With his wealth, privilege and education at one of Britain's leading universities, Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab had the world at his feet – able to choose from a range of futures in which to make his mark on the world.
Instead, the son of one of Nigeria's most important figures opted to make his impact in a very different way – by detonating 80g of explosives sewn into his underpants, and trying to destroy a passenger jet as it came in to land at Detroit Airport on Christmas Day.
As he was charged by US authorities last night with attempting to blow up an airliner, a surprising picture emerged of the would-be bomber.
Abdulmutallab, 23, had lived a gilded life, and, for the three years he studied in London, he stayed in a £2m flat. He was from a very different background to many of the other al-Qa'ida recruits who opt for martyrdom...He was? Osama bin Laden comes from an immensely rich and privileged family, while most of the successful and would-be shaheeds in the West have been middle class "youths," many of them studying to become engineers or doctors. (Funny how they're never law or accounting students. Maybe that could be a cure for "extremism"--forcing the jihadi laddies to enter those fields.) Blaming "radicalization" on poverty and a life of deprivation fits in nicely with Marxist theory, but it is belied by the facts. And the fact is that some young men who, financially at least, want for nothing find the idea of martrydom terribly appealing. After all, you get to kill lots of infidels for Allah, go out in a blaze of glory and spend eternity boffing your very own retinue of perpetually revirginizing virgins.
A pretty sweet deal, if you ask me.