The more terrorist attacks take place in Europe, the more are spreading false or inexact assumptions about terrorists and their motivations. Like a global wave of disinformation, cognitive dissonance is also blurring our good collective understanding of what today’s terrorism consists of.
- Terrorists are young people who don’t realize what they are doing: the military and the intelligence community could confirm that a 20/22-year old person can be an accomplished high-skilled operative if trained appropriately. Terrorists know what they’re doing.
- Terrorists are young people who lost themselves into delirium: the lethality of these terrorists has grown especially because of their strong determination, given that they consider that completing their mission is like doing good from their global standpoint.
- Terrorists are being manipulated by western intelligence services: though there could be some attempts to sow division among them, terrorists are operating according to a long-term specific agenda which has theological and historic roots. It’s not because you disagree that these roots don’t exist from someone else’s viewpoint.
- Terrorists are acting this way because of the West’s foreign policy: though it could explain partly why some of them seek to establish a “Sunnistan” or why terrorism has made such a comeback since 9/11, terrorists are waging a war in the name of their conception of the Ummah against who they designated as the Crusaders – the West – within the framework of what they see as a multi-century confrontation.
- Terrorists are ready to die for their cause: it’s true for a portion of them, however a larger portion of the terrorists don’t engage in suicide operations, and high-ranking / most experienced / most trained of them avoid lethal confrontation so that they can train new recruits and/or help to plan future attacks.
- Terrorists have become terrorists because of social inequality: the average socio-economic support brought by States – particularly European – to the extreme minority of the urban youth who turned terrorists is far higher than the aid given to the rural youth who’s quasi-absent in the ranks of terrorists. Moreover, a significant portion of the terrorists either had a regular job or engaged in criminal activities before becoming terrorists.
- Terrorists can be defeated with candles, human rights and songs: the more free societies call for mercy and understanding the more a terrorist hates them. Nevertheless, terrorists have been quite disappointed by the lack – absence – of violent response on behalf of Westerners. They want to start general conflagration inside western countries but, so far, have failed to reach this goal.
Belgium has been at the forefront of the social equality combat, has granted foreigners the right to vote, has welcomed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, has funded a galaxy of multi-cultural initiatives, has conducted a responsible non-aggressive foreign policy. Belgium counts among the most welcoming and most tolerant countries in the world, yet it has not prevented the Brussels Attacks that left 31 people dead and 270 people wounded on March 22, 2016.
If the West has to evolve in order to address the terrorist threat, particularly in matter of judicial and counter-terrorist response, it also has to stop working on the basis of false assumptions.