Much has been made of the dissolute lifestyles and paucity of religious knowledge of many of Europe’s current generation of terrorists. In my personal experience young Muslims who ostensibly live thoroughly Westernised lifestyles, indulging the same vices as their non-Muslim counterparts, tend to be beset by a deep sense of inner conflict, touching on depression. It is probably best explained as an internalised self-loathing for being too weak to resist the voluptuary lifestyle of the West. Whereas most eventually come to terms with their frailties, explaining them away as the contagion of a permissive milieu, when such self-loathing combines with experiences of racism, economic desperation and foreign policy grievances some are left desperately seeking a remedy. Such individuals are then highly susceptible to the saccharine offer of guaranteed absolution and passage to a better place viz. paradise. In some ways it’s akin to the mentality of the impoverished who play the lottery seeking that lucky escape from their interminably grim existence; except in this case the odds presented are not 40 million to one but rather a dead certainty.
The impoverished suburbs of European cities are currently home to hundreds of thousands of young 2nd/3rd generation Muslim men trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of petty crime and low paid employment. Many have experienced the sharp edge of institutional racism from the police or in the labour market (or both). Religious observance for such men tends not to exceed a weekly appearance at Friday congregational prayers. Saturday nights mostly a heady mix of drink, drugs and casual sex. To such men, Islamic State’s clarion call to murder offers an escape from this anomie and the promise of absolution followed by eternal bliss. All one has to do is use a car, truck, gun, knife or any combination thereof, to murder as many of their fellow citizens as possible before succumbing to the inevitable hail of police gunfire. Time will tell but unless European governments decide to engage in meaningful dialogue with their respective Muslim communities (and especially with those who command the respect of the mainstream), rather than ploughing yet more money into futile projects to promote liberalism and secularisation, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel is unlikely to be the last man to take up such an offer.
May the peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon Sayyidina Muhammad. Ameen.