Europe must refuse to be terrorised
First France, now Belgium – Islamist terrorism has made its bloodstained return to the continent.
Europe stands united against terror. We must refuse to be divided. The terrorists shall not win. All the usual platitudes are being dusted off once again, in the wake of two appalling Islamist terror attacks in Europe – first in France, now in Belgium.
Last night, a suspected Islamist terrorist shot dead two Swedish nationals and injured another when he went on a rampage in Brussels with an automatic rifle. The suspect, a 45-year-old Tunisian known as Abdesalem Al Guilani, posted videos online calling himself a fighter for Allah and ISIS. After a night-long manhunt, Brussels police shot him dead this morning.
This comes just days after a deadly knife attack in Arras in northern France last Friday – which the world seems to have already forgotten about. The alleged attacker, 20-year-old Chechen Mohamed Mogouchkov, stabbed a teacher to death and seriously wounded two others at a school. He was apprehended, alive, at the scene.
More specific motives haven’t been confirmed, but there are already plenty of clues. The Brussels killer seemed to suggest, in one of his videos, that he purposefully targeted Swedes. (Belgium were playing Sweden, in the city, in a Euro 2024 qualifying game at the time of the shooting, and his victims were reportedly wearing Sweden shirts.) He also ranted that disrespecting the Koran is a ‘red line’, suggesting his spree may have been in response to the recent Koran-burning controversies in Sweden.
In Arras, the picture is a little murkier – but not much. Mogouchkov screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ as he slashed at innocents. He was a known Islamist extremist whose father was deported, on security grounds, in 2018. French officials say that while Mogouchkov pledged allegiance to ISIS, the attack may also be ‘linked’ to the Israel-Hamas war.
It’s unlikely to be a coincidence. While the West’s Hamas apologists insist the terror group’s brutal pogrom against Israel was a result of a territorial conflict, that it was an act of ‘resistance’ against Israeli ‘occupation’, that’s not how Hamas’s propagandists see it. They have always framed their poisonous little death cult, as Daniel Ben-Ami notes, not only as genocidally anti-Semitic, but also as the ‘Palestinian wing of global Islamism’.
Indeed, the call went out from Khaled Mashal – former leader of Hamas, now living in luxury in Qatar – for Muslims the world over to ‘take to the streets’ last Friday, the day of the Arras attack. ‘To all scholars who teach jihad’, he said, ‘to all who teach and learn, this is a moment for the application’. We’ll learn in time if this call was indeed heeded on the streets of France or Belgium.
Nevertheless, the bloodshed in Arras and Brussels are a grim reminder that while, mercifully, Europe has been spared the scale of atrocities inflicted on Israel, via Hamas’s pogrom, or the US, on 9/11, Islamist barbarism has still claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent Europeans over the past decade.
The knifing and shooting and blowing apart of civilians – for no other crime than being out on a Friday night, or for showing cartoons to children, or for going to a pop concert, or for wearing your nation’s colours during a football match – pockmarks our recent history with a horrifying regularity.
So yes, we do need to stand united, and refuse to be cowed, and all the other things politicians say at times like this. But what is becoming clear is that we cannot rely on politicians to turn those words into action – to make the confrontation with Islamist terrorism, and the poisonous ideology that feeds it, anything other than empty slogans, or a kneejerk authoritarianism that destroys our liberties in the name of defending them.
In Britain, we have spent the past week debating whether we should crack down on waving Palestine flags and chanting hateful slogans on demonstrations – all while ignoring the profound crisis of integration, and the moral decomposition of the radical left, that has given us a pro-Hamas protest movement. That censorship will do nothing to address the underlying issues is apparently lost on our elites.
So it is in France, where the French state will happily ban all pro-Palestine demonstrations and censor Islamist speech, all while failing to keep tabs on its thousands of known extremists. The Arras killer was already under surveillance, deemed a potential security threat. He was briefly questioned by French domestic intelligence the day before he showed up with two knives at a school.
In Brussels, the attacker was not only known to be an extremist, he was also in the country illegally. He went off the radar after his application for asylum was declined in 2020. Police had been aware of him since 2016, reports the Guardian, when a ‘foreign police service’ disclosed that he had been radicalised. Belgian justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said nothing was done about him because there were many such cases at the time. The killer was also thought to be involved in people smuggling.
There will always be terrorists who slip through the net, of course. But you cannot help but conclude that these governments are structurally incapable of taking this threat seriously. Even the most pro-migration among us will realise that someone in a country illegally, with a history of criminality and extremism, should not be happily walking the streets. And yet, time and again, terrorists have exploited Europe’s inability to control who comes, stays and goes.
Worse still, in Britain at least, there is a profound moral cowardice about even naming this ideology. Our politicians have convinced themselves of the frankly racist notion that confronting Islamist terrorism risks alienating all Muslims, as if they are all paid-up ISIS supporters. Which is why, for a time, even mentioning the word ‘Islamist’ in public discussion was wont to have politicians branded execrable Islamophobes.
We now go to absurd lengths to avoid talking about Islamism. Two years ago this week a British MP, David Amess, was stabbed to death by an Islamist extremist in his constituency surgery. And the main debate his murder sparked was one about why it’s bad to troll politicians on the internet. MPs even pushed for a ‘David’s Law’ to tackle online abuse. It was a shameful displacement activity to avoid confronting the very real, very offline threat we are dealing with.
Europe must refuse to be terrorised. We must refuse to change our way of life, cower in our homes or junk our freedoms in response to the scourge of Islamist terrorism. That is precisely what the murdering scumbags want. But I dare say Europeans would feel a lot bolder, and a lot less shaken today, if they believed for a moment that their elites had the grit, the know-how and the moral courage to face down this threat alongside them.
Tom Slater is editor of spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
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