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Inside the Jihadi Mind

That numb, helpless anger you feel when a group of innocent people have been murdered in another jihadi attack. This is quickly followed by contempt for those who try and hijack the tragedy for their own ends, be it for self-publicity or political grandstanding, whether at home or overseas. Once this has passed, reflection sets in as folks try to grasp what’s going on, because understanding is the prerequisite of doing something that prevents future radicalisation, and therefore future plots. We – the public – know nothing about the attackers yet, except they shouted for Allah as they attacked people, according to multiple witnesses. We know from the photos that at least one of the dead terrorists is a young man of Arabic or Asian descent. And we know their MO fits the pattern of other Islamist outrages here and elsewhere – the attempt to inflict as many casualties they can without any regard for their own lives.

This still begs the question why. At the beginning of Ramadan, IS called on its followers to wage all-out war on the West, but what are they hoping to achieve? After all, war always has objectives in mind. Given IS territory is under siege in Syria and Iraq, and concern has been voiced over the ‘ungoverned spaces’ in Libya thanks to the connections Salman Abedi had with them, how do outrages here, and across Europe and the Middle East help IS build its twisted caliphate?

While it might appear to be terror for terror’s sake, mass casualty events serve two distinct purposes. Just as terror bombing of civilian centres during WWII were designed to sap the morale of enemy populations, IS are trying to accomplish the same thing with sneak attacks and seemingly random eruptions of violence. Choosing the softest of soft targets – pedestrians on a bridge, kids at a concert, Londoners on a night out – are attempts at sedimenting simple, mundane pastimes with a layer of threat. A society ill-at-ease, that cannot relax and must be on its watch, is a frightened society, an anxious society clamouring for security and safety. And the traditional (and hoped-for) response is to ratchet up authoritarianism. More gun-toting police, more jailings, and, crucially, more scapegoating. Whenever reports filter through of mosques daubed with racist graffiti, of Muslim women spat at in the street and forcibly uncovered, of politicians and pundits stirring up trouble for Muslims at large, be it the dog-whistling of a Douglas Murray or a “Muslims must do more to tackle terror in their communities” of practically every mainstream MP, it suits IS. It helps IS. Every curtailment of freedom, every spike in hate attacks creates the kinds of circumstances that nudges young would-be Islamists a little bit further down that road. The likes of IS don’t hate democracy because they despise freedom and tolerance (though they do detest those things), they hate it because, among other things, democratic societies are much harder to penetrate into and recruit from. The torture chambers of Gaddafi, Ben Ali, and Mubarak/Sisi are the factories of Islamist radicalism, and is where IS and other jihadis have drawn sustenance for decades.

Two attacks to have taken place during election campaigning is no accident or coincidence, then. With politics in the air, as terrorism is political violence it can’t not raise political issues. These attacks were made with a view to bending the election course down a more authoritarian route, to try and shift policy in one or both the main parties and boost support for racist, Islamophobic politics.

It goes without saying that freedom and democracy happen to be the values most associated with the powers that bomb IS and have, since the First World War, been overtly involved with the politics of the Middle East. In the jihadi imagination, mass casualty attacks are payback for (secular) dictatorships backed, for giving Israel carte blanche in the occupied territories, for bombing civilians with no come-back, interfering in civil wars, plundering oil wealth – the list of historical grievances go on. Consider, for example, the coverage in British media of an attack here or in another Western country versus the death of innocent families at the hands of bombing raids and drone strikes anywhere in the Middle East. Individual motivation of jihadis in mass casualty suicide attacks always have an element of this emotional connection to a perceived injustice, and a desire to redress the score by visiting terror and death on the citizens of Western nations.

Lastly, terror attacks such as we saw last night are a symptom of IS weakness. Leaving aside the Manchester attacks where the full details about the sophistication of the bomb used has not been made public, this, the Westminster Bridge attack, and the murder of Lee Rigby were all primitive affairs with motors and knives. As their hellish caliphate contracts the routes into their territory are blocked, would-be fighters are left to skulk about their bedrooms and closed jihadi forums. To their mind, this justifies their assaults of civilian targets – because they can’t get to the battlefield, they have no choice but to ‘defend’ IS by targeting defenceless people and murdering them, and they will use whatever comes to hand to achieve this murderous end.

