The seemingly eternal fight against terrorism and rampant extremism has, in recent weeks, shown no signs of coming to an end. As the West continues to barricade itself against a tempestuous storm of malicious attacks and organised crime, governments and citizens are being pushed to their limits. Cities across Europe and at the other side of the Atlantic are entering a new age of insecurity and paranoia.
France is just one of the countries at the brunt of this pandemic. The nation’s state of emergency has remained firmly in place despite President François Hollande’s hopes to lift it this week. Since anti-Semitic attacks in January 2015, and a fatal bout of terrorism in November of the same year, France has found itself and its society battered by gunmen and extremism all the more. Today saw yet another terrorist disaster at the courtesy of the so-called Islamic State take place at a church in Normandy after the already devastating French assault in Nice two weeks ago. This recent scourge of terrorism is certainly not specific to France, however. The epidemic has continued to ravage German communities in recent days after attacks in Würzburg, Reutlingen and, yesterday, Ansbach. Fatal shootings at a gay bar in Orlando, USA were also carried out killing or injuring over 100 people last month.
Whilst a great deal of the terrorism encapsulating the West has been attributed solely to extremist organisations from far abroad, not all attackers have had direct links to organised crime groups. The killer of revellers in Orlando last month was found to have no connection to Islamic State whatsoever. The same goes for the killer in a brutal knife attack this morning in Japan, and also for the 18-year-old who was inspired by growing far-right sentiment to stage a massacre of his own involving shoppers in Munich. The problems of today do not relate solely to explicitly foreign-motivated terrorism, but instead they relate more to the eruptions of radicalisation of and the extremism which involves individuals based more locally. These are people of minorities who have become consistently marginalised by government and society, and of violent attackers who have been motivated by new isolationists and frightful rhetoricians.
This paints a rather sorry picture for Europe and its similarly beaten up American partners. Communities are being drawn apart in front of our eyes. A new era of ‘interior’ terrorism and national insecurity is emerging. The task of the West isn’t only to defeat the barbaric extremist group that is Islamic State, but to instead deal with the worrying contagion of radicals pledging fealty to the IS operation, and striking in the name of it.
Very recently, European and American leaders have introduced rigorous counterterrorism measures, some of which widely criticised for accentuating and worsening the divides of our already cut up global community. The priorities of our governments must be set straight. Of course, counteracting organised terrorism ought to be high on leaders’ to do lists. But legislation has for too long presumed criminal tendencies of select groups of people. Instead of efforts to promote cohesion and unity, our leaders have come to harshly set apart certain individuals from the rest. It is this that motivates a large proportion of today’s killers, notably those who attack under their own name, an not that of an extremist organisation.
Unity and robust social cohesion are the key components which are missing from the constructs of today’s global society. Diversity and multiculturalism must be embraced by all. For example, France’s ban on the Muslim women’s burqa is highly controversial, and has attacked important cultural principles. US presidential hopeful Donald J. Trump’s divisive comments of a Muslim shutdown, and his plans for a more “closed door” America have increasingly vilified numerous US minorities. The alarming rhetoric which has come to isolate so many has been consistently condemned by myriad advisory experts, including Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane. Soutphommasane highlighted that many of those marginalised by stringent counterterrorism policy had been motivated by this alone in their savage revolts. Building support for the “anti politics” (as New Statesman writer George Eaton put it) of division, marginalisation, and stubbornness is infuriating communities, means that deviance is only likely to rise.
Whilst attempting to smother chances of terrorism, governments and security institutions are in fact creating even larger problems for themselves. Of course, only very, very few humans ever attempt to create devastation on the scale of recent attacks in Western nations. But the clear targeting and labelling of sub-groups is proving to be detrimental, and has only widened the scope for extremism to flourish. Whether attackers are frustrated by incomers to their homeland, or one minority individual is dismayed by Western nations’ disregard for them, divisive rhetoric and policies intent on singling out individuals look to only induce terrorism. The disgusting increase in casual racism and the promotion of such careless, outspoken politics continues to alienate many across the West.
Our societies are becoming fractured by racial and cultural injustices, and instead of appearing united, are leaving our communities vulnerable to the tribulations of terror. Damaging and fearful rhetoric has divided our communities. More worryingly, it is spurring a large contagion of extremists who dead set on tearing nations apart on their own initiative. People with no direct affiliation to terror groups are becoming criminals, inspired by the acts of others.
The war on terror is moving into a new era. Unless governments and their citizens bind together to embrace multiculturalism, abandon the harm of racism, and build up social cohesion, we will make spontaneous extremists’ dreams a reality. Counterterrorism strategy and, indeed, international relations, must not centre around singling out entire minorities.
If the rise in support for the politics of the hard right escalates further, social unity and the true destruction of extremism will not materialise. The suppression and demonisation of select individuals is simply not a viable solution. Those who feel cut off from society are those who have created most harm, a theme evident in attacks which have ravaged a European, Northern American, and Asian nations of late.
For the more conceited and judgmental wings of our political society are most to blame for the deep societal crevasses which continue to widen across global societies. Inclusion is the answer to the reunification of our communities, and the solution to the new era of terrorism taking humanity by storm.