“52 and Born in Britain”
That was the headline on a CNN report Thursday about the terror assailant Khalid Masood, who intentionally drove his car into a group of people last week on London’s Westminster Bridge and then proceeded to stab a police officer, leaving at least five people dead and 40 injured.
The fact that Masood was born in Britain merits a headline is disturbing because it seems to inherently imply that most jihadist terrorists are from Middle Eastern or African nations.
But while a perverse and distorted vision of Islam may be a pretext for the majority of the terror crimes occurring around the world these days, and while many so-called homegrown jihadists have traveled to the Middle East, where they might have become radicalized, geography and nationality have very little to do with these terrible acts of violence.
In fact, both in the United States and Great Britain, authorities agree that the biggest threats today come from homegrown terrorists, not imported jihadists.
Just last week, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James Comey told an audience of University of Texas intelligence studies students that domestic loan wolves are now considered the dominant source of U.S. jihadism, with as many as 400 U.S. citizens or permanent residents having been arrested in connection with Islamic terror in the last decade.
And according to a report from the London-based Center for Social Cohesion, compiled from the profiles of all 124 individuals convicted of Islamic terrorism offense since 1999, a full 69 percent of the offenses were perpetrated by individuals holding British nationality.
The insidious fact of the matter is that Islamic terrorism knows no borders or nationalities.
And that is because the Islamic State (I.S.) and its sinister spawn organizations are no longer contained within the boundaries of geography.
They have become a pan-continental evil that has, through careful internet and global social media manipulation, found recruits in virtually every country on Earth.
And as groups like I.S. lose ground in their would-be caliphates of Iraq and Syria, their worst radical elements flee to Western Europe and the United States to create new physical bases for their heinous terror.
Jihadism is a global threat and a global reality, and it can take roots in any country by recruiting and manipulating isolated people of all ages and backgrounds who scour the internet looking for ways to release their anger and frustration through hatred and hyper-violence.
When I.S. or other terror groups are defeated in one country, they reinvent their online image to spring up twice as strong in another region, tapping in local grievances to motivate bloodshed.
They develop sleek internet and social media campaigns to enlist their followers.
Through this constant metamorphosis and targeted appeal, terrorist organizations have broadened their reach to inspire radicalized and suicidal individuals in Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States to kill as many innocent people as possible in some misguided quest for jihadist justice.
Terror and its proponents are defined by the universality of the internet rather than a physical base, and driven by a pervasive ideology as opposed to a national identity.
The world’s jihadist radicals share a common virtual identity, within a borderless state that is founded in religious narratives and ideas that are selectively extracted from the Quran and swathed in modern social discontent.
That shared identity and communal hatred of all those who do not coincide with their nefarious world views and depraved values creates a universal bond and solidarity that defies borders.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.