The tricky art of spotting suspicious activity

Terrorism: The use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal. Merriam Webster Dictionary

The term political goal narrows the definition, and there are many cases where we label someone a terrorist even though the killer never thought as far as politics. It has nevertheless become common.

I was studying at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and came out from a lecture on September 11th 2001. There were TV screens all over the place in the student cafeteria, and the college news network were broadcasting live from CNN. I believe only an hour, or two at the most, had passed since the attack had taken place, but media already knew all the details.

This seems to be the norm. Media and politicians like phrases like “could have ties to.” If they say that the killer could have ties to a known terrorist or an organization we accept this as a fact. This phrase was used early after the train bombing in Madrid in 2004, or the attacks in Bussels, Nice and Orlando this year. No one could possibly know that early, but it seems to have reassured us knowing that it wasn’t one of us. I think some were looking for ties in connection with Anders Breivik and Timothy McVey as well, but the mood seems to have turned.

Boris Johnson may be posh, but his appearance and tact resembles meat loaf or fish & chips wrapped the Daily Mirror more than Downto Abbey.
Boris Johnson may be posh, but his tact frequently resembles fish & chips wrapped the Daily Mirror more than dining at the Downton Abbey. Photo: US Embassy via Wikimedia Commons

The new British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, was recently criticised for quickly blaming the Munich shooting on terrorism. There’s been a number of attacks in Germany that can be explained as something else. A Syrian asylum seeker killed a woman with a machete. Another Syrian asylum seeker blew himself up. Some of these attackers are born in Germany and in some people’s minds that makes ties to Muslim terrorism impossible. So they are looking for motives like jealousy, revenge, fear of deportation, and mental illness. I agree that we shouldn’t automatically assume that only the Islamic State kills, but we should also be careful not to smooth over the challenges of replacing our population with migrants.

The truth is that most of Europe is facing a demographic crisis. The math is simple: The deathrate is higher than the birthrate, and in some countries this gap is very dramatic. We need young people and that could be behind the sudden altruism. The problem is that no matter how western and progressive members of other religions are, our way of life is going to be a problem to them. Most Muslims accept the need for bank loans for example, but paying interest is a violation of Islamic principes. That’s why many western Muslims, although they accept our ways, say in surveys that they want sharia laws exclusively for Muslims in Europe. Whether it’s terrorism or not there is a potential for major conflicts as the demographics change.


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