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Opinion: The Boy from Florida - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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It is not strange to see a young man from Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey or Jordan—Syria’s neighbors—fighting alongside the Syrian opposition, or alongside the Assad regime, as this war has brought deep divisions out into the open.

It is stranger when fighters from Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and the Gulf states pour in to fight for the opposition forces, or when we see Shi’ite fighters from Yemen, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan fighting for the regime.

However, what is really strange and bizarre is to find a young man from places even further afield—from Germany, France and Britain—who is not a Muslim migrant, but a white convert from Christianity, who volunteers to fight in Syria. Such volunteers join others, second and third generation Arab or Muslim migrants to the West.

A few days ago, the United States Department of State said that an American calling himself Abu Hurairah—after a companion of the Prophet Muhammad—was the suicide bomber who detonated a booby-trapped lorry laden with a huge quantity of explosives at a Syrian Army checkpoint in Jabal Al-Arbaeen in Idlib governorate.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the suicide bomber was named Munir Mohammad Abu Salha, an American citizen who grew up in Florida.

Then there was the case of Sally Evans—the mother of 24-year-old British man Thomas Evans, who traveled to Somalia to join the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab Movement—who said, according to a report in the British Daily Mail, that she would prefer to see her son in prison than fighting alongside a terrorist group.

While we are on the topic of Somalia, we must mention the White Widow. Samantha Lewthwaite is a 29-year old British woman accused of involvement in various terrorist attacks, and of planning new attacks on Westerners in revenge for the killing of her mentor, a leader in the Somali branch of Al-Qaeda called Abu Bakr Sharif Ahmed. She got the “White Widow” moniker when her husband, Germaine Lindsey, blew himself up, along with three other suicide bombers, in London in 2005.

All this must mean that we have entered into an era of wars and battles of a new kind, which might one day extend to cover the whole world. The aim of some of the combatants is to attract people wracked by despair, or those who are suicidal, or those who want to change the world in one blow (or, at least, that’s what their ignorance tells them), or those who have a personal desire to give their lives up in “honorable” ways.

The number of European fighters in Syria was estimated by Europol at around 2,000 individuals at the end of 2013. The organization said the number is expected to rise in 2014.

Europe and America, through their youth, have become embroiled in the problems of our region.

What is happening in Syria has brought out the destructive desires that lay dormant in many people, but President Obama and Secretary Kerry are slow and deliberate personalities who do not recognize this.

The apathetic policies of European states—with the exception of France— and the American pretensions towards the fighting in Syria will, given time, produce people worse than Abu Huarirah, the quiet boy from Florida.