06 December 2005

Raised as Catholic in Belgium, She Died as a Muslim Bomber

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.

Virginie Lefour/Agence France-Presse--Getty Images
Muriel Degauque, suicide bomber from the coal fields of Belgium.

Forum: The Transition in Iraq
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.

European women who marry Muslim men are now the largest source of religious conversions in Europe, the experts say. While a vast majority of those conversions are pro forma gestures for moderately religious in-laws, a small but growing number are women who willingly adopt the conservative comportment of their fundamentalist husbands...

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