IS are a bunch of murderous thugs. Their values are antithetical to secularism and democracy, but that does not make them unknowable. There are plenty of people writing and working in this field who know full well how IS thinks and why they do what they do, as well as the processes underpinning and conditioning why someone decides to go down this path – despite it also being antithetical to Islam itself. And with that understanding, strategies aimed at undermining and disrupting the path to radical extremism can and are employed by a variety of agencies. As we enter the final days of the election campaign and reaction to this outrage casts its shadow over campaigning, we will see who wants to deploy this understanding of IS to stop them, and who wants to ignore it to score political points.


  1. I am old enough to remember the Irish Troubles. Why has that era been forgotten when the parallels are all too clear? IN Birmingham we have not forgotten the pub bombings of 1974, and the inquest has just been resumed. The SPecial Patrol Group were at Birmingham Airport that night preparing for the transport of the corpse of a Republican body to Dublin by Air, and were told that a reprisal bombing was expected.

    They then got the news – bombers had done the two pubs nearest NEw St Station and escaped by train. We assume train – no one knows to this day. One of my friends was seriously injured and a trainee cop I was teaching was the first copper into the Tavern in the Town on New Street and was confronted with dead and dying people.

    All fanatics have common characteristics. WHy then are we now only looking at one sector who have a religious bent?

    Trevor Fisher

  2. Bazza says:

    Jeremy Corbyn is right in pointing to Saudi et al exporting an extreme Wahabbi distorted view of Islam & funding terrorists as the US does arms deals with them and the UK plus the West seems to take sides in a proxy war (Sunni v Shia) in Yeman.
    We need councils and town councils around the country to bring diverse citizens together to work out a grassroots, bottom up strategy (instead of a top down Prevent strategy which demonises one section of the population and someone estimates 100,000 Muslims have been killed by so called IS)
    We just need one side of A4 which says you can be critical of Govt policy re Iraq and Libya (oil) and can change society and the world peacefully & democratically) then ask the question: what should we do? Which people then discuss & come up with ideas for actions in small group workshops TOGETHER!
    We should’t treat Muslims as homogenous (they are all the same) when so-called IS are perhaps 0.1% of one grossly distorted perspective of Islam.
    Yet perversely so-called IS treat Western citizens as homogenous when millions marched against the Iraq war etc.
    Yours in peace and solidarity!

    1. Steven Johnston says:

      Great idea Bazza and I can’t think of any reason why this could fail.
      But what will you call this group of diverse citizens?
      The popular peoples front against imperalism or the peoples popular front against imperalism?

      1. Bazza says:


  3. Terry McCarthy says:

    The Tories never seem to learn from history, draconian laws and repression against the indigenous people of the British Empire only fuelled violence Ireland is a prime example, We know the geopolitical reasons which have outraged sections of society the treatment of the Palestinian people’s is a case in point
    .A tiny minority are so alienated they resort to horrific and uncivilised violence. The situation is made worse by a Tory party more concerned with its own internal politics and desire for power rather than the well-being of the general public. The more May talks about repressive legislation and adopts the policies of UKIP with its covert xenophobia and racism the less chance we have of ending the circle of violence. .
    Labour has laid out a coherent alternative is the only party that can bring about a rapprochement with communities who feel abandoned. This is more than a law and order problem though of course we must bring back police numbers pre-cuts; it’s also about foreign policy and above all an acceptance that the twin evils of racism and xenophobia are the real enemies within

    1. Imran Khan says:

      The Irish and the current situations are completely different. When the civil rights movement in the six counties began in 1968 they were asking simply for parity with the UK. Catholics had been discriminated systematically since partition in every sphere of life and inspired by the American civil rights movement they began a similar campaign. The response of the Westminster government and the then Home Secretary Jim Callahan was that it was a matter for the Norther Ireland Parliament which was of course dominated by the gerrymandering Ulster Unionists.

