical Race Theory that requires all whites to adopt a cultural cringe and self-abasement for the behaviours of people whose only connection with us was the colour of their skin and that many generations ago some of them were related some of us is also part of the problem. While Critical Race theory sweeps through our institutions we fight extremist religious terrorists with one arm behind our back. As the author points out we are reluctant to tackle problems for fear of being accused of Islamaphobia. The deaths at the Manchester Arena might have been prevented if the young security lad had felt he could challenge the obviously odd presence of the terrorist without being regarded as a racist. How many others may have thought “that’s odd” but said nothing because they didn’t want to appear racist.
We can’t fight Islamic terrorism effectively while so many non-Muslims are inclined to believe we are the problem. Prevent and anti-radicalisation programs should tackle the pernicious spread of the racist doctrines of CRT and white guilt. Unfortunately I believe that the idea that it is the white population that is uniquely racist is so deeply imbedded in our society that there will be reluctance to attack perverse anti-racist rhetoric which lays the seed bed for terrorism as much as Islamist rhetoric. Second generation Muslims would not be so attracted to jihad were it not for the pervasive propaganda that the white British are uniquely racist and evil that is fostered within our state system of education and our society.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“Ali’s father held anti-colonialist views” – Please stop calling a shovel an agricutural tool. Anti-British! and there are a lot of them in Britain – some of them white and they’ve been coming here since the late 1930s. Almost all from the left and extreme left.

Liz Runciman
Liz Runciman
2 years ago
Reply to  Doug Pingel

But why do they come to Britain if they think it is such a racist society?

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

How much was the ‘young security guard’ being paid to risk being blown to smithereens himself.

D Glover
D Glover
2 years ago
Reply to  George Stone

That’s not really the point. He didn’t hold back from challenging an asian with a big rucksack because his wages were low, he held back to avoid the taint of ‘racism’.

John Riordan
John Riordan
2 years ago

Thank you once again Ayaan Hirsi Ali for another typically penetrating and insightful article.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

Colonialism, that old chestnut. If you have an issue with Britain because of colonialism DON’T COME HERE.
Far right extremism is explicitly linked to Islamism because it has increased *in response to* Islamism. Islamist terror attacks, Muslim aggression on free speech, halal food, mosque building, and dominance in some areas of Britain, plus the cowardly lack of action taken by the authorities in response to mass rape of white British girls – well what would one expect??? Is fighting back really ‘far right’ or a reasonable response to extreme provocation? It’s not the working class who sent us to war in Iraq or wherever.

Frederick B
Frederick B
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Very well said.e

chris sullivan
chris sullivan
2 years ago

I would have thought that more enthusiastic policing of your own would be a good way for an immigrant community to ensure acceptance by their new country. does this actually happen much?? If it does not then does not that community run the risk of being seen as somehow tacitly supporting those murderers – and thereby risk non-acceptance………………..The communities affected by a murder could not care less about any ‘cultural difficulties’ that that immigrant group might have in taking some responsibility. When will those groups ‘step up’. Or risk long term distrust.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

We know that Salah Abdeslam was able to hide in Molenbeek for months, even while his face was all over the news after the Paris attacks, thanks to the connivance of many locals. This is just one example. There is a lot of extremism being preached in mosques that is rarely reported. Why do worshippers not object to this? Is it because they endorse these views? I would say the answer is probably ‘yes’. New laws in Denmark and the Netherlands, two countries that are hardly illiberal, have been passed to require translations of sermons because this situation is completely out of control. So, I think the problem is even bigger than this.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

“require translations of sermons”…..How many things are wrong with this?

1. If you distrust an immigrant community so much that you require them to translate their sermons, have they any place in your society?

2. Who is going to do the translations of sermons?

3. If the imams provide the “translations”, how accurate are they going to be?

4. Who is going to check the translations? Hardly any of our politicians, clergy, police, civil servants, journalists or pundits can speak the relevant languages. And the cultural and theological nuances behind the texts are a further layer of complication.

