Last Friday I noted that you don’t have to go back many months to get the latest mass-casualty terrorist atrocity in Europe these days. But even while people were still trying to find ways to portray the Nice truck driver as a victim of urban-planning laws we had the next attack.
Yesterday it was an ‘Afghan asylum seeker’ who went around a train in Germany with an axe shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. That’s the same ‘Allahu Akbar’ (or ‘Allah is greatest’) that the man who drove the truck into the crowds in Nice was shouting as he ploughed through the crowded streets. Like last week's Nice attacker, yesterday’s attacker in Germany also happened to be called Mohammed. Across Europe whole schools of sociology professors will now be being deployed to come up with any explanation for why people called Mohammed keep on shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ and killing everyone. With appropriate levels of funding they could well come up with the perfect way in which to miss the point by the middle of the 22nd century.
Then today in France (again) a mother and her daughters (aged 8, 12 and 14) were assailed near Montpelier by a man with a knife who appeared to be shouting something about them being too scantily dressed. It remains possible that this was a Mormon attacker or a highly outgoing Orthodox Jew. If so then I imagine we will all be very surprised. But if it turns out that the perpetrator is another person called Mohammed with some connection to the inventor of Islam then no one will be remotely surprised. And nor will the media or politicians want to spend much time dwelling on the fact.
It hardly needs to be said that the political repercussions of this are all dire. Yesterday at a memorial for the victims in Nice the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, was booed by the crowds of mourners. PM Valls has been unusually strong in his statements about Islamic terror, but like every one of his predecessors, he is limited in what he can do about it. Former Interior Minister and President Nicolas Sarkozy has tried to step into this vacuum, damning the present government for not doing enough, presumably in the hope that the French public will have forgotten how little Sarkozy himself achieved in office. Meanwhile a startling number of commentators continue to blame the French security services for last week, as though any country can sustain a state of emergency for this length of time and protect every single site in the country from any form of attack.
In my view we may well be in the middle of a great change in Europe. The publics of Europe – in France in particular – are becoming increasingly agitated about events which their politicians seem unable, where not unwilling, to control. In reality there is no way that any government can prevent anyone all of the time from committing an act of terror with a knife, axe or truck. But the problem is that politicians in France – and even more so in Germany – have been refusing to address these facts for too long and are often rightly held responsible for allowing this situation to emerge. It’s not as though nobody warned the French and German governments of the repercussions of allowing millions of people into their countries un-vetted. The problem is that everyone who warned about it was called a racist and told to shut up.
The publics are increasingly losing confidence in the ability of this political class to protect them. And so the politics which has been kept to the margins is becoming tolerable to the mainstream. I have said for over a decade that if mainstream politicians didn’t address this issue then they would leave it to Marine Le Pen. And so they have.
Update: As it turns out, the French authorities have now confirmed that the man involved in the Montpelier attack was also called Mohammed.