From the photo album in British newspapers the faces of Dr Mohammed Asha, his wife Marwa and their young son look out. His is thin, bespectacled, more often serious than smiling, eyes expressionless. Hers is rounded, pale but attractive, framed by her white headscarf. She smiles and looks happy. So does the little boy for the most part. There is one appealing picture of father and son smiling at each other.
Is Dr Asha a terrorist? He and his wife were arrested last weekend in connection with a failed bomb attack in London and it appears that he might be the ringleader. His family in Jordan say the idea is preposterous, exactly the opposite of what he aspired to in becoming a doctor. But if the police are correct — and the involvement of six other young Muslim doctors in the latest terrorist episodes in Britain points to it — his is a particularly disheartening case of twisted zeal.
From all accounts Mohammed Asha, a Palestinian with Jordanian citizenship who has been advancing his medical career in the UK, is a brilliant young doctor with the makings of an outstanding neurosurgeon. He has a beautiful wife, herself working as a hospital laboratory technician, and a healthy looking two-year-old. The couple's skills would guarantee them careers in Britain's national health system and a prosperous lifestyle if they wanted to stay.
They have, in fact, an enormous amount to contribute to Britain. Not only their professional skills, but their attitude to family life and religion. They married soon after graduation and have not delayed starting a family — something almost rare among British professionals today. They clearly take their faith seriously. People who value family, fertility and faith are an asset to a country which has largely lost the plot in these areas.
By living a happy family life, being affable with neighbours and excelling at their professions this couple could win real respect for their faith and the aspirations of their homelands, as so Many Muslims abroad already have. These human values are universally attractive and prejudices — the Ashads are said to have been worried about "racism" when they moved to their present rented home last year — soon fall before them.
What a tragedy, then, to throw all that away for the sake of one deadly gesture of resentment that has been whipped up by the warped idealism and arrogance of young men. Those allegedly involved in the latest episodes can hardly have expected that life would go on just as before. It was quite likely they would be caught. One, at least, did not expect to come out of it alive. Was Marwa Ashad privy to her husband's scheme? What did he or they think would happen to their son?
None of these things finally mattered to these young adults in the grip of an ideal — presumably, the honour of Islam.
If only their propensity for self-sacrifice, even martyrdom, could be turned into peaceful paths, what a power of good it could do.
If only the families who encourage them to take up service professions and the professors who educate them could instil in them the idea that these are not merely ways of getting on in the world, unrelated to their highest ideals, but ways in which their ideals can become truly effective.
It is the bloodless martyrdom of daily family and professional life that will make Islam great in the eyes of the world, not murder and mayhem.
Carolyn Moynihan is Deputy Editor of MercatorNet.