Last edited 2 years ago by William Murphy
JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

Yes, it is a scandal that it can reach this point and a bigger scandal that so few people seem prepared to admit it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

I see it with the people I deal with everyday. Even if the support is not express, tacitly much of the immigrant community is are sympathetic to the views of these people and do not try to conceal it much

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

I believe that distrust, of a section of the Muslim community and even more of our lords and masters, is totally justified. I was thinking of the bizarre mentality of people in Denmark and Holland who seem to think that wider society will benefit by forcing imams to “translate” their sermons. My original comment was truncated by technical problems.

Dennis Lewis
Dennis Lewis
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

“If you distrust an immigrant community so much that you require them to translate their sermons, have they any place in your society?”
I suspect that you already know the answer to that question.

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

So you do nothing and let them get on with it? Its not about distrusting the whole community but unfortunately in every society the majority are passive and even if they know radical words are being used they will stay silent, as so eloquently described by Simon Denis earlier.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

The community does not give the sermon. It receives it.
An individual gives the sermon. That individual is accountable for any violations of law contained in his sermons, and for the consequences of his actions, just like any other citizen is responsible for their hate speech and incitement to violence.
On those grounds, it is entirely sensible to require an individual’s sermons to be available in the country’s mother tongue in order to facilitate policing, where incitement to antisocial violence has been seen to have been emanating from those running the mosques in a variety of places over a sustained period of time.
Individuals generate the problem, which becomes a social problem. Hunt down, seek out and punish the individuals, but don’t punish a whole community for being passive recipients of unwholesome material.
Have you never been a passive recipient of unwholesome material? How do you keep such stuff out of your life while remaining a participating member of your community?

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

You ascribe a level of discriminating, individualised awareness to the average Muslim mosque-goers that they simply do not possess.
They are much like the average rural Anglican churchgoers: it’s traditional to attend church/mosque, we do it because we feel vaguely religious and we were raised to believe that religion is a good thing. We pay conventional homage without thinking too much about it. When we hear about extremists connected to our church/mosque, we feel awkward and embarrassed; we wish it wasn’t happening, but, being part of the herd, we do nothing about it. That sort of active role is for others, not us!

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
2 years ago
Reply to  chris sullivan

Although in a previous comment I have referred to “lone Wolf terrorism” I do think the analogy with lone wolves is not useful. In my mind it was in contrast to the more organised terrorism of the IRA.
Undoubtedly, the individual terrorists are radicalised by the more aggressive forms of Islam circulating in their communities but just as important is the “sense of entitlement driven by post-colonial social justice” that you describe.
I don’t think non-Muslims can do much to combat the pernicious strains of Islam circulating, but we can and should push back against notions that Britain is institutionally racist, colonial guilt and the spread of the racist doctrine of Critical Race Theory and its offshoots.
The terrorists may be able to remain hidden in an accommodative Muslim sub-culture, but that sub-culture is sustained and encouraged by the much wider leftist ideology that encourages a cultural cringe to “minorities” and the fear of doing and saying what is sensible for fear of accusations of racism. Social justice warriors are the fellow travellers and enablers of Islamic extremism.

