By Barry Rubin

A woman is on trial in London for having stabbed her member of Parliament, Stephen Timms, twice. She made an appointment to see Timms at the office where he helps constituents, last May. It has emerged from the trial that she tried to kill him because he had supported the Iraq war.

What could her motive possibly be? She isn’t even from Iraq. The BBC gives no hint of what political allegiance or motive of Roshonara Choudhry. There is a picture of her in the Guardian wearing a headscarf. Hm. The Guardian explains that she is, “A gifted student from a humble background …Roshonara Choudhry was everything a society could want a citizen to be.”

Well, almost everything. She just happened–though you won’t find it out from the BBC–to have become a revolutionary Islamist. The Guardian tells us she was reading material on her computer from al-Qaida but she had no known links with any groups. Choudhry was convicted and sented to life, with the possibility of parole.

At the sentencing, radical Islamist demonstrators, some of them in the courtroom, cursed the judge and cried for vengeance.

This case has not drawn much international attention but it should. In the late nineteenth century revolutionaries in a number of countries–especially in Russia–began a campaign of assassinations that endured for decades. Many political leaders were murdered, as well as scores of bystanders.Violence and murder are the main methods by which revolutionary Islamists lobby governments. Is this going to be the beginning of such attacks, which might reach the point where they have an intimidating effect? This is, of course, speculative but is worth considering.

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Note that, as in the Choudhry case, an organization and a complex plan is not necessary. Merely activating individuals through propaganda is sufficient. This seems to be the origin of the would-be Times Square bomber and the man recently arrested for planning to blow up Washington subway trains. In phase one, they are radicalized by revolutionary Islamist arguments. This might lead to a second phase in which they get into contact with terrorist groups and receive training or they might act alone or as members of a small local cell.

The irony is that Timms had been particularly friendly toward Islamists, even in the context of the Labour Party, and had spoken at a big Islamist front group conference that also featured some very hardline speakers preaching hatred. When approached by people trying to warn him about this kind of thing, he was genuinely startled, having no idea about the implications of this kind of behavior.

Now, remember the framework of this story. Timms met Choudhry because he wanted to help her. He saw her smile before lunging at him and thought she wanted to shake hands.

What a perfect metaphor for the attitude of most Western leaders toward radical Islamists! Remember President Barack Obama’s first television interview: “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”

Watch out for that clenched fist. Watch out equally for that extended hand.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle Eastand editor of the (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), The Israel-Arab Reader the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria(Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).