The Changing Terrorist Profile

The recent tide of reports claiming that large swarms of Western Muslim women of various ages are planning to join ISIS, and other reports accusing Western Muslim women of plotting terrorist attacks in the United States, is transforming the traditional terrorist profile commonly identified in the West as a middle-aged, pious, brown man.

Just a few weeks ago, federal prosecutors arrested and accused two NYC women of planning to construct an explosive device for a terrorist attack in the United States. The two women, Noelle Velentzas, 28, and Asia Siddiqui, 31, were arrested in Queens, New York after an undercover investigation determined that they were both plotting a homegrown terrorist attack. Velentzas and Siddiqui have also been accused of being inspired by ISIS propaganda.

A few days after news of this surfaced, reports of a Philadelphian woman planning to join ISIS emerged. Keonna Thomas, 30, was preparing to travel to Syria to join ISIS before authorities arrested her in her Philadelphia home.

These arrests emerged nearly a month after three British teenage girls allegedly traveled to Istanbul to make their way into Syria to join ISIS. The girls, aged between 15 and 16, demonstrate a change in age demographic and gender of the conventional terrorist, who is propagated by the corporate media as a middle-aged man. Further, their story does not fit into the common narrative of a terrorist who has a history of being over zealous and aggressive. Rather, these are three, normal teenage girls who attended a high school in east London and did not previously display any sign of violence.

A mere Google search of the “traditional terrorist profile” will display numerous images of brown, middle-aged men with beards and guns, the majority of them wearing keffiyehs. There are very few photos of white males. There isn’t a single photo of Adam Lanza, Timothy McVeigh or Craig Stephen Hicks, although all of them fit a common profile: white, middle-aged men, who are responsible for domestic terrorism. This contributes to the false victimization of the white man against the common enemy: a brown man with a beard, a narrative the mainstream media and Hollywood propagate to uphold the white man’s superiority and to justify foreign invasions and Western hegemony.

However, this conventional profile is now extending beyond brown men to include brown women of all ages. The Guardian reports, “Sixty British women and girls, including 18 teenagers, are believed to have travelled to Syria to join Islamic State (ISIS) militants.”

This integration of women of various ages into the terrorist profile and wider terrorist narrative serves to target the entire Muslim community and demonstrate that the community as a whole is barbaric and violent; that not just the men, but also the women should be feared.  This shift is bound to perpetuate more Islamophobia, police profiling and surveillance, and bigotry toward the Muslim community en masse.

Written by Halimah Elmariah 

Image by Steve Snodgrass