Last edited 2 years ago by Jeremy Bray
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Re your distinction between “lone wolf” and “organised” terrorism:
The only difference here is that the community of the so-called “lone wolf” is hidden.
This may be online or by a sophisticated layering of separate cells with only partial intercommuncation. These are external blinds. They may be penetrated over time by effective, well funded, sustained policing efforts of the normal kind.
But the terrorist affiliation may also be hidden by the individual’s own unconsciousness regarding the forces that are driving him. In this case, the blind is entirely internal, the person does not know what it is that has taken over his consciousness, what is its true nature. Although hidden from conscious view even of the perpetrator, the terror-group affiliation is none the less real and its external manifestations no less disastrous. In this case, however, traditional external policing of any sort is powerless and quite ineffectual. In this latter case, only the analysis offered by esoteric, progressive spirituality has the knowledge base and tool kit adequate to offer effective remedies and preventative strategies.
From a psycho-spiritual point of view, terrorist acts by definition emanate from an atavistic group consciousness, an out-of-date shared group soul. The person has failed to adequately individuate, to develop a stable, mature, fully rounded ethical individuality which has its feet firmly planted on the ground of this world. He cannot properly distinguish himself from others. He does not quite know what is real. The remedy lies in bringing the individual properly into himself. Then he will be able to find the personal strength to eschew the old allegiances which clamour at the edges of his consciousness. Better still, he will come to see clearly why these things have nothing to do with his modern self. And why they are posed in direct opposition to all true human progress.
In terms of prevention, widespread public education regarding humanity’s slow progress from the old group-soul to the modern individual soul is the sine qua non. Then, further, society needs to know about progress in a positive direction on into the future. This entails understanding that a new “we-consciousness” is in embryonic stages of development right now. This is based in a fully rounded mature individuality, one that is secure enough in itself to move forward to voluntarily and freely embrace others.
Social and political strategies for combating terrorism and extremism will continue to fail for reasons no one understands until we are all able to distinguish clearly between the old “we-consciousness” of the shared group-soul, which is based in the bloodline, in heredity, in tribe and blood family, and the new “we-consciousness” which operates in self-assured freedom, in voluntary cooperation with others to create a shared planetary future for the human race as a whole.
The initiate teacher Dr Rudolf Steiner gave an extended in-depth analysis of the atavistic old group-soul, of the development of ethical individuality, and of the new “we-consciousness” as these forces played out across not only Europe but around the world. He wrote and spoke at the turn of the nineteenth/twentieth centuries, but his words are more applicable than ever today. His work can be found online at RSArchive.org.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

I made a comment offering a different perspective from normal socio-political discourse. This is a legitimate thing to do. It educates, and broadens the basis of discussion.
The comment came from my own knowledge base, much of which is derived from Steiner’s teachings; much also derives from teachings in multiple other spiritual streams.
You betray your own prejudices by describing the link I gave to Steiner’s work as an “opportunistic advert for Anthroposophy”. Many commenters provide links to sources for their posts. They are not accused of “opportunistic adverts”. Note also that being a student of Steiner’s work is not synonymous with being an Anthroposophist. I do not belong to the Anthroposophical Society.
Steiner’s occultism is neither strangely dry nor academic. At most, translations of his writings reflect the tone of the late 19th/early 20th century German originals to a minor extent. Some find that tone dry compared to modern American English.
Occultism cannot be “academic”. Nor can it be “dry”. You betray your ignorance of the subject with such remarks.
Steiner’s teaching of reincarnation is common knowledge. You appear not to be aware that knowledge of reincarnation is shared by all of the world’s major spiritual paths.
You say:
Hardly a solution to the more immediate problems facing the world – but perhaps offering comfort for the mystically inclined who like to believe that, unlike the masses, they really know.
You could not be more wrong. Work based in Steiner’s teachings is at the forefront of positive developments in multiple fields worldwide. Also, Steiner taught a path of knowledge; he was highly critical of vague mysticism. Perhaps the mystically inclined believe they know? I do not know what they might believe, because I have nothing to do with such people.
So, your comment is in error in everything you say. It proceeds from an apparently near-complete ignorance of the subject. When you know nothing, better to say nothing. Try reading some of Steiner’s actual work before launching out with your pet prejudices against religion, mysticism, spirituality


George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Penelope, you’re in my ear and in my eye.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

In France we call this ‘islamo-gauchisme’.

ralph bell
ralph bell
2 years ago

Insightful intelligent article.
One wonders why Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not advising ‘Prevent.’

William Cameron
William Cameron
2 years ago

Politicians, desperate to avoid the charge of islamaphobia, seized on offensive and threatening social media. Which , while wrong and objectionable, seemed to form no part of this awful killing.

furma371
furma371
2 years ago

Ayaan Hirsi Ali underlines our WEIRD way to treat, analyse and interpret facts. Fighting criminal minds and terrorists, having origins outside our own cultural circle, cannot be effective if we don’t take into consideration their own culture and mythology. We cannot expect Somalis or Afghans to think in our patterns. So why do we persist? Are our societies being fragilized by these new cultural identity trends? Why are media and politics not addressing correctly this problem then? Universality of human rights is not universal, as is individualism. I suspect there is a contradiction in our societies.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  furma371

“Universal human rights” is a Western fantasy, not even accepted in sections of Western society. No surprise that Islam has produced its own code of human rights.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  William Murphy

In a way they are similar. One group dreams of a global caliphate and the other dreams of an ummah of human rights. Of course, these utopian fantasies normally end in disaster.