      The war that follow could have easily been avoided if a Labour government had confronted the Unionists and The Orange Order. It was too cowardly to do so and almost forty years of strife followed. What is happening now is totally different in it’s origins and eventual outcome.

      The leadership of the republican movement had legitimate aims which were entirely acceptable in a modern democratic society. Political Islam requires complete subjugation to its demands something which isn’t going to happen. Like many on the ultra left Mr McCarthy blames everything on either the West’s supposed interference in the affairs of other countries or on the equally supposed racism and xenophobia of this one.

      Both are false arguments but not uncommon among the extremities of the left which has still not gotten over the collapse of communism or the failure of the third world to pull itself out of the mire of corruption and murderous dictatorships that the oligarchies that rule them have subjected their peoples to.

      1. Terry McCarthy says:

        The oppression of the Irish people by British imperialism (not people) goes back centuries , The point I was making was firstly imperialist powers past and present believe that repression be is internal or external is the answer, empirical evidence has shown this to be the opposite . Secondly geopolitics as far back as written history records has been the cause of so much repression which has culminated in violence .

        1. this debate is too narrowly focused. \The reference to the shia-shiite conflict is accurate and the role of the west vis a vis The Saudis very much to the point. However we are seeing fundamentalism across the world. What role does imperialism have in the rise of Hindu fundamentalism wiping out Ghandis’ tradition, or the repression of the catholic church when it had power, as with the Hussites?

          Religion is a fundamentally divisive force and the plan of Theresa may to remove the 50% requirement on academies to have a non religious element even in faith schools is a battle to be fought if the tories win, SUpport ACCORD whose (jewish) chair is leading the fight.

          History takes us so far, but the failure of secularism to understand the current revival of mad sectarian holy wars is not about history

          Trevor Fisher

        2. Steven Johnston says:

          British Imperalism still exists?

          Blimey, is that where all the tax money is going?

          As for the oppression of the Irish, surely the Irish capitalist class do that now and even back then?

          “Political Islam requires complete subjugation to its demands something which isn’t going to happen.”

          Agreed, maybe the hard left have forgotten what Marx wrote on religion.

          1. Terry McCarthy says:

            The ideology of imperialism lingers long after empires have declined . Frederick Engels remarks on the left in Britain as being Anglo Marxists or socialists , the racial origins of capitalists don’t matter
            It’s simplistic to think of this purely in terms of religion, Marx and Engels wrote reams on this

          2. Bazza says:


        3. Imran Khan says:

          In English, please?

          1. Bazza says:


        4. Bazza says:

          Sorry Terry for snoozing u later was meant 4 right wing morons!
          I am tired of these morons parking their stagnant ponds next to my works of beauty Ha! Ha!

          1. Imran Khan says:

            Which right wing morons?

  4. Tony says:

    The Conservatives are very keen to ensure that their Saudi friends are not subject to scrutiny:

  5. David Poyser says:

    very useful explaining what is going on here which I have struggled to find in other media

