Fascinating porthole into home-grown terrorism

Fascinating porthole into home-grown terrorism Lars Vilks
Jihad Jane


The title of this engrossing documentary was the name given to a blonde, blue-eyed Texan woman called Colleen LaRose.  She herself appears to have been the first person to use it. That fact led to many of her problems. She was sentenced to ten years imprisonment in 2009 for a plot to kill the Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks after he drew a blasphemous cartoon of Mohammad.

Her folksy co-conspirator was a harmless-looking Colorado woman called Jamie Paulin Ramirez. The pair of them were arrested in, of all places, Waterford. Since the film deals with them almost in equal measure it should probably have been called Joint Jihad rather than the given title.

They seem more naïve than venal from the interviews we see. LaRose’s dysfunctional background (her father sexually abused her) was traumatic. Cassidy suggests her ‘conversion’ to Islam was partly based on a desire to date Muslim men.

Her naiveté is reflected in her attitude towards the offence she was charged with. Because she didn’t  go through with her intention to kill Vilks she thought she wouldn’t be punished. Her failure to grasp the fact that intent is a crime comes across as charmingly childish.

The film calls up echoes to Lisa Smith. She’s in the news a lot at the moment. Are we over-worried about her? Are we not worried enough? I can’t answer those questions any more than I can say how guilty the two women are here.  At one end of the scale we’re talking about capital crimes. At the other one we’re entitled to think America, a country which doesn’t need much encouragement to over-react to things, went doolally when their story broke.

The film, like the women themselves, rambles a lot. When you consider someone like Timothy McVeigh, or a film like Arlington Road, they come across as almost winsome by comparison.

When their friend Mohammad Hassan Khalid, the youngest terrorist ever to be convicted in the US – he was only 15 when he was imprisoned – starts talking, he sounds more like an economics student from Yale than someone likely to blow up the Twin Towers.

Then there’s Vilks. This gentleman seems more interested in making a play about his plight than sleeping with a gun under his pillow. This potential Charlie Hebdo has 24-hour protection from the law. He’s survived many attempts on his life but you’d go a long way to see a more chilled-out individual.

Neither should we forget Ramirez’ son. Christian  climbs trees and plays with toy dinosaurs when you expect him to be hysterical about what his mother has been getting up to.

It’s all a bit of a hodge-podge but intriguing despite this.

Also confusing is why the film has subtitles on the screen when the very articulate Ramirez is speaking. There are certain Waterford people I know whose accents are harder to make out (and let me add that I love the Waterford accent!).

Very Good