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How to Talk About the Beheading of Two Backpacking Women

Crowds of Moroccans gathered on December 22 to mourn two Scandinavian hikers brutally murdered by suspected jihadists in the High Atlas mountains. (Photo: Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty Images)
Crowds of Moroccans gathered on December 22 to mourn two Scandinavian hikers brutally murdered by suspected jihadists in the High Atlas mountains. (Photo: Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty Images)

News broke of the brutal murders of two Scandinavian women by a group of young men pledging allegiance to ISIS last week. One of the women was beheaded in a video that went viral just days before Christmas. 

The tragic series of events involved 24-year-old Dane Louisa Jespersen and Maren Ueland, 28, who were found dead near Morocco’s High Atlas mountains. As the Daily Mail reported: 

The killings can be connected to ISIS. Men in the gruesome clip [documenting the murder and allegiance to ISIS] can be heard shouting ‘it’s Allah’s will’ while there are claims that the words ‘this is for Syria’ were used, in an apparent reference to Western bombing missions in the war-torn country. 

The story took a full week to saturate U.S. media, during which time many Americans grappled with making sense of another horrific attack. Where do we even start? 

      • Do we discuss the background of the women who were brutally killed, their dreams and aspirations cut short? 
      • Do we start by talking of the intersection of global politics, wars and ideology and their collision course with everyday women in First World countries? 
      • Do we talk about the video of the beheading, it’s impact on our collective consciousness as we’re further desensitized to violence and brutality? 
      • Do we raise the issue of a growing caliphate and it’s recruitment drive, just as President Trump declares ISIS has been defeated? 
      • Do we debate the conditions that create soft ground for radicalization? 
      • Do we raise the religious aspect of jihad and Islamic extremism? 
      • Do we discuss the murder and beheading in context of jihad, it’s application or perversion? 

These conversations are growing more complex, and despite hyper-connectivity through social media, we are in fact growing further and further apart. We don’t know how to talk to each other, and it’s for a few reasons. 

First, while every single bullet point above is worth discussing, due to years of politically-correct conversation and sweeping crisis points under the rug for fear of being insensitive to minority groups, we’re nearly two decades behind in foundational conversations that should have been had openly and with radical honesty the day after 9-11. 

Since that never happened, we’re still starting from a deficit, still having to explain basic concepts like jihad.

Second, it’s very difficult to communicate with someone who doesn’t have a common frame of reference for common experience. A warm man, for example, can’t understand how a cold man thinks. In other words, someone who has never been exposed to violence, hunger, death and hardship doesn’t understand how a person who has lived in a conflict zone or combat zone thinks. 

This story points to one of the key questions of our generation: How do we connect with people who have radically-different life experiences and therefore do not see the same existential threats to freedom as they exist? 

 

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SQ
Shireen Qudosi
Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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