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago

I can’t see that the solution is expecting family or friends to help. The same could apply to murderers who are often married. You would expect wives to notice different behaviour. Look at the violence that goes on in relationships and families don’t seem to help. Then there is another subject I haven’t seen mentioned recently – female circumcision – families don’t stop that.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Thorpe

Look at the disgusting “honour” killings where family members actively cooperate and cover up the murder. Theodore Dalrymple’s fascinating essay “When Islam breaks down” highlighted how honour was hugely important in Afghan society. Plainly violently upholding honour was not disgusting to them.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
2 years ago

Lone wolves in scape goat’s clothing.

Sean McGrath
Sean McGrath
2 years ago

An excellent piece as always from Ayaan Hirsi Ali.. clear and informative and pointing the way forward too.

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
2 years ago

I wonder if this article is insightful in ways the author didn’t intend. She openly says “Are you a sinner if you report your brother to a programme led by non-Muslims? …. What kind of traitor would report their own blood to the authorities?” There’s the problem in 2 sentences printed boldly and proudly on the pages of Unheard.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Coffey

I think she is quite aware of this. In her book, she discusses this aspect of clan mentality.

Matt Coffey
Matt Coffey
2 years ago
Reply to  JP Martin

She’s clearly aware of it from her comments that I highlighted but it’s the acceptance of it that’s the issue.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Coffey

There’s no suggestion that Dr Ali endorses this behaviour. The reverse is true: she is adducing some very telling examples of what she thinks is wrong.

Julia H
Julia H
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Coffey

Unherd

It’s similar to the mafia code or any criminal community that considers anyone reporting one of their own to the police as a grass. AHA has simply pointed out the religious equivalent.

JP Martin
JP Martin
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

Perhaps an unfair comparison to the mafia who are at least loyal enough to their own countries to not wave foreign flags at football matches.

Last edited 2 years ago by JP Martin
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Julia H

The question that arises is: what is the actual common basis of this behaviour, then?

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

Tribalism! There from the earliest history of mankind, that has always existed and probably always will, though approved of for some but not for others – for purely tribal reasons of course.

Last edited 2 years ago by George Stone
David Shepherd
David Shepherd
2 years ago
Reply to  Matt Coffey

Not quite sure why you are critising the author. Those sentences are her insight into why potential radicals are not reported; she is not supporting the stance she is reporting it. That paragraph starts with “Imagine you are a family member..”; and yes, I can imagine a family member brought up in such a culture and religion not reporting a problem.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
2 years ago

Ayaan, a great majority of British people would agree with you entirely – as they have done for decades – but have been ignored, silenced, defamed and even criminalised for their efforts.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
2 years ago

Very convincing article. It convinced me that maybe I should partially withdraw some recent comments of mine, here on Unherd. I still think it is wrong to reflexively demonise entire creeds, political or religious, on the basis of these attacks (‘too many Muslims’, etc.), but then Ms Ali does not do that either. She simply reminds us that such attackers always have some network around them that inspires them, and another network of people who know about them and could sound a warning. And that these networks do have a responsibility. So, stripped of the demonisation (and knowing a little more about the man now), it does seem clear that we should look for responsibility in the (Islamic) networks around this killer.
If there are no lone wolves that does raise a challenge to us, though. There may be rather fewer of them, but there are mass killings also by people like Timothy McVeigh, Anders Bering Breivik, and the various school shooters, incel or not. Who are the networks that inspire those people and may share some responsibility in their actions? And (much as I hate the thought) the next time some Guardianista blames these killings on the pro-gun US right, incel sympathisers, men’s rights activists, or right-wing anti-immigrationists, can all of us claim that we have absolutely nothing we should consider doing differently?

