COMMENTARY

Yesterday’s News: Islamist Terror in Europe

Over the weekend, CEG published a new report examining the terror threat Europe has faced over the fifteen-month period since ISIS relinquished control of the last part of its Caliphate in Syria in Iraq.

The report, ‘Europe and the Fall of the Caliphate’, can be read here. Its findings were featured in this Sunday Telegraph story. The headline – ‘Jihadists attempted terror attacks every fortnight in Europe since ISIS fall, study finds’ – sums up one of the report’s key findings. Despite the fall of the Caliphate, Islamist plotting continues.

For further proof of that, just at look at what has happened in Europe since the end of June 2020 (the cut off point for the data being analysed in the report).

In August, a 30-year-old Iraqi asylum seeker, named in the press as Samrad A., wounded six people in a suspected vehicular attack in Berlin. German authorities stated that “[u]tterances made by the suspect after his act suggest an Islamist motive.”

Earlier this month, in Stolberg, a 21-year-old German Iraqi stabbed and wounded a civilian in what was described in the press as a “suspected Islamist knife attack”. The perpetrator – who was already on the radar of German authorities and was in contact with another suspected Islamist plotter – yelled “Allahu Akbar” during the attack. Investigators believe the fact that the victim’s father had (seemingly unknowingly) appeared on a poster for Alternative for Deutschland (AfD), an outsider party often associated with calls for much tighter immigration controls, was potentially relevant to the motive for the attack.

Days later, a Turkish-Swiss dual national stabbed and killed a civilian in Morges, Switzerland. Following his arrest, the perpetrator – who was already on the Swiss intelligence radar due to his jihadist sympathies – said he had acted “out of vengeance against the Swiss state” and to “avenge the Prophet”.

Then, last week, an 18-year-old Pakistani wounded two people with a meat cleaver outside old Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, the location of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s January 2015 massacre of the magazine’s staff (the perpetrator was apparently unaware that Charlie Hebdo’s offices were now at a new, secret location). French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin described the attack as “clearly an act of Islamist terrorism”.

Four attacks, three countries, nine injuries, and one death. And yet none of these incidents generated particularly significant media interest.

One obvious reason for that is that the potency of Islamist attacks has reduced from that 2015-17 period when ISIS-linked operations in Europe were at their peak. Another is the Covid-19 pandemic.

Perhaps most pertinent, however, is that for parts of Europe, Islamist terror is no longer really news.

It has gone – relatively quickly – from an extremely rare occurrence to just part of modern life.

How and why it has become normalised in the manner it has is worth all of us reflecting on. And what could be done to change it is worth Europe’s political class acting upon.