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TERRORIST ATTACK IN NICE, FRANCE: EUROPE ON THE BRINK?

A recent report by international analysis and advisory firm IHS, suggests that Islamic State has lost about a quarter of its territorial holdings in Syria and Iraq. While any setback to this disruptive and brutal terrorist organisation should be celebrated, the fact is that ‘Islamic State’ is neither a state nor Islamic – it is a terrorist organisation. But it is not a terrorist organisation as we understand such organisations to be – as for instance the IRA, or even Al Qaeda. IS opened itself up to opportunistically cooperate with the dark covert forces of neighbouring and regional state intelligence agencies and their proxies. Its form of governance over its territories, towns and cities is characterised by a combination of stark barbarism and Islamic jurisprudence that can appear ‘fair’ to those who willingly submit to its authority.[1]

IS was and continues to be a social experiment, and now, having lost ground in a significant way, Islamic State, its affiliates, fan-boys and other fellow travellers are lashing out all over the world.

Prior to the Nice attack in France, in Belgium, there was an explosion in Brussels – an explosion that Belgian authorities were quick to discount as an act of terrorism. However, earlier this year, in March, there was a terrorist attack against the Brussels Zaventem airport and a metro station.[2] Investigations are ongoing, but even if yesterday was a case of ‘benign’ criminal vandalism, it made the European people and European security personnel look to Belgium. Could this have been a deliberate act designed to distract French authorities, take their eyes off the ball so to speak, and enable the Bastille Day ‘truck attack’ in Nice?

We won’t know until a full investigation into the French attack is uncovered. What is known is that Belgium and France are on a knife’s edge, as is the rest of Europe. Right-wing extremists are gaining ground all over the Continent and even people from more moderate political persuasions are beginning to look at their relations with the multiple un-acculturated Muslim communities in their midst as potential terrorist ‘fifth columnists’.

Officially there are 4.7 million Muslims in France, and while they do not form a ‘cohesive whole’, their inability to become an integral part of French society has driven a huge social wedge between the non-Muslim majority and the Muslim minority.[3] Tiny Belgium hosts an estimated Muslim population of 630,000, which is 5.9 percent of the Belgian population.[4] While these numbers should not be cause for concern, the fact that the European states’ experiment with multiculturalism has failed and has led minority groups (from whatever persuasion) to consider themselves separate from their host-country, is dangerous. Muslim communities in Europe have now formed self-sustaining ghettos, an economic underclass and are a noticeable ‘foreign’ element. Some of these ghettos are notorious ‘no-go’ zones for non-Muslims, including local security services. Host nations throughout Europe are angry and resentful that parts of their country have been ‘occupied’ by angry and resentful newcomers.

The new waves of Muslim and other immigrants sweeping across the Continent are only adding to non-Muslim anger, anxiety and despair. It is obvious that this is a powder keg just waiting to be ignited. Islamic State realises that though it is under pressure – many of its oil and gas fields destroyed by U.S., Coalition and Russian aerial bombardment; its financial networks being rolled up by Western intelligence agencies, and towns and cities being liberated from its rule by the foreign supported governments of Iraq and Syria – it is in the poorly governed, fractured spaces of multicultural Europe that Islamic State’s greatest strategic weapon lies. Non-Muslim host populations turning against Muslim migrants on the European Continent is a nightmare scenario. But since this genie has been unleashed, no politically correct technocrat from the so-called ‘managing classes’ will be able to control potential forces of civil violence.

The saddest thing to realise is, that this international crisis was easy to spot and could have been avoided had the nations of Europe adopted more integrative social measures.

Unfortunately Europe at the supra national (EU) and national levels was slow to act and believed in its capacities to weather any social storm. But as Lincoln once said, “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. The EU is divided – BREXIT being a case in point. But so are the nations of Europe. There are divisions among haves and have nots, Muslims and non-Muslims, between genders, sexual orientations and certainly politics generally. Can we fool ourselves to believe that Islamic State, or any other similar group, cannot see that these fault lines, fault lines created by encouraging the ‘politics of identity’, are mill for the grist? Where are our political leaders as we are heading toward a cliff? In these time, when we are all encouraged to question our identities, our loyalties and are expected to accept complexity and uncertainty, who do we turn to? Who do we trust? And who will protect us when the system that has been established in our name, becomes something fundamentally different, or simply stops working.

 

 

[1] Weiss M & Hassan H., ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror, Regan Arts, NY 2015

[2] Brussels explosions: What we know about airport and metro attacks, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35869985 date accessed: July 14, 2016

[3] Hackett C., 5 facts about the Muslim population in Europe, Pew Research Centre, November 17, 2015 http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/17/5-facts-about-the-muslim-population-in-europe/ date accessed: July 14, 2016

[4] ibid

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