It all looked so familiar to Londoners: CCTV images from Boston, Massachusetts, brought back memories of the July 2005 Tube bombings. They were young men in backpacks on a mission to kill and maim fellow citizens, for causes in far-away lands that they had embraced as their own. In an eerie link to sports, Londoners were murdered the day after the Olympic Games were secured. Bostonians were killed as they approached their marathon's finishing line. This is not the last time we will live through terrorists targeting innocent civilians in our midst.
The West was not at war with any Arab or Muslim country on 9/11, or back in 1993 when the blind Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman issued fatwas supporting attacks on the World Trade Center. Some argued that it was the war in Iraq that caused the London bombings in 2005. It is an easy argument, but not altogether convincing. The United States is not at war with Chechnya or Dagestan, yet the Tsarnaev brothers decided to target Bostonians.
Why? Because they believed in a political narrative that framed the Chechnyan conflict along religious lines: a predominantly Muslim region is occupied by a non-Muslim or kaffir Russia with support from global powers. Chechnya is part of a wider conflict, in the minds of radical Muslims, between Islam and the West. For their purposes, Russia is part of the West in its violent repression of Chechnya and Dagestan.