Why Terror Attacks Happen In Europe: A ‘Contrarian View’

Strong human rights laws make it tough for European security agencies to track terror elements without breach of law.

4 min read
A wreath  placed in front of the damaged Zaventem Airport terminal in Brussels on Wednesday, March 23, 2016. (Photo: AP)

Why European Are Countries More Vulnerable

  • Close to 1,000 British Muslims have joined ISIS so far.
  • European countries becoming suitable destination for terror elements because of liberal asylum policies and unhindered travel facilities.
  • Strong human rights laws making it tough for European security agencies to track terror elements without breaching the law.

Analysts who blamed the Belgian or European security and intelligence services for the Zaventem and Maelbeek attacks on 22 March 2016 are failing to see the big picture – why terrorists should take their battle to the citadels of European culture which had allowed them years of sanctuary from their unsettled home countries by way of better living.

The reported last “desperate will” of Zaventem bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui, found in a trash bin on 23 March said that he “did not know what to do…hunted everywhere…don’t want to end up in a cell next to him”( Paris bomber Salah Abdeslam in custody). His declaration adds a totally new dimension to all our theories on terrorism.

So far, not a single sociologist or psychologist has convincingly answered why nearly 750 (some say 1,000) British Muslims should have joined the dreaded Islamic State (ISIS), forsaking their comforts by way of better living opportunities and preferring to live in harsh surroundings and risking their lives.

Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. (Photo: AP)
Paris attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam. (Photo: AP)

What is it that leads a normal law-abiding but reclusive individual like Mohamed Atta or a drug pusher, gay bar hangout like Salah Abdeslam to become dreaded terrorists? What made Talha Asmal, a promising British teenager from West Yorkshire, forsake his bright future in England to become the youngest suicide bomber for ISIS at a faraway place like Baiji (Iraq) in June 2015?

Over the years psychologists and criminologists have produced reams of theories on this behaviour. However, their research and conclusions offer cold comfort to law and order authorities who have the legal responsibility of protecting nations from the ravages of terrorism. The theories cited often are individual psychopathological causes, frustration-aggression hypothesis, relative deprivation, oppression, cultural and identity clashes in the adopted society ending in a humiliation-revenge syndrome.

French sociologist Farhad Khosrokhaur, author of Inside Jihadism: Understanding Jihadi Movements Worldwide has explained the typology of this “humiliation” nursed by these sections including “the technicians suffering from the Russian yoke, the Muslim Kashmiris feeling despondent within a Brahman dominated secular India” and yearning for an imaginary “Neo- Umma”. The appearance of ISIS offered them this hypothetical “Neo- Umma”.

An ISIS supporter. (Photo: Reuters)
An ISIS supporter. (Photo: Reuters)

For others, ISIS provides an example of yet another concept called “Absolutist/ Apocalyptic theory” arising out of the psychological impact due of the ISIS’ high decibel propaganda on their “successes”. It is significant that even responsible European media outlets have been re-circulating calamitous predictions quoting Nostradamus that “WW III will begin this year as a result of the struggle with ISIS and the world could end in 2242 – 27 years from now”.

If I remember correctly, it was the late Lee Kuan Yew who had first remarked that terrorism succeeded only in democracies governed by rule of law. The idea of United Europe (EU) arose out of the sufferings in the World War ravaged Europe. Its architects like Jean Monnet integrated European heavy industry in 1950. Winston Churchill called for establishing a United States of Europe which came into being in 1949 with a Council of Europe. The First Convention of Human Rights was enshrined in 1950. Stella Rimington, the first woman MI-5 Chief had said that it was EU pressure that made the British pass their accountable Security Services Act in 1989 replacing the less transparent 1952 “Maxwell Fyfe Directive”.

Belgian lawmakers walk past wreaths laid on the
grounds of the Parliament building in Brussels (Photo: AP)
Belgian lawmakers walk past wreaths laid on the grounds of the Parliament building in Brussels (Photo: AP)

However, European Union (EU) also offers the best destination for wayward elements like Salah Abdeslam with liberal asylum policies and freer travels unhindered by customs and immigration and with the concept of human rights stretched to the utmost.

In modern times, European security and intelligence services are finding it extremely tough to track the innovative ways by which terrorists enter Europe without breaching the shackles put on them by “human rights”. An example is a case filed in February 2016 by ten human rights organisations in the European Court of Human Rights against the UK over breach of electronic privacy.

Their tasks become more daunting with the belligerent voices heard across the Atlantic from people like US Presidential hopeful Donald Trump who had in December last year, questioned the patriotism of British Muslims by alleging that more of them are fighting for ISIS than the British Army.

(The writer is a former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, and a member of the High-Level Committee which enquired into the police performance during 26/11 Mumbai)

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