Saturday, May 24, 2008

COMMENT/UK: Extremists going for the vulnerable?

Nick Reilly, a 22 year old man with a history of mental illness caused injuries to himself when his explosive device caused a mild explosion. It appears the young man was trying to detonate the bomb inside a busy family restaurant in the town of Exeter in England.

Here’s how Reuters reported the police explanation of the incident:

“Our investigations so far indicate Reilly, who has a history of mental illness, had adopted the Islamic faith,” said Tony Melville, deputy chief constable of Devon and Cornwall police.

“We believe, despite his weak and vulnerable state, he was preyed upon, radicalised and taken advantage of.”

Thankfully no one else was hurt in the blast.

It’s impossible to tell whether the man belonged to any particular group. It is also unclear exactly what kind of mental illness the young man had and how the illness affected his behaviour.

The UK Daily Telegraph reports that neighbours believed the young man, who suffered severe facial wounds in the blast, suffered from schizophrenia. They also report that he had the mental age of a 10 year old.

The young man’s defence lawyer said that Reilly used cannabis and would often steal to finance his habit.

Police believe the young man was radicalised by young Muslims who allegedly brainwashed him outside a fish and chip shop in his home town of Plymouth.

A close friend of Reilly said that he was on heavy medication and had tried to commit suicide on numerous occasions. She told the Daily Telegraph:

“He has been sectioned for self-harm, cutting his arms and overdosing on pills but this was some time ago, maybe five years. He has scars all over his arms.”

If it’s true that this young vulnerable man was preyed upon by radicals, one wonders the extent to which this radicalising factor reinforced a pre-existing disposition toward violence. Either way, questions need to be asked about what kinds of messages were being given to this poor young man. What also needs to be explored is what kinds of support networks exist for the mentally ill in the young man’s region. It seems his neighbours were familiar with his condition.

While local police investigators are mentioning the young man adopting Islam, I don’t see any hint of them suggesting that the young man’s conversion in and of itself was the cause of his actions.

Certainly from an Islamic theological perspective, one wonders whether the young man’s conversion was voluntary or even necessary. Anyone with even basic knowledge of Islamic sacred law would know that persons suffering from severe psychiatric illnesses have legal and moral responsibility for their actions suspended to the extent that they are affected by their illness.

Yet as is so often the case with modernist radicalised Muslim youth, Islamic traditions and juristic consensus mean little.

UPDATE: Check out the insensitive and offensive comments appearing on the News Limited tabloid Daily Telegraph Opinion Editor's blog here. There's no point reading the comment publication and moderating guidelines. Clearly no one at the Daily Telegraph gives a rat's backside about them.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

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