The Christchurch mosque terror attack has brought home the reality of global terrorism and its complex nature intensely as the Holey Artisan café attack in Dhaka. Bangladeshis have died in distant and safe West. Even the national cricket team about to visit the mosque escaped by minutes.
The age of permanent safety is over in this globalized world and so is the identity of the terrorist. Terror may well be constant though in different shapes and forms. Dangers are possible anywhere depending on who is where and part of which scenario. And it is obvious that the capacity of the Western world to contain terrorism using its own formula is vastly limited.
The Islamist / Middle Eastern model’s limitations
Much of the problem of this phase of violent extremism has been triggered by years of colonialism and invasion and reactions to them. Most of the terrorists in the West have been reacting to western invasions and dominations, mostly military. It matters little if it was the Afghan invasion by the Russians or the Iraq invasion by the US.
Behind each episode stood a history of “war” by the West, whether conventional Western or socialist imperial. In the early periods, the invaded zones had little power to fight back but as economies improved, communication grew and cold war politics facilitated new militant configurations, clashes began. In this pot, immigration and anti-immigration sentiments are adding an extra content.
Once reactions by invaded societies began, the image packaging of the enemy was easily done by dubbing as ME people of Muslim origin. It was the zone where the proxy West Israel was located so demonizing the enemy was very much needed. The obvious flaw is that it marketed Muslims as a terrorist brand even though there were many other groups including The Irish and the Tamil not to mention the Maoists.
The territorial brand doesn’t work as much as a religious brand does to the West’s internal consumers so the “Islamist” terrorist image has been successfully sold. The result has been a focus of counter-terrorism activities based on ideological markers not territorial ones. “Islam” has been sold as a universal ideology similar to Communism. This began after the fall of Soviet Union which for long was the West’s main enemy. That Soviet Union fell to the US’s main enemy today- Jihadis – is lost as an irony.
Branding terrorism as Jihadism is obviously convenient and less expensive to manage as a strategy. Islamists as the Great Enemy means reduction of attention to other forces and normalization of any actions including new attacks in the ME to put down the enemy spawned by the earlier policies of the West.
A perusal of various Counter-terrorism related publications show that 90% of materials now are on IS and increasingly on Iran, the West’s main anxiety. This has good internal public consumption but doesn’t address all the “terrorist” forces in operation globally nor its causes. They exclude both the dominant nationalist content of what the West calls terrorism and the “reactive terrorism “ by elements of the White population as the recent NZ attack manifests.
Immigration and homegrown terrorism of both kinds
In Western jargon, domestic and homegrown terrorists generally refer to immigrants of Muslim origin who have become part of Jihadism. A good example is Shamima Begum, the young jihadist girl whose parents are from Bangladesh. She wanted to return from her IS camps but was denied entry and stripped of her citizenship. Such people are coming from previously colonized areas and have become attached to ME based Jihadism rooted in the core areas of ‘terrorism” usually the ME or North Africa.
Western societies are very exclusive which keeps out migrants from enjoying equal access and socio-economic integration is low which contributes to low cultural integral as well. It creates a new “Nation-state” within the emigrated state linked by a common identity. Faith and ethnic identity- real or imagined- becomes a marker for congregating. In reality such communities are very different from each other including in the interpretation of their faith and identities.
However, Western understanding of Extremism strives for a simpler explanation as it can’t handle complex markers and some would lead to self- inquiry. So if Islam fits the box it needs, all the actors are put into it.
The West sees the terrorism problem using an “us and them” matrix. So the role of invasions, immigrants and structural integration is ignored which allows glossing over the inefficiency or the out of date model of Western systems. That any economic competition with immigrants will produce conflicts from within the dominant White population has been ignored by the West. Reactions are now manifesting in the form of internal terrorism based on White Supremacist ideology. Anti-immigrant sentiments are everywhere (including in India) and has become a major source of political mobilization.
Assuming that not being a Muslim/ ME, means “innocence” has made the West significantly vulnerable. Thus the focus has been low attention on the White Terrorist who has grown as has Islamist terrorism and immigration. Both are reactive in nature but the White variety was overlooked and media has focused on the popular enemy- Muslims.
Migration benefitted colonizer economies once more but now also benefits the sender economies and they are often better skilled than the locals. They also have to work harder to survive. However, immigrants compete with the poor of the Western economy to enter the labour market who see the economic decline- lack of jobs- as being caused by migration. Hence immigration has become the great scapegoat to blame for the failing capacity of the western economy to keep a model based on cheap labour and high cost going. In this model immigrants are very useful but as is obvious, they come with problems.
Both Islamist/ME terrorism and White terrorism are reactive in nature
The number of White terrorists have risen more after the 2008 stock market crash in the West. The global economy began to change with the fading of the traditional Western domination. This trend won’t change as the factors that favoured the West’s economic domination no longer apply. Both skills and tools have shifted elsewhere including to the economy that matters most globally, China.
It also happens that China is a non-colonizer and a non-immigrant economy. Hence the threats that are problems for the West are not for China allowing it to expand without facing internal challenges. And of course it is a politically totalitarian country so the political shifts that occur in the West are also absent making West’s return to domination more difficult.
The hate against Muslims in the West by the poor White is like in all identity politics based on economic anxiety. Whoever threatens the economy of one community will cause anxiety and ultimately violent reaction. It’s easy to read them as “anti-Muslim” but that ethno-cultural marker is common in every society experiencing or fearing exclusion by ‘outsiders”. Just as immigrants turn to radicalism in some cases due to a sense of alienation, so do Whites fearing exclusion from their own country’s socio-economics.
Though, Muslim migrants are not even 2% of the total, they actually are not homogenous but come from all the countries which the West had colonized. Their common faith and distinct cultural makers gives an identity which is easy to demonize. And that is why White terrorism equates immigrants as Muslims and both as terrorists who are about to take over their economy. This is the core argument of the Replacement theory which the killer in Christchurch also referred to.
West’s decline and rise of multiple terrorism
The Soviet Union collapsed in the face of global economy and the internal inefficiency of a command economy. The West has not collapsed but is greatly reduced by the same forces. While SU’s socialist heritage allowed it to squash militancy better, it still goes on. The West’s great problem is immigration and exclusion of immigrants from the mainstream. Unless immigrants have a stake in the system, it can’t survive. But giving them a stake creates White terror.
It is caught in its own vicious circle which has the potential of greater expansion of reactive terrorism of both kinds than ever before. Lower class White’s resentment as they feel excluded from the job market means easy target seeking for revenge that is immigrants. Extreme wealth concentration by a tiny minority and weaker global competitive capacity of Western economies in face of the Chinese/BRI + push makes the West feel very insecure.
However, the big deaths haven’t occurred in the West but have been caused by their actions in the ME who are Muslims and potential immigrants and refugees. Since the capacity of threat management of the West is limited, military options will continue to play a role in resolving threat issues. The death figures from attacks by terrorism whether by Islamist or Whites though horrific are much smaller in number still compared to the death toll in Syria alone.
The song of death will go on.