  6. Robin Edwards says:

    The one thing that does not motivate Islamist fascists is anti-imperialism. They are not the product of the West’s slaughter of the innocent they are its beneficiaries. They are facilitated by it. They have slaughtered millions of ordinary Muslims in the Middle East since the last 70s. More than the West could dream of doing without them. Did they resist the US invasion of Iraq? No, they used it to launch a truly barbaric and bloody sectarian civil war to land grab for their Caliphate. When the West and the degenerate Western left turned its back on Assad’s slaughter of the Syrian Revolution they took advantage of the situation not to fight Assad but to annex huge swathes of previously liberated territory and to slaughter revolutionaries, democrats, trades unionists, aid workers, journalists, academics, women, gays, religious opponents, ordinary people. They are themselves imperialists as all fascists are. They are the shock troops of imperialism and they have both worked with and worked against Western imperialism according to when it suits. No, their fear is not imperialism it is democracy. Their role is petit bourgeois gun for hire gangsters moving in where the Middle East tyrannies are crumbling to reinvent the neo-colonial order paid for by the elites of the Middle East and the West to crush the democratic aspirations of the Arab working class and popular masses. When they launch their attacks in the West they are mainly for domestic consumption designed to make them look like the defenders of the faith whilst they drag it through the mud. But it warns the West about spreading its pernicious democracy to their region or to Muslim populations in Europe who might bring it home. In fact they are not of West European Muslim communities but they terrorise them like mini fascist gangster states. Often they are bought to the UK as MI6 assest for potential use at a future date. But if you really want to know what is inside the Jihadi mind go to the next EDL wannabe pogrom and take a look at the hate filled fascists: they are the white ISIS and ISIS is the Muslim them. ISIS takes advantage of our liberal social mores to attack us then the UK far right victim blame us blaming our liberal promiscuity for our deaths. They are like the Westboro Baptist Church. I’m surprised they haven’t been picketing the funerals of the Manchester and London dead holding up placards saying God Hates Faggots. Facism is the ideology of capitalist imperialism in its death and decay. It is the last refuge of a tiny global elite than no longer has a functioning economic system to underpin its rule.

    1. Imran Khan says:


      George Orwell.

      1. I think asking for guidance from Orwell is going too far, personally I will settle for sentences. “They are facilitated by it.” is not a sentence. In fact in my slum school I was taught that any sentence which starts with pronoun is not a sentence. I would have had red ink all over this blog if I had written it at any time in my school career. SO perhaps Orwell is relevant. But then, we have social media which don’t have any rules at all. Come back George!

        Trevor FIsher

      2. Robin Edwards says:

        Content? There’s more content in that short comment than you could possibly handle.

    2. Bazza says:


  7. Bazza says:

    Just had a great day today as part of trade unions for Labour Tuesday.
    Members of our Unite Community branch were out in the city centre (in the rain) giving out Vote Labour leaflets plus free Vote Labour carrier bags and the public response was great and I had 3 people thanking me for doing what I was doing.
    Oh and a French journalist from Humanite interviewed us all as he was covering the election for that paper.
    I told him although I had come from poverty and was the first in my family to go to university you never forget and whilst I am doing fine I feel like Charles Dickens as I visit poor areas and see people who are BROKEN with poverty etched on their faces.
    We were a great working class team today!
    Apparently 150 small groups of trade unionists were out and about in the UK doing exactly the same in shopping centres and at train stations etc.
    Just watched Jeremy speaking in Birmingham on Sky TV and he was brilliant and spoke with passion.
    JC is a star so are all of our activists and so is everyone who votes for us!
    Labour has a chance and has fought a great campaign, so if you can take Thursday off and try to get our supporters out!
    LAB 4 HOPE!

  8. Bazza says:

    We had The Coalition of Chaos with the Tories and Lib Dems from 2010-15 with the political decision of austerity for US working people but not for THEM the rich.
    Billions cut from Non-Tory Councils and attacks on the poor but tax cuts for: corporations, millionaires, hedge funds (who gave the Tories £50m and got back £145m in tax cuts), private landlords, grouse moor owners etc. etc.
    Then we had THE COALITION OF CLOWNS 2015-2017 with the Conservatives and Unionists ie the DUP & UUP who carried on attacking the poor and Non-Tory Councils plus offering more largesse for the rich and corporations – £60b from now (if they win) to 2022!
    And austerity to be sorted by 2025 (?) and they pursue their small state (but big state interventions for the rich) and pursue their Neo-Liberal drive for cheap labour which paints them into a corner and restricts the purchase of commodities with the economy sustained also by dangerous levels of personal debt.
    And THE TORY MAGIC MONEY TREE OF QUANTITATIVE EASING (electronic printing of money) has only been giving the Tories time because they haven’t a clue what to do!
    And please don’t quote the IFS who some argue see the economy through a Neo-Liberal lens and I can’t remember them predicting the 2008 crash?

    1. Imran Khan says:

      Are you Citizen Smith?

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