Gavin Mortimer

The banalisation of Islamist terror bodes badly for the West

The banalisation of Islamist terror bodes badly for the West
Bertrand GUAY / AFP) (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty Images
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Another day, another Islamist murder in France — this time, a 49-year-old policewoman fatally stabbed in the neck by a Tunisian man screaming 'Allahu Akbar.' She was murdered in her own station, in Rambouillet, 25 miles south of Magnanville, where in 2016 an Islamist stabbed a husband and wife police couple to death in front of their three-year-old child. In the intervening years there have been numerous police officers killed by men of a similar ideology, to the point now where the brutal slaying of a female officer slips down the news pecking order after just one day. Such is the acceptance in France of Islamist terrorism. C'est la vie.

What’s striking, now, is the lack of outrage. The murder did not even lead the French television news. In this weekend's Sunday Times the lead item on France is about next month's 200th anniversary of the death of Napoleon Bonaparte. Apparently the fact Napoleon was linked to the slave trade is more significant than the murder of a woman by the follower of an ideology which, in Iraq five years ago, enslaved thousands of Yazidi women and slaughtered their menfolk

This normalisation of Islamic terrorism echoes the way much of the British media covered the deaths of British soldiers at the height of the Troubles in the 1980s. One solider shot dead was mentioned in passing; it required carnage — such as Hyde Park or Deal — to create headlines. An exception were the deaths of corporals Derek Wood and David Howes in March 1988 when they inadvertently drove into the funeral procession of an IRA member. The pair were dragged from their car, beaten, stripped and shot on a patch of waste ground. The photographs of the faces of their assailants made a lasting impression on my young mind. From where did such murderous hatred spring?

One might ask the same question of Jamel Gorchene, the 36-year-old delivery driver who committed Friday's atrocity. He had arrived in France in 2009 and six years later, after the Bataclan massacre, he changed his social media profile picture from a self-portrait to the French flag to express his solidarity with his adopted country. In 2019 he received a work permit but in the last year his social media posts had turned against France in support of Islamic extremism.

On Saturday Emmanuel Macron visited the relatives of the slain policewoman and let it be known that France will 'never give in to Islamist terrorism'. British politicians once thundered similar rhetoric but eventually they came to the negotiating table with the IRA, and in 1998 the two men jailed for life for the murders of Wood and Howes were released after serving nine years of a 25-year sentence as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Already an unofficial blasphemy law operates across much of the continent and those who challenge it — such as the French teacher Samuel Paty or the Yorkshire teacher in Batley — lose either their life or their livelihood. The Islamists think that the West is weak, frightened and divided. The lack of outrage over the recent atrocity will reinforce this impression. So the killings will continue as will the ideological assaults.

Written byGavin Mortimer

Gavin Mortimer is a writer and historian with a particular interest in world war two special forces. His next book, a biography of David and Bill Stirling, founders of the SAS, will be published by Constable later this year.

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