In the era of the ‘global’ Islamic terror threat, are we all living on the same planet?

For many of us now studying at UEA, and at universities across the UK, it would have been one of the defining and most memorable moments of our childhood; thousands of school children across the UK were sat at their desks as news spread, and panic started to grow for friends and relatives in the capital.

Four bombs were unleashed on London’s transport networks, killing 52, injuring hundreds and leaving thousands with psychological and emotional scars.

The recent ten-year anniversary and nationwide remembrance of the horror of 7/7 was made all the more poignant by the world events which preceded the commemoration. In the previous six months there have been at least three high profile attacks on Western nations in the name of Islam: in the days before Christmas, a lone gunman held 18 people hostage in a Sydney coffee shop, in January, 17 people were killed in Paris as Isis targeted French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and, most recently and most horrifically, on June 25th, 38 people, 30 of whom were Britons, were shot and killed on a Tunisian tourist beach as they enjoyed their summer break. This event was particularly resonant for me, as two of those killed were from my home town; seeing old school friends post heartfelt messages online in condolence of their neighbour or old family friend, for the first time, ensured that the danger felt very close to home.

Just days before Britain stopped to remember their dead, we were once again reminded as to the constant threat that we face by merely going about our daily activities. It seems that, despite more than a decade passing since the mass slaughters in New York, Madrid and London in the name of Islam, the threat of terror is still prominent and something that regularly occupies the conscience of the Western world.

A memorial following a terror attack by IS.
A memorial following a terror attack by IS. Photo: Wikimedia, Kashif Haque

All of these events were carried out by the so-called ‘Islamic State’ – a jihadi organisation opposed to Western values and culture, seeking to initiate Sharia based governance worldwide, whilst simultaneously eradicating any people or peoples that they deem to be in defiance of this ideology.

The growth of Isis over the previous 18 months has led many news organisations choose to adopt the term ‘world terror threat’. A fair declaration, one would assume, given the seeming geographically inescapable threat of gunmen, explosives and hostage situations.

However, recent statistics have caused me to question this now commonly utilised phrase. Whilst I would never deny the presence of a ‘terror threat’, the unnerving presence of armed police officers at every major air and rail terminal is enough to confirm such a thing; can its ‘global’ nature be questioned?

These statistics in question analysed the relative terror threat across the globe, from ‘low’ to ‘severe’.

The extreme severity exhibited by being at the top of the scale was concentrated on a very specific area: the West. One thing became clear: sure, there is a threat to the world, but that world is the Western World. Great Britain, France, Germany and the US were all considered to have a ‘severe’ threat of terror, as were countries such as Libya and Syria where Isis have their strongholds. However, if a person were to travel further east, through eastern Europe and eventually towards Asia the threat level begins to drop. ‘High’ through Italy and Greece, ‘elevated’ through Switzerland, Croatia and Poland… I could go on.

The comparable lack of threat in eastern European, Asian and central African countries in relation to that in the UK, the US and France was clear to see; the globe was divided into two: those who face jihadi threats and those who do not.

The relationships between these ‘severe’ countries are unsurprisingly and undeniably close. All are economically developed countries, most are members of the G20 (if not the G8), their leaders are often photographed together smiling and shaking hands underneath entangled flag poles. The ‘severe’ group are a close knit, socially and economically well regarded group of nations, but is this just adding to the problem?

Islamic terror is a defiance and a wish to eradicate difference, so on every unfortunate day when a terror strike hits, and the news channels and official Twitter pages are filled with messages of defiance, sympathy and support betwixt these nations, is this self sympathy and effort to distance themselves from Islamic extremism, and in some way, Islam itself, projected by Western nations onto themselves and their cultural neighbours encouraging the sense of difference that ultimately lies at the heart of terrorism?

There is no one way to deal with terrorism and I would of course never advocate the adoption of extremist values. But, maybe our attentions need to turn instead to the similarities that are shared between Western and Muslim nations because the more that we focus on difference, the more people forget the similarities, and Isis thrive on difference. After all, you can’t fight fire with fire.


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May 2022
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