Last edited 2 years ago by Rasmus Fogh
Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
2 years ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

If you will remember, McVeigh was radicalized by his own perception of the injustice brought by government institutions against people who were living outside the pale, Waco, Ruby Ridge and a few others. He was not affected much by a non-existent social media but was influenced by some sensationalized reporting and the obfuscation of the powers that be. Who are the networks? Let’s begin with television reporting and spread out from there.

Tony Lee
Tony Lee
2 years ago

For what it’s worth, I think the article (for obvious reasons given the birthplace of the author) displays a level of nuance and understanding of the realities of living within a Somali community in the UK, that is so clearly the case that it would be deemed unacceptable, if same were said by a non-Somali, let alone a white person. Until and unless we might talk about the cultural complexities more openly, how might it be possible to learn from such tragic events.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago

Remembering Tanveer Ahmed and his horrible murder of a Glasgow shopkeeper. The murderer acted “alone” in the sense that he was the only killler on the crime scene. But he had a very vocal fan club in court. And 400 supporters in Pakistan applauded his action.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/aug/09/tanveer-ahmed-jailed-for-murder-glasgow-shopkeeper-in-sectarian-attack

Deborah B
Deborah B
2 years ago

What is troubling, to me, is that we still do not comprehend nor discuss the motivation underlying such attacks. We are still viewing them through the lense of a basically law abiding, peace loving society.
But other cultures do not necessarily subscribe to these basic rules about what is acceptable and what is not.
So taking a grievance out on another person and killing them might be the accepted behaviour in some cultures. Life is cheap in many parts of the world.
We cannot begin to formulate effective prevention strategies until it’s acknowledged that not everyone in this world has the same values as us.
I’m reminded of the ‘machete murders’ which occurred in my home town. A mixed group of young men from many different cultures lived in a large shared house, well managed, with a large shared lounge/TV room. It was relatively harmonious. One day a minor disagreement about what to watch on TV led one man (a nice, well behaved young man according to the landlady) to leave the room, go and get his machete and behead several of his housemates. No doubt the tensions were already simmering, but the result? Utterly shocking and inexplicable. Unless you factor in the nationality and culture of the murderer.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  Deborah B

A key distinction here is between cultures now based in a modern ethical individualism, and those still based in an atavistic tribalism based in bloodline, heredity and an old shared group-consciousness.
The real problem with modern multiculturalism is that it pretends all cultures are equal. They are not. Some are better than others. We don’t hesitate to assess, compare and judge individuals. We need to do the same for cultural groupings, especially including those based in blood and soil.
An intellectual mistake was made in transferring understandings of the equality of all individual human beings qua human being to groupings of human beings. Such groupings mostly still belong to the past and are more or less outdated..
It does not follow that because I, in my capacity an an individual human being, am equal to all other human beings, that therefore the family, tribe, football club, nation, race, religion or Facebook group I belong to are also all equal. That is a patent non sequitur and a nonsense.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago

Numbers killed by the dreaded Far Right Extremists we hear so much about? One (poor Jo Cox)
Numbers killed by Islamic extremists? I’ve lost count.

Leon Wivlow
Leon Wivlow
2 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Knott

Numbers killed by Islamic extremists in the UK number 40 over the past 5 years according to Claire Fox on the news this morning.

Malcolm Knott
Malcolm Knott
2 years ago
Reply to  Leon Wivlow

Thanks, Leon. I was actually thinking of the last 20 years.

Dave Lowery
Dave Lowery
2 years ago

Very good article. The link to Qatar and from Qatar to Somalia via the murderer’s father is set out in some detail by Dr Richard North.
https://www.turbulenttimes.co.uk/news/front-page/politics-two-camels-amess/

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lowery

Thanks very much for the link! You couldn’t make this stuff up. As the classic journalist advice says – follow the money. Or, as in “Two Camels” Amess’s case, follow the free holidays….

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Dave Lowery

As the old journalistic advice says “Follow the money”. Or, as in this case, the camels and free holidays. Do I sense a backlash against the total sanctity of St David of Southend?

