Omar is Dead: Aphasia and the Escalating Radicalization Business

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On February 15, 2015, Omar El Hussein was shot dead by the Danish police. Earlier that day, Omar had killed two people: a Jewish guard in front of a Copenhagen synagogue and a participant in a cultural event on freedom of speech. A few days later, the Danish government adopted a (counter-) terror-package for the extraordinary sum of US$150 million. Although the package was presented as a firm response to the Copenhagen shootings, the legislation primarily targeted so-called Danish “Islamic foreign fighters”. Among relatives and acquaintances of Omar, the slippage was clearly noticed. Omar had never fought in the Middle East, nor was he known to be religious in any way. Omar was known, first and foremost, as a brother and a petty criminal who had recently been released from a Danish prison. Based on long-term fieldwork among Danish Muslims and two years of fieldwork among returned Danish jihadists, this paper discusses the ripple effects of the terrorist attack in Copenhagen. I argue that a central condition for the change of scale from “criminal Danish citizen” to “Islamic foreign fighter” is aphasia (cf. Stoler 2016) – the occlusion of knowledge surrounding Omar that was consolidated with his death (cf. Stoler 2016). The empty space of Omar enabled a new political logic that produced new scales of measurement, which, in turn, led to an accelerating radicalisation industry that occluded the killing of other Danish Muslim citizens – namely, the victims of a gang war in Danish housing projects.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHistory and Anthropology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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