The crisp, cool tone in which Smith recounts these men’s history of gendered violence is well judged, for the abuse hardly needs dramatising. The cumulative effect is nonetheless sickening, and in less temperate hands might have become unreadable. Even so, this is not an easy read, for the repetition of recurring themes — ungovernable rage towards women, steroid abuse, coercive control — is almost monotonous in its horror. That is, however, the point Smith is making. The similarities are so relentlessly consistent, the only puzzle is why it has taken this long for anyone to notice and alert us to them.
There is surely some truth to Smith’s claim of a connection between misogyny and terrorism – societies in which the victimisation and abuse of one half of the population is a daily occurrence are likely to create a range of problems for themselves. Violent Islamism and right-wing extremism, the two terrorist ideologies that most bother us today, are both fundamentally male-supremacist, and Smith reminds us that forced marriages, rape and sex slavery are widespread within ISIS. But the matter is complicated by the fact that some women are drawn towards such organisations. For them, joining an extremist group that advocates the subordination of women can, paradoxically, foster a feeling of agency over the future.
Smith, a feminist and human rights activist, contends that if victims were believed, domestic abuse was better recognised, policed efficiently and addressed appropriately in court, then numerous acts of terrorism, [...] could – and can – be avoided... It’s hard to fault the logic: treat what police used to call “domestics” as the serious crime it is and you considerably improve the chances of saving the lives not only of wives, partners and former girlfriends but also members of the public. And yet there is a conundrum at the heart of Home Grown. It reads like a letter from the recent past. And while domestic abuse is a red flag, it is only part of a much more complex challenge... Smith does feminist activists and their supporters a disservice.
“Home Grown” explores the history of men like the Kouachi brothers, perpetrators of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, Khalid Masood who mowed down pedestrians at Westminster bridge and killed a police officer, Darren Osborne who attacked worshippers at a London mosque, killing one man and injuring others, Omar Mateen who carried out the massacre of 49 people at a gay club in Orlando, Thomas Mair who murdered MP Jo Cox and many others...
“Home Grown” is a chilling read. It is also a call for urgent action: domestic violence must be faced and tackled as seriously criminal behaviour, for all our sakes.
Some readers will enjoy Smith’s avowedly feminist, polemical style. Others will find it distracting and simplistic. Her detours into other issues, such as rape as a war crime and failure to make misogyny a hate crime, are powerfully written, but not central to her argument. Her book’s biggest flaw is the opening contention: that terrorism is “the scourge of our age”. The outrages she describes are indeed dramatic and distressing. Yet in terms of human misery, other things matter much more, not least the issue that really stokes her ire — endemic, invisible, unpunished domestic violence.