Dustshoe Richinrut
Dustshoe Richinrut
2 years ago

What is a lone wolf? A lone wolf is a maverick. In the West, a maverick may well be an artist – who goes his or her own way. It’s a healthy enough activity that has been much encouraged over many decades, even centuries, in the Christian West. Okay, 
 the West then. Much talk over the lockdown period has been devoted by the left-leaning arts world to the sustenance given by the arts to the nation’s mental health. In part, the gaining of much-needed government money to keep the arts world going has been the spur. But what is sauce for the goose is surely sauce for the gander. The constraints imposed by a particular religion on its adherents expressing themselves artistically, I think, has led to a feeling of deep gloom. Perhaps even despair. Had Judaism been so stern, in early 1900s New York, then the outlets to stardom, locally or nationally, by budding, talented entertainers, or to artistic expression, would have been closed off. As it turned out, household names from the Jewish communities of the eastern seaboard of the United States arose. The first talkie, The Jazz Singer, was basically about that experience of Jewish immigrants in the New World.
The problem for the religion whose adherents are curtailed from expressing themselves artistically is that there are relatively very few household names looked upon fondly from that community, nationally or internationally. It becomes harder for that community to present a rosier public relations programme nationally. How does one sweep away negative feelings? Negative feelings are much exploited or manipulated by those who are prepared to use violence and stoke fear in order to win domination.

Ann Ceely
Ann Ceely
2 years ago

The “Arts” can have disastrous results.

To start with, philosophy is part of the “Arts” which has led to wokery and nihilism. Not to mention Fascism, Nazism, Communism and Maoism.

I prefer Science, Maths and Environmental studies which ground thoughts to how the world actually is. e.g. did you know trees communicate which their families via the fungal Wood-Wide-Web?

Last edited 2 years ago by Ann Ceely
Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
2 years ago
Reply to  Ann Ceely

So can science, so can anything, when humans politicize it. For instance, math is racist now. The environment? That’s been political all my life.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago
Reply to  Ann Ceely

I thought trees barked to each other.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

A perceptive comment. We are all actually lone wolves, or should be. An assumption of an individualised, mature, ethical, developed sense of self stands at the basis of our society. Unfortunately, many still fall short of this ideal, finding themselves unable to stand alone in their uniqueness from the pack. They share in an outmoded group-soul, an undifferentiated mass consciousness of some kind, to some extent.
No terrorists are lone wolves. All are subject to manipulation by a group of some kind. Often, they are not aware of the real nature of a group to which they feel themselves drawn.
Islam does have some liberal streams: Sufism has produced wonderful art, for example. The reason we do not hear much from that side of Islam is that post-war immigration into Britain has overwhelmingly come from Pakistan, host to very primitive peasant societies practising some of the most intolerant restrictive forms of the religion. Seen spiritually, this is karmic balancing from the ingress of the British into India in colonial times.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Penelope Lane

To make it worse, post 1973, Wahabi/Salaafi /Deobandi Sunni Islam has replaced Sufi Sunni Islam in Pakistan. Also the relaxing of sexual mores in the West post 1973 has repelled the more Salaafi influenced Sunni Islam so integration has reduced. The Imran Khan of 1980s and Benazir Butto are a product of pre 1973 Pakistan Education. The Imran Khan of 2021 had had to move towards a Wahabi/Salaafi style of Summi Islam to be elected.
Up to the 1970s Pakistanis and wealthy Muslim s had no problem sending their sons and daughters to British boarding schools and then onto university and Sandhurst and Dartmouth.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
2 years ago

Thank you for a well informed and reasoned article. While I sympathise uncomfortably with anyone who points to the harm inflicted by European colonialism, whose predatory attitudes one could trace back to the Norman conquest, and of which Britain’s dismantling of the native Indian economy for profit is an egregious example, it cannot be the only explanation for the relentless violence, corruption and poverty in third world or developing countries, especially where Islam is the majority religion. It may be Islam is following the same trajectory as Christianity, only six centuries later. For example, the schism between Sunni and Shia, which is fundamentally unresolvable, may eventually fade away like that between the various Christian branches because other things become more relevant to real life. On the other hand, six centuries is a long time to wait. With due respect to the Author and other thoughtful individuals, we may have to accept that Islam and liberal democracy (which is currently a fairly imprecise term) are fundamentally incompatible.

