"Europe on fire" – this is what could be the first thought for many following the latest reports coming from France and Austria where Islamic terrorism seems to be on the rise.
But is everything really that bad? Could we be victims of "information violence" or "media terrorism", aimed not to kill, but to implant certain agenda and distort reality?
In geographical Europe (excluding the post-Soviet space) 40% of terrorist attacks occur in Turkey
Myth No.1 "Europe is engulfed in fire of attacks"
According to Europol, 2019 was the safest over the last five years in terms of the number of terrorist attacks, also seeing the fewest number of victims over the past 10 years. At the same time, in Afghanistan, the number of attacks was 10 times higher than in the whole European Union, while the number of victims was 1,000 times higher. In terms of terrorist threats, neighboring countries are facing more of them than the EU member states. In geographical Europe (excluding the post-Soviet space), 40% of terrorist attacks occur in Turkey. And if we take into account the post-Soviet countries, the situation in Ukraine is worse than in France.
And this despite the fact that Europe boasts of better law enforcement control than the rest of the world. All the attacks are being thoroughly investigated – even the foiled ones and those that brought no casualties. In 5,000 terrorist attacks that have taken place in Europe over the past 20 years there were 2,500 fatalities. In the Middle East, the situation is the opposite – with three victims per attack on average. That is, the level of both security and control are much higher in Europe. Moreover, a record number of suspects were arrested last year – more than 1,000 individuals who had been complicit in plotting terrorist attacks.
If we look at the stats, Islamic terrorism is the third gravest threat in Europe
Myth No.2 "Islamic terrorism is the most common form of terrorism in Europe"
Actually, if you watch lots of TV, then yes, it seems so. But if you look at the stats, Islamic terrorism is the third gravest threat in Europe. Local terrorists prevail. That is why separatist-related terrorism tops the list almost every year. Last year, leftists and anarchists came in second.
Of course, explosions without casualties, burned cars or often fake bombs does not affect public opinion that much. But these are terrorist attacks, too. Indeed, jihadists are more brutal, and in this way they become more prominent than their European "colleagues." But recently, right-wing radicals who justify their violence as a response to Islamist attacks have also become brutal. But it is also applied to other ethnic groups and religions.
Last year, a glaring example was a man who killed his half-sister of Chinese descent, and then went for a shooting rampage in the mosque. There, he was immediately apprehended by a 65-year-old Muslim he had wounded.
If we talk about Islamic terrorism, perpetrators are often those who have been born in Europe
Myth No.3 "The main perpetrators of terrorist attacks are refugees"
It's somewhat close to reality, but… still it doesn't quite correspond to it. If we talk about Islamic terrorism, perpetrators are often those who have been born in Europe. Official data alone say 5,000 EU citizens voluntarily deployed overseas to join the Islamic State. Now many of them have returned - with some combat experience gained and hatred for the "infidels".
So, often, the agenda that is imposed on us is very different from the really important issues. Therefore, not only police response efforts, but also critical thinking can tackle terrorism.
Bohdan Petrenko is a Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Institute for Extremism Studies