I believe that responding to terrorism with hate only grants those same terrorists the exact kind of reactions they seek.
The terrorist attacks in the UK and across the rest of Europe in recent times have seen a huge reaction of racist rhetoric across the mainstream media, views which are reflected and reinforced by an outpouring of ignorant rants across social media. This hate is exactly what the terrorists are hoping to achieve.
The bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester in May 2017 was a terrible tragedy, and the worst terrorist attack on British soil since the London bombings in 2005. This was followed almost immediately by a terror attack on London Bridge where eight more innocent people lost their lives. We should never forget the 22 innocents who lost their lives, nor the heroes that stepped forward in the aftermath to help those affected by the evil attack.
Yet, just as important as remembering the dead is ensuring that those cruel and unnecessary deaths do not fuel a hatred that only gives victory to the terrorists.
In the aftermath of the attack, social media feeds have been flooded with offers of condolences and offers to help. Others have followed the now near universally accepted method of offering solidarity by changing their profile pictures. A harmless gesture that gives a temporary sense of togetherness to all those involved.
Yet, amongst all the positive energy, you find the usual trope of Islamophobic and racist posts that are the only victory that the terrorists seek. These posts justify themselves as patriotism or “common sense". They also often erroneously blame immigration for Islamic terror attacks.
Prior to the London Bridge attacks in June 2017, there had been no successful terror attacks by a Muslim immigrant this decade. Indeed, there had been only one attack by an immigrant since 2010. That attack was committed by the Ukrainian national, Pavlo Lapshyn, in an attempt to start a race war. The perpetrator of the Manchester attacks, Salman Abedi, was born in Manchester. The Westminster attacks in March 2017 were committed by Khalid Masood from Kent.
Stopping immigration would have no effect on the number of terrorist attacks and could actually inflame the situation by keeping families separated and increasing marginalization amongst Muslim communities.
The other thread in the deluge of hateful memes that flood Facebook, Twitter, and chat forums everywhere after these attacks is a direct claim that all Muslims are to blame for every terrorist incident. These claims conveniently ignore the fact that almost a quarter of all the people on Earth are Muslim. It also ignores the attempts made by Muslim communities to prevent these attacks. Salman Abedi had been reported numerous times to authorities by the Muslim community.
If all of Islam is to blame, there would be many, many more attacks. More than we could possibly defend ourselves against. They also ignore the overwhelming majority of UK Muslims who condemn the attacks. It is easy to forget while we focus on our own tragedies that Islamic extremism has led to the death of far more Muslims than non-Muslims. In the first eight months of 2014 alone, 9,347 Muslim civilians had been killed by ISIS according to a UN report. That does not include the numbers killed by other Islamic extremist groups.
This anti-Islamic rhetoric is not limited to just members of the far right. Media professionals with large followings can get caught up in Islamophobia.
No sooner had Katie Hopkins found out about the attacks was she jumping on Twitter to suggest that Muslims should face a “final solution”, a demand that has dark echoes of Nazi Germany. She changed the tweet almost immediately, but the intent was clear.
The worry is that these outbursts do not prevent media outlets giving her a platform for her views. While writing an earlier draft of this article, The Daily Mail published a piece by Hopkins that is full of hate and anger.
This media outrage, this cycle of hatred, is exactly what the terrorists want.
Material Interests of Terrorist Groups
Historically, we can look at the demands of a terrorist group, and we can see a clear material gain that they seek. The IRA wanted a united Ireland free of British rule. ETA in Europe wanted the Basque regions of France and Spain to become an autonomous nation. The ANC in South Africa wanted an end to apartheid.
The late Professor Paul Wilkinson, prior to his death Britain’s leading expert on terrorism, identified animal rights groups as the most significant perpetrators of terrorist action in the UK prior to 9/11. The Animal Liberation Front (ALF), founded by Ronnie Lee in 1976, has the aim of ending animal testing and all cruelty to animals. A clear material aim.
What these groups have in common is realistic aim that direct action could conceivably bring about.
Compare that with the Islamic terror threats. Does anybody think that ISIS or Al-Qaeda have genuine interests in the UK? That a handful of terrorist attacks is going to make us implement Sharia Law and give rule of the Western world to an Islamic minority? Of course not.
There are not even any significant structural links between Islamic State in Syria and most of the terrorist actions that have taken place in the UK. The people who have been turning cars into weapons in lone wolf attacks are just that. Lone wolves. There is no record of communication with IS for most of the Islamic terrorists caught over Western Europe. The people that we do know have been radicalised during trips into the Middle East have not been in contact with ISIS. Abedi was radicalised through his connections with a Salafi Libyan group called the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a group that has long been rumoured to be supported by MI5, despite supporting Bin Laden after 9/11. This group has also only gained real traction in the vacuum of power since the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011.
The attacks get credited to ISIS after the fact. Either with videos or notes left by the perpetrators or through IS claiming responsibility, but there is little or no organisation taking place. Islamic State take the role of inspirers rather than co-conspirators. They seek to take maximum advantage from events that that have little to no influence on creating.
The sole aim of these Islamic terrorist attacks is to create diversion in society and fuel the kind of hatred that drives marginalised people into radicalisation. They use the attacks as a kind of recruitment drive. And the narratives of hate play straight into the terrorists’ hands.
Jihadis Profit From Western Hate
Professor Wilkinson, before his death in 2007, warned that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 would be exploited by al-Qaeda to gain more recruits in its jihad against the West—a prophetic prediction that has proven to be true.
Since the collapse of Al-Qaeda, numerous other sects have popped up in their place, but most have been geographically restricted to areas that have little influence in Western Europe: Boko Haram in Africa, the so-called Islamic State in the Middle East, the rebirth of the Taliban. All of these groups have little direct contact with Muslims in Western countries, yet each can profit by these attacks.
Hate Is the Only Victory Islamic Terrorists Want
By accepting and not challenging this hatred, we allow our communities to become closed. As people feel more attacked, they become more isolated. This in turn creates more outsiders who are likely to lash out. It is not a difficult leap to see that a member of society who has few/no relationships in their community is much more likely to seek the acceptance of religious extremists, and is also more likely to be prepared to sacrifice their own life for the prospect of something better in the next life.
The sole aims of the IS-inspired terrorists is purely to create hate and division. Each new Islamophobic tweet or Facebook rant is another tiny victory for the terrorists. In fact, it is the only victory that they can hope for. Each new act of hatred has the potential to push one more isolated, disenfranchised, confused Muslim into the arms of extremists.
To deny the terrorists victory, communities need to pull together and become united in ending hatred.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.