Tales of an American Lone Wolf Terrorist

Shazar Shafqat

The FBI recently released a report on the fifty-two “lone wolf” terrorism cases and offenders that were involved in thirty-three acts of terrorism committed in the United States between 1972 and 2015. Because of these terrorist attacks, 258 people died and a total of 982 were injured.

The report covered the gender, age, and level of education of the various offenders, among several other factors. However, these three in particular demand further consideration.

To start, all of the offenders were males. While this obviously doesn’t mean that terrorism is solely a male domain, as incidents in the Middle East show, it raises the question of why all U.S. attacks have so far been done by males. The FBI report itself doesn’t talk about how and why gender has become irrelevant when dealing with domestic terrorism.

This answer might be because of two factors. First, during the 1980s and 1990s, female participation in radical religious movements and other forms of indoctrination may have been far more limited. Social media didn’t exist then, and the active participation of women was likely to have been discouraged. There wouldn’t have been, for example, ISIS recruiters attempting to reach out directly and personally to female Muslims in the West via Facebook or the like.

Second, there is a psychological aspect. In The New Terrorism: Fanaticism and the Arms of Mass Destruction, Walter Laqueur writes that “Women terrorists are more fanatical and have a greater capacity for suffering. Their motivation is predominantly emotional and cannot be shaken through intellectual argument.” In other words, according to the author, women are perceived to be more emotional and fanatic and may come across less frequent but more violent terrorist tendencies. If law enforcement officials were to go by this argument, then it means that only women who are or have been subjected to some sort of physical or mental abuse (or both) are likely to commit an act of terrorism.

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