Why are we so shocked by young, Western, well-educated females being “radicalised” to join IS (“What lies beneath,” Extra, 17/5)? Females have been taking up arms since the Greek Amazonians to fight for what they believed in, however dubious the cause. In AD60 or 61, Queen Boudica, of the British Iceni (Celtic) tribe led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Just 40 years ago, university-educated women were joining groups in Europe such as the IRA, including Dr Rose Dugdale, the daughter of English millionaires, the Red Army faction Baader-Meinhof in Germany with Ulrike Meinhof, also from the upper classes, the Red Brigades in Italy with Mara Cagol at the helm and Leila Khaled, of the PLO.
The impetus was not disadvantage or discrimination but a “penchant” for terror to achieve their aims, mostly against Western imperialism as they perceived it. In trying to understand the forces that shape terrorism today, we must explore myriad intricate complexities; gender nor garb being any more of a central issue than it was historically. Females can be just as violent and/or misguided as their male counterparts.