By Patrick BAHZAD
With the frequency in "lone gunmen" attacks – or attempted and foiled attacks – increasing ever more since the start of this year, it may be time to highlight certain patterns that have become apparent and represent potentially crucial challenges for societies in Western Europe. The paradigm shift regarding both qualitative and quantitative aspects of Islamic terrorism is now clearer than ever before to law enforcement and officials, but the implications of this shift still needs to be emphasized, as there are possibly tough choices ahead of us.
Back in the 1990s, when Western Europe and France in particular were first targeted by groups whose members would later be sucked into the maelstrom of global Jihad, it was fairly easier for law enforcement to identify potential threats. Admittedly, the number of individuals on watch lists was much smaller, leaving counter-terrorism with more resources to monitor activities. But Islamic radicals were still operating genuine cells, and their leaders or logistics experts were often foreigners having been allowed into the country as political refugees. They did not blend into civil society and stuck to their own. Once infiltrated, which happened usually quite quickly, it was only a matter of time before these groups were taken apart by law enforcement, generally before even staging an attack.
Changing patterns and profiles
Those days are gone. Jihad and Islamic terrorism in the West has become an entrepreneurial activity for a underclass holding a grudge. Basically, people are now being groomed or grooming themselves into ticking time-bombs, waiting for a reason to go into self-destruct mode. The crux is, there is no single pattern that fits this new type of terrorism. Too many variables have blurred the line for a simple grid to allow us singling out dangerous individuals from the general population.
Some people cry "racial discrimination" and "ethnic profiling" when they hear targeted surveillance and increased monitoring of certain groups, facilities or web sites. The truth though is that about 30 % of the individuals on the continent's terror watch lists have a fully European (Caucasian) and often domestic background. Another 30 % is made up of European nationals having an immigration background that has nothing to do with the Middle-East or North-Africa. These are mostly second generation immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa, but also from the Caribbean or South America, who have been won over by radical Islam through years of indoctrination in desolate suburbs that are now strongholds of Salafi beliefs, or during a prison stay in which they chose to join the most powerful "brotherhood" in European jails, the Islamic radicals. Only 40 % approximately of security risks – depending on the country – have a Middle-Eastern, North African or Asian background.