Anyone who has ever shared a house with a teenager knows they can be very silly indeed. Part of the act of growing up involves the adoption of daft, deliberately controversial, often nihilistic beliefs as a way of rebelling against authority.
When I was a teenager, this might involve growing your hair, going to live in a squat and getting into the underground scene, as it was then known, which generally involved a lot of drugs.
When I was at university, there were plainly individuals who had adopted extreme political views, mainly Trotskyite, as a rebellion against authority, as embodied by their prosperous, middle class parents.
There was not much damage done by all this. Those teenage Trots probably settled down as lawyers, accountants, whatever. Some may have gone into politics, but of a more moderate kind. Admittedly I knew two contemporaries who ended up with drug-induced schizophrenia and one gentle soul who died, subsequently, of a heroin overdose.
The Radio 4 programme had an item the other day about radical Islam, its pull on young Muslims, and the actions being taken by the authorities to prevent this. The reporter did not have to travel too far to find a few simpletons outside a school who said that, yes, they could see where Isis was coming from.
And one complete idiot who said he was tempted to travel to Syria to fight for the cause. And kill fellow Muslims, he was asked? Well, the ones he would be killing wouldn’t be proper Muslims, would they?
It is tempting to see this yet another example of teenage nihilism, one specific to young Muslims. Except for two big differences. There are people in their community encouraging them. And the consequences can often be lethal, to those teenagers and to others.