Lone-wolf attacks raise concern about new trend in terror

After incidents in London, Paris, Brussels and Michigan, the risk of similar low-tech, copycat attacks is triggering alarm.

Test of unity. A sign is placed near flowers on a memorial for victims in the London Bridge area of London. (AP)

2017/06/25 Issue: 112 Page: 1

The Arab Weekly
Mahmud el-Shafey

London- A series of lone-wolf at­tacks, both by radical Is­lamists and anti-Muslim individuals in the West, raised concerns that the global war on terror is entering a dan­gerous new phase.

After incidents in London, Paris, Brussels and Michigan, the risk of similar low-tech, copycat attacks is triggering alarm. This has been ac­companied by an increase in right-wing anti-Muslim sentiment.

The number of people arrested on suspicion of Islamist terrorism in Europe rose in 2016 for the third year in a row, a report by the Euro­pean Union’s police agency Europol confirmed. The report noted a rise in violence attributed to right-wing groups.

The report said that Europe’s far-right was exploiting terrorist attacks “to induce public opinion to adopt its xenophobic and Islamophobic po­sition.” In 2017, that exploitation had led to right-wing terrorist attacks tar­geting Muslims, as seen in the Fins­bury Park mosque attack in London.

“I want to kill all Muslims,” Darren Osborne, 47, allegedly shouted after driving a van into a group of Mus­lims. The attack bore similarities to Islamic State (ISIS)-inspired attacks, such as those carried out last year in Nice and Berlin.

Far-right extremists and white su­premacists, not just in Britain but across Europe and the United States, took to social media to call for simi­lar attacks. ISIS also sought to exploit Islamophobic attacks, calling on sup­porters to “wake up” and fight back.

The addition of anti-Muslim attacks to the cycle of terror is worrying to observers who fear copycat attacks. If sustained, the cycle of anti-Western violence and its mirror anti-Muslim crimes could lead to a new wave of radicali­sation and extremism.

Writing for the BBC, security corre­spondent Frank Gardner, a survivor of a terrorist attack, warned that ex­tremism breeds extremism.

“The one thing that far-right anti- Muslim extremists and violent ji­hadists have in common is the belief that peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims is impos­sible,” he said.

The only way to overcome such extremism and terrorism is unity in the face of all terrorist attacks. “The unified prayers and solidarity across communities that followed recent terror attacks are anathema to them,” Gardner said.

Speaking to Muslims and non- Muslims at a vigil outside the Fins­bury Park mosque after the attack, mosque chairman Mohammed Koz­bar echoed those sentiments.

“These extremists, their aim is to divide our communities… to spread hatred, fear and division,” he said. “These people can try to divide us but we tell them that we will not let you do that.”

Mahmud el-Shafey is an Arab Weekly correspondent in London.

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