George Stone
George Stone
2 years ago

Read Winston Churchill’s account of Mohammadenism in ‘The River War’ from 1899. An excellent description, and things haven’t changed.

m aiken
m aiken
2 years ago

another excellent article from her. Well done.

Lloyd Byler
Lloyd Byler
2 years ago

As Nik Adams, a counter-terrorism police officer, explained brilliantly, we need people who can recognise “how significant the seemingly insignificant might be”.

…..

Islamism is lumped together with other forms of extremism, such as far-Right extremism, and handled with a similar approach. But while Right-wing extremism is a threat that should not be downplayed, its causes and motivations are totally unrelated to radical Islamists. They should be distinct and handled separately.

Well, being promised to have 72 virgins in heaven for murdering an infidel is quite the contrast to resisting government and understanding such act may land the perpetrator in jail.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Lloyd Byler

I loved that Danish cartoon of the nutter arriving at the Pearly Gates to be greeted by a coreligionist shouting “Stop! Stop! We’ve run out of virgins”.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
2 years ago

Thank you for your clarity and continued bravery to write the obvious. We have to be much tougher on the mosques, imams, sharia courts who are, sometimes openly, inspiring jihadi sentiments and ideologies; we have to follow more rigorously anyone who pops up or is recommended to a Prevent programme; we have to go after those posting real hate crimes on Sm. as opposed to imaginary ones; and we have to reign in the Hate Crime laws in toto.

John Lee
John Lee
2 years ago

This is a good exercise in stating the obvious, the question is, do the authorities understand any of it.

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago
Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

Yet it is just one of a number of fallacies that continue to dominate almost every discussion about Islamist-driven terrorism — fallacies that are promoted by both the media and British authorities. Indeed, it strikes me that our efforts to counter Islamist attacks are hindered by at least three other misconceptions

Does Dr Ali mean a) there are a number of fallacies, in addition to which there are three other misconceptions, or b) there are a number of fallacies, among which are three misconceptions
 ?

Rod McLaughlin
Rod McLaughlin
2 years ago

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a brave opponent of some of the worst aspects of the influence of Islam in the West. Her latest book, about the undermining of women’s rights by this reactionary religion, is a masterpiece. But I’m not sure she’s as helpful in combatting terrorism.
She says “It is likely, therefore, that key signs of radicalisation — a shift in language, withdrawal from society, increased frequency of praying and attending mosque — would be noticed by various family members.”
Even if I knew someone who exhibited these ‘symptoms’, I would not report him as a potential terrorist, so one could hardly expect Muslims to do so.
She mentions a tweet including “the misery inflicted by British colonialism”. Does Ali really believe people who say this should be reported to the police?
One should be able express an opinion without fear of being grassed up. Suppose I said what I think of Tony Blair?
Here’s a different point of view, on UnHerd: https://unherd.com/2021/10/can-we-stop-every-terrorist/

Last edited 2 years ago by Rod McLaughlin
mike otter
mike otter
2 years ago

There is no barrier medicine with masks but not gloves. A Mess disagreed and voted that barrier medicine is only for mouths and noses NOT hands. Many died both of covid and of delayed or abandoned NHS operations because of his and other MPs actions. Now he is dead. We must leave this to a higher power to judge but looking at the facts i am saddened to say better for the common good he is gone.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Worthwhile point about the man’s life, as distinct from culpability for his death.

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Saint David of Southend was a long time member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Qatar. Plainly this membership was irrelevant to his constituents, but it yielded glorious freebies for the Saint. And, as Richard Norton suggests, it may be the clue to his killer’s motive.

http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=88132

William Murphy
William Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  mike otter

Saint David of Southend not only received Two Camels, he played a wickedly funny minor role in the expenses scandal of 2009. As the article points out, if any sense of shame and decency had compelled him to resign from Patliament in 2009, he might well still be alive today. Albeit poorer without several extra years on the payroll of Parliament and extra favours from Qatar.

http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=88132