She was raised as Catholic and she died as what could be the first European Muslim suicide bomber. So starts the story, as written in The New York Times, that is so thick with religious issues that go deep into history, you could start writing a intriguing book tomorrow on the situation. Here's how it all starts:
MONCEAU-SUR-SAMBRE, Belgium, Dec. 5 -- Muriel Degauque, believed to be the first European Muslim woman to stage a suicide attack, started out life as a good Roman Catholic girl in this coal mining corner of Belgium known as the black country. She ended it in a grisly blast deep inside Iraq last month.
Ms. Degauque, 38, detonated her explosive vest amid an American military patrol in the town of Baquba on Nov. 9, wounding one American soldier, according to an account received from the State Department and given to the Federal Police in Belgium.
Her unlikely journey into militant Islam stunned Europe and for many people was an incomprehensible aberration, a lost soul led astray. But her story supports fears among many law enforcement officials and academics that converts to Europe's fastest-growing religion could bring with them a disturbing new aspect in the war on terror: Caucasian women committed to one of the world's deadliest causes.
And the plot thickens as we find out that European women that marry Muslim men are one the largest segment of conversions on the continent, though many are in name only, experts say. Apparently Muriel Degauque was not one of them so let the speculation begin:
Most of those in the conservative ranks are motivated by spiritual quests or are attracted to what they regard as an exotic culture.
But for some, conversion is a political act, not unlike the women who joined the ranks of South American Marxist rebels in the 1960's and 1970's.
"They are people rebelling against a society in which they feel they don't belong," said Alain Grignard, a senior official in the antiterrorism division of the Belgian Police. "They are people searching through a religion like Islam for a sense of solidarity."
He said there were many such women married to the first wave of Europe's militant Islamists a decade ago, and some of them followed their husbands to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. But while they supported their husbands' militancy, he said, they never acted themselves. "This was the first," said Mr. Grignard, "and it's clear there could be others."
Unfortunately I am not an expert in this, and I doubt I will ever be an expert, but I would like to be educated in the matter. Female suicide bombers have been around since a Syrian nationalist blew up her vehicle killing two soldiers in 1985 and most documented incidents have occurred by Muslims in the Middle East. But this incident is special as it is a European Catholic-turned-Muslim that is the bomber and that marks a monumental step in Europe's transformation.
The New York Times should be a good place to start when it comes to coverage of this story, but watch other papers, like The Independent and the Christian Science Monitor, which are the only organizations at this point to have published something of their own on this story.
The NYT magazine piece Sunday on female Muslims in Europe is a solid piece of journalism that gives plenty of historical context that relates in several ways to this suicide bomber story. Reporters must tell this story of the suicide bombers, from all angles and they must get it right because if they don't, we will have lost something.