Living with Fear in the Age of Terrorism
News Corp Australia Network article featuring ICSVE Director, Anne Speckhard, Ph.D. and Deputy Director Ahmet S Yayla, Ph.D.
WE now live with the fear of terrorism, the worry that someone out there is planning more unspeakable acts. So how do we ensure it doesn’t rule our lives?
By Cindy Wockner
News Corp Australia Network
JULY 23, 2016 at 1:00AM
The truck used in the Bastille Day terror attack in Nice. Picture: REUTERS/Eric GaillardSource:Reuters
THERE are some things that once seen, just can’t be unseen. A little doll, dressed in pink, lying forlornly on the road in Nice. Who owned it? Was it the person, crumpled next to it, covered by a gold sheet.
Or was it a little girl who managed, somehow, miraculously to get clear of Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel as he hurtled toward her in a 19-tonne truck. We don’t know. We may never know.
Fifteen years earlier, across the world, Haji Bambang Priyanto saw hearts beating in the gaping holes of chests ripped open by bombs. When people died in his arms he gently closed their eyes. But his eyes and soul can never erase the horror of Bali in October 2002.
It lives with the traffic policeman every day. And so too do we now live with the fear of terrorism, the fear that there are more Amrozis and more Bouhlels out there, planning and plotting unspeakable acts.
This heartbreaking image of a doll lying next to a child’s body has come to symbolise the sheer horror of the Nice massacre. Picture: Eric Gaillard / REUTERS / PICTURESSource:Picture Media
The events of Nice on Bastille Day have shaken us, coming so swiftly after the bloodshed in Paris in November last year, Brussels in March this year and in Orlando in June.
In Paris 130 died, 32 civilians were killed in Brussels and in Orlando 49 were gunned down in a gay nightclub. In Nice, 84 lost their lives and hundreds were injured. Where will it happen next? How do we stop it? Why is it happening? So many questions, so few answers. Too many tears, so much hatred and too many ill-informed commentators.
There are no easy answers. Yes, it will happen again. Amarnath Amarasingam, who is currently managing the Barriers to Violent Radicalisation Project at Dalhousie University in Canada, says that as the Coalition increases its attacks in Syria and Iraq supporters of Islamic State will always feel the need for revenge.
But we don’t have to let fear rule our lives any more than we should stand aside and allow Islamic State to continue its murderous march.
In Nice, 84 people lost their lives and hundreds were injured. Now the world is wondering: where will be next?Source:AP
Preaching separation and alienation only serves to entrench that fear and deepen the divide. Halting Muslim immigration here or anywhere else won’t erase the fear or lessen the risk. Now more than ever the political rhetoric and public discourse surrounding the issue needs to be careful and measured.
“Whether we let fear rule our lives is really an individual and community choice. It doesn’t have to happen if we don’t want it to. We really need to stop listening to people who preach separation. It’s not really getting us anywhere,” Dr Amarasingam says.
Stay united, says Dr Anne Speckhard from Georgetown University and the Director of the International Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism. Support your Muslim neighbours and communities, don’t malign them. “Remember it’s their kids who are being targeted by ISIS social media and they need to feel part of society to not resonate to those hateful messages coming across the airwaves.”
An image posted on social media shows people running for their lives after the Nice terror attack.Source:AFP
And at the end of the day, preaching separation and calling for a halt to Muslim immigration only plays into the hands of those who wish to harm us. It makes the Muslim community feel alienated and less likely to trust authority, therefore less likely to report suspicious activity to authorities who are then, as a result, less likely to stop it. We know this because the police tell us. Police agencies need intelligence to operate.
“ISIS is working hard to enrage the West against its Muslim population to cause a backlash against Muslims which will make it even harder for law enforcement to win trust and engage these communities to learn about terrorists before they attack. It is almost impossible to stop lone wolves if there is not credible intelligence and this requires having trust between law enforcement and communities,” Dr Speckhard says.
It seems so simple. Muslims too are killed in terrorist attacks. About 30 of the 84 victims in Nice were Muslim.
The latest Global Terrorism Index, which analysed the figures of terrorist attacks around the world for year 2014, makes for some sobering reading. The majority of deaths from terrorism were not in the West. A total of 78 per cent of those killed by terrorists in 2014 were in just five countries — Iraq, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria.
