By Farooq A. Kperogi
The American news media has been obsessing over the arrest of two blue-eyed, blond-haired, pale-skinned, suburban white American women identified as 46-year-old Colleen LaRose and 31-year-old Jamie Paulin-Ramirez for alleged involvement in a terrorist plot.
LaRose, also known as Fatima or Jihad Jane, is allegedly a recent Muslim convert who had reputedly admitted to being "desperate to do something" about the humiliation of Muslims worldwide by the Western hegemonic power structure. According to U.S. federal indictment charges against her, she said she is particularly desirous of aiding other militants to murder Swedish artist Lars Vilks who recently drew blasphemous pictures of the prophet of Islam.
In furtherance of her determination to assassinate the irreverent Swedish cartoonist she, in cahoots with her co-conspirators, traveled to Europe. "I will make this [killing the artist] my goal till I achieve it or die trying," she was quoted to have said in March last year.
An Associated Press report said in online conversations with her machinators and handlers in February last year, which were intercepted by U.S. counter-terrorism agents, LaRose boasted that her blue eyes, blond hair and pale skin—treasured phenotypic “Caucasian” lineaments that insulate people from the prospect of being criminalized in the Western popular imagination—would arm her with the decoy to “blend in with many people” in Europe, which “may be a way to achieve what is in my heart.”
LaRose, who hails from the northern U.S. state of Pennsylvania, also offered to recruit other blond-haired, blue-eyed, pale-skinned white women conspirators whose culturally prized physiognomy would help them escape the radar of security agencies.
And she succeeded in enlisting a number of women who fit that description, including one Paulin-Ramirez, a recent Muslim convert from the west-central U.S. state of Colorado. She was also arrested in Ireland while plotting to murder Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, along with a Libyan and an Algerian.
Paulin-Ramirez’s stepfather, identified as George Mott, has actually been a Muslim for more than 40 years, but his stepdaughter converted to Islam only after relating with an Algerian man online whom she has married. Her mother, Christina Mott, who is a Christian, told the press that when her daughter discussed the subject of Jihad with her Muslim stepfather, George Mott, she told him “she'd strap a bomb for the cause [of Islam].”
In LaRose and Paulin-Ramirez—and perhaps many others that have not yet come to light— the worst fears of the American intelligence and counter-terrorism community—that Al-Qaida could infiltrate the American society and recruit murderers from the most unlikely demographic categories and thereby throw asunder the settled certainties about the profile of potential terrorists— have uncannily materialized.
Similarly, the overweening cocksureness among conservative Americans about the propriety of racially and ethnically profiling only non-white Muslim males in the fight against terrorism has been exploded beyond repair. Just this past January, for instance, Sen. James Inhofe, a conservative Republican Senator representing the south-central U.S. State of Oklahoma, proposed that only nonwhite Muslim males between the ages of 20 and 53 should be profiled, and “not my wife.”
The phrase “not my wife” is, of course, a rhetorical stand-in for white American women—who have over the years enjoyed the privilege, in American culture, of being approvingly stereotyped as guiltless, harmless, virtuous angels.
Now that this narrative has been ruptured, one is left to wonder if all people who share the same demographic characteristics as these blue-eyed, blond-haired ladies will henceforth be subjected to invidiously intrusive scrutiny at airports and elsewhere.
That’s precisely what the U.S. government has been subjecting Nigerians to in the wake of the attempted December 25, 2009 terrorist attack on a Northwest airline allegedly by a Nigerian. All Nigerians—irrespective of their religious affiliations, ethnic identities, personal beliefs, etc—have now been tarred with the same brush on account of the lone act of attempted terror by one individual.
And this has been the fate of Middle Easterners who have had the misfortune to share the same race, nationality, and religion as people who commit heinous acts of terrorism.
Interestingly, in the same month that Senator Inhofe made the inflammatory remark about the necessity to profile all nonwhite Muslim males between the ages of 20 and 35, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee warned about the possible emergence of “blond-haired, blue-eyed” terrorists and correctly concluded that racial profiling “draws an investigator's attention toward too many innocent people, and away from too many dangerous ones.”
Obviously, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members were already aware of the activities of these “blue-eyed, blond-haired” women terrorists when they issued their well-stated caution. LaRose had been arrested since October 2009, that is, more than two months before the Abdul-Mutallab incident. But she was only formally charged last week.
The truth is that terrorists, homicidal thugs, murderous fanatics—or other scum of the earth who make life miserable for innocents—are often an unrepresentative minority of any group of people. No nation, race, religion, or demographic category has the exclusive preserve of bad people. We are all one big human family. The superficial physical and geographic characteristics that differentiate us don't define our humanity; they are incidental to it.
I hope these women’s arrest drives home that abiding, elemental truth.