We all knew girls like Hasna, the idiot jihadi
In all the apocalyptic panic, it's easy to forget that in many cases jihad is just about young, lost souls high on their latest cause, says Brendan O'Connor
We all knew girls like Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the young woman who was killed during a showdown between police and a terrorist cell in Paris last Wednesday. After her parents split up when she was very young, Hasna grew up in care and foster homes. While she had periods of stability, in recent years her life was characterised by instability. It has been said she was mistreated, rejected and subjected to violence as a child. Her brother says she never received the love she needed.
Hasna was a Muslim by birth but does not seem to have been in any way engaged with her religion for most of her life. Not only did she never go to the mosque or read the Koran, she was a party girl. Those who knew her recalled last week how she dressed like a typical young western girl. She was known by some as 'Cowgirl' because of her predilection for cowboy hats. She enjoyed a drink and a smoke and a night out. There have even been suggestions she was a heavy cocaine user up to her death. She liked boys too. But nobody special it seems. She was extrovert and outgoing, with one person who knew her saying she was a bit clueless. She was also described as a fantasist and a bit crazy. She might appear in front of you rapping. People spoke of her as a girl who always had some kind of life project on the go, but it sounds like she drifted between them, moving on quickly from one phase to another. One relatively recent project seems to have been a plan to become a gendarme or to join the French army.
We all knew girls like Hasna. In Ireland she'd be described as someone who had a bit of a want in her. She was looking for something, that love and security she never got as a kid. The love and security it was too late to get when she re-established a relationship with her birth father in recent years. And she clearly skipped between various things, looking for something that would fill whatever void there was in her. Looking for it in drink, in clubs, in boys. She was a classic case of someone who would join a cult or go into a religious order. She was looking for something, and perhaps she would find that sense of belonging, that sense of a home, that sense of control, in committing to some kind of strict creed or lifestyle. People like her, who are wild and rootless, are often the very people who crave the certainty of a life of strict rules and definite answers. You can see why the army may have seemed attractive to her. And clearly hard-core Islam offered that certainty.