Nigerian soldiers have been waging war with the country’s Boko Haram group.Source:AFP
And Nigeria’s Boko Haram group were nominated the world’s most deadly terrorist organisation, killing 7512 people in 2014 alone — an increase of 300 per cent from the previous year. Their reign of terror, across Northern Nigeria and into neighbouring countries, has been and remains unrelenting. We just don’t see as much of it here. When they kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls in April 2014 and took them as sex slaves and child brides, the world was outraged, but the outrage has moved on.
More emphasis is placed on the west, perhaps because we see it so visually, because our own country men and women are the victims, because that little pink doll on the Nice road was such a powerful symbol of what we stand to lose. Researchers call it “otherness” — the countries that are different to the West.
There is no doubt that the Paris attack last November was an IS operation. And Brussels was conducted by offshoots of the same group.
ISIS terrorists launched an unprecedented series of attacks on Paris last November. Picture: REUTERS/Philippe WojazerSource:Supplied
Nice however is less clear cut. So far there is little proof that Bouhlel had any direct link to IS or other terrorist groups and a picture has been painted of depressed, violent man, a loner with perhaps mental illness issues or psychotic behaviours whose wife had left him and who had a criminal past. He once assaulted a motorist with a wooden pallet.
What French authorities have said is that very shortly before he drove his truck into the Bastille Day crowd he was searching the internet for verses of the Koran and jihadist propaganda type chants. Photos of dead people were on his computer which revealed a “sure and recent interest for radical jihadist movements”. He had also looked up fatal motor vehicle accidents. French Prosecutor Francoise Molins said that Bouhlel had been studying an attack since 2015 and that he had received logistical support from the five suspects now in custody, one of whom reportedly had a Kalashnikov rifle at his home.
There is little evidence that Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who posed for a selfie in the cab of his truck hours before his terrorist attack, had any direct link to the Islamic State or other terrorist groupsSource:Supplied
The slick IS media arm claimed responsibility for Bouhlel’s murderous actions. But that means little. It suits their agenda for the world to believe they orchestrated it even when they didn’t.
Omar Mateen, who shot and killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando in June, was also not an IS member. True, he is said to have pledged allegiance to the group during his shooting rampage, but his past was questionable — he was a long-term steroid user and had a hatred for gay people, suggesting his motives were not simply IS-related and stemmed more from homophobia.
Perhaps we are seeing a new breed of terrorist emerge, where personal grievances intertwine with ideology, lone wolves who switch on to kill, entrepreneurial terrorists. This is the challenge for law enforcers and intelligence agencies, the “unknown unknowns” as they call them. Australia’s agencies have now been instructed to examine mental health issues and how best to identify those with mental health problems who might be targets for radicalisation.
Some, who have been on an unIslamic path in life, suddenly find a way to have their sins expunged.
A man who lost two friends in the horrific Pulse nightclub massacre pays tribute to those lost.Source:AP
“We will see frustrated young men, may be sinners in Islamic manner, who get affected by ISIS propaganda and think of their way out from the psychological atmosphere they are in is only through terrorist attacks,” Professor Ahmet Yayla from Harran University in Turkey says. He is a former anti-terrorism chief in the Turkish National Police and is the deputy director at the International Centre for the Study of Violent Extremism.
“This is how ISIS convinces them. You are a sinner. Carry out this attack and clean your soul. The makes the law enforcement job extremely difficult as many indicators of radicalisation are not seen here which would be a tip for the law enforcement or for the people around the attacker. Therefore the attack can come from anyone in any form. It is impossible to protect a civil society in these circumstances,” Professor Yayla says.
He and Dr Anne Speckard co-authored a recent book, interviewing 38 defectors from the IS. Several of these had pasts which were not clean and they had become IS members to cleanse themselves, commit an act of martyrdom and thus go to Heaven.
The point of terrorism is to instil fear in communities. Recent polls in Australia show that many people are in fear of falling victim to a terrorist attack. Images like the little pink doll make us fearful. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent on our political leaders to stop the fear-mongering, temper the rhetoric and help our law enforcers get on with the job of protecting us.