Vienna’s woes: On Islamist terror attack

The attack in Vienna that killed four people on Monday night underscores the transnational threat European countries face from Islamist terrorists. The assault follows the beheading of a schoolteacher in a Paris suburb and a knife attack in Nice that took three lives. In Vienna, the suspected gunman, Kujtim Fejzulai, 20, a dual citizen of Austria and North Macedonia and of Albanian origin, opened fire near a synagogue before being shot dead by the police. He had a previous terrorism conviction. In April last year, he was sentenced to 22 months after he tried to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. He was released in December because of his age. The immediate question the Austrian authorities face would be about the failure in preventing the attack. How did a terrorism convict slip off the security radar and launch an attack in the capital city at a time when Europe was on high alert following the terror assaults in France? Austria will also have to plug the security loopholes as several countries in the continent, including France and the U.K., have raised the threat levels. The larger challenge is how to address the issue of radicalisation among youth and counter attempts to disrupt the social cohesion of the continent.

Austria’s conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, known for his fiery anti-immigrant politics, sent the right message when he called for unity in the fight against terrorism. He said the fight is not between Christians and Muslims or Austrians and immigrants, but between “civilisation and barbarity”. Mr. Kurz, who had teamed up with the Islamophobic far-right Freedom Party in 2017 to form the government for the first time, is now in power with the Green Party and has more political leeway to build a stronger national response to terrorism. Jihadists use violence to create social discord. While they unleash violence on the public in the name of Islam, the rising Islamophobic, nationalist parties in Europe seize on such incidents to bolster their fortunes. France’s Marine Le Pen, with an eye on the 2022 presidential election, has called for a ban on immigrants from some Muslim countries and declared “a war” to “evict Islamism by force from our country”. In Austria, the Freedom Party would take cues from her National Rally party. This is a two-front attack on the democratic and secular values Europe stands for — and that is what the terrorists want. Leaders of France, Austria and other terror-hit countries should not allow the jihadists to have their way. They should clamp down on terror networks, isolate and punish the jihadists, counter the ideology of political Islamists and build on the values of pluralism, secularism, democracy and equality, and step up deradicalisation efforts with help from communities. This is a fight they cannot afford to lose.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:55:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/viennas-woes-the-hindu-editorial-on-islamist-terror-attack-on-vienna-synagogue/article33033005.ece

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