23 July 2014

South Africa: Op-Ed - 'Searching for Samantha' and the Bits Terrorism Narratives Leave Out


On Sunday night, Carte Blanche broadcast the BBC documentary 'Searching for Samantha', about the so-called 'White Widow' Samantha Lewthwaite and her connections to terrorism. Included in the documentary is mention of Lewthwaite's time in Johannesburg and the alleged "red carpet" welcome she received from Joburg's Muslim community. There are undeniably alarming elements to the story, but the documentary raises perhaps as many questions as it answers, writes REBECCA DAVIS.

Why is the notion of a white female terrorist so fascinating to many? In simple terms, it's because it doesn't fit the stereotype: terrorists are supposed to be bearded brown men. For a start, this conveniently ignores the number of terror attacks carried out by white men. Until 9/11, the deadliest act of terrorism committed on US soil was Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma bombing in 1995. Between 1995 and 2011, 56% of domestic terror attacks and plots in the US were perpetrated by right-wing extremists as compared to 12% by Islamic extremists.

Female terrorists are also far from unprecedented. Since the Chechnya independence movement began using suicide bombers in the early 2000s, a Discovery report from January this year notes, more than half have been women. Female terrorists are less likely to...

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