The White Widow is the new Black Widow
Samantha Lewthwaite is the latest example of the media’s desire to iconicise women accused of involvement in violent crime
Nothing fills the tabloid media (and certain members of the public) with such unbridled joy as the prospect of a woman to demonise. When the woman is one who converted to Islam, married a 7/7 bomber, and then went on to allegedly mastermind a terrorist atrocity of her own – well, it’s safe to say Amanda Knox can take the rest of the year off.
The trouble with the “White Widow” hypothesis that is proving so popular with the public and the media is that the evidence linking Samantha Lewthwaite to the horrific Nairobi shopping mall attack, which left a reported 67 people and five militants dead, is still rather tenuous.
Other than the Interpol red notice – effectively an international arrest warrant – issued for her on unrelated explosives charges at Kenya’s behest last week, all we know for certain is that that country’s foreign minister believes a British woman had been involved in the mall attack 10 days ago, and that witnesses reported seeing a white woman.
Even the Kenyan prime minister has said he has no “direct evidence” of her involvement. The foreign minister, Amina Mohamed, has said a British woman who had allegedly taken part in terrorist activity “many times before” was among the militants. If she has harder evidence than that, she hasn’t shared it.
Little known about Lewthwaite
About Lewthwaite herself, hard facts are almost as scarce. She was born in Banbridge, Co Down, 29 years ago. She had an unremarkable childhood in Britain, at some point converted to Islam, and married the 7/7 bomber Germaine Lindsay. In the aftermath of the London attacks, she claimed she had no knowledge of his role in them, but then she supposedly disappeared “off the intelligence radar” – although there is at least one Twitter account and a blog linked to her.
Oh, and we know she is both white and a widow, which – at least as far as some tabloid subeditors are concerned – may be enough to seal the deal.
Almost everything else you’ve read about her is conjecture. But conjecture, when facts are hard to come by, is what some news organisations and the internet do best. Take the Daily Mail, whose more colourful recent claims have included speculation that the “marriage of Samantha and Germaine was a union of two already poisoned minds”; that Lewthwaite’s “Irish Catholic mother” has been spotted in a hijab; and that Samantha herself was sometimes heard shouting at her children (an accusation that, if evidence of terrorist inclinations, could send several mothers of my acquaintance straight to Guantanamo.)