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The perception of jihadist terrorism


On August 17, 2017 a terrorist entered the Ramblas of Barcelona driving a vehicle with the sole purpose of overwhelming all the people who were at his

On August 17, 2017, a terrorist entered the Ramblas of Barcelona driving a vehicle with the sole purpose of overwhelming all the people who were in his path. A few hours later, already at dawn, five other terrorists tried to emulate without success the same action in the town of Cambrils, although they would be able to mortally stab a woman before they were all killed.

The attacks in Catalonia, which marks the second anniversary today, are so far the last jihadist attack perpetrated by a terrorist cell on European soil . Since then, the West has suffered sporadically different terrorist actions of smaller size carried out by individuals who decide to take action, in the vast majority of cases, autonomously after being radicalized through the use of new technologies and by consuming the propaganda content disseminated in social networks and jihadist forums by members of terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State or people who sympathize with the radical approaches of their ideology.

The shadow of the jihadist threat that plans on Europe today is not at the same alert levels that occurred in 2015, 2016 and 2017, years in which an unprecedented wave of attacks was suffered with attacks committed on some of the most important European capitals such as Paris, London, Brussels or Berlin. However, this in no case means that the risk of suffering attacks has disappeared , given that the current conditions of the paradigm in which we find ourselves and the access to different tools, which facilitate and shorten in time both the processes of radicalization and the acquisition of all that is necessary to carry out an attack, allows to maintain a low profile to those terrorists willing to attack, thus managing to go unnoticed by the authorities. Even so, it is always necessary to recognize the work carried out by the security forces in counter-terrorism matters , who, despite these greater difficulties, frequently carry out operations that result in the arrest of suspected jihadists who have immediate plans to take action. Let us not forget that, without the work, effort and dedication that the different police forces put in, surely in both Spain and the rest of Europe the number of attacks suffered would be considerably higher than the current one .

The above is another example of the way in which jihadist terrorism is presented as a phenomenon in constant mutation and depending on the assiduity with which it materializes through the attacks ends up directly influencing the perception it has society about the threat it represents . In the West, this perception usually manifests itself in a biased and distorted way with respect to reality, given that it tends to focus the frame from a localized perspective that does not take into account that jihadism is a much more complex and global phenomenon that transcends beyond Our own borders. In fact, and although it may be surprising, Western society in statistical terms is the least affected by the violence exerted by jihadist organizations .

So far in 2019, three terrorist attacks inspired by jihadist ideology could be attributed in Europe, two in France and one in Norway. Among all of them there has been a victim, who appeared to be the accomplice of the prisoner radicalized in prison who tried to stab several officers at the Condé sur Sarthe prison in March in the west of the Gallic country. The other two actions were also carried out by individuals who proceeded on their own. The first one acted in mid-January in Oslo after stabbing a woman who was injured in a supermarket, while the second action was the work of a young man in Lyon - who said he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State after his arrest - who in In March, he threw a backpack containing a small explosive on a pedestrian street from a bicycle.

However, if we extend this Eurocentric approach worldwide, we observe that in the first half of 2019 there have been at least 757 jihadist attacks that have killed 5,199 people , according to the report we recently published in the International Observatory of Terrorism Studies (OIET). Moreover, the five countries in which the most victims have occurred so far this year - Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria, Iraq and Sri Lanka - account for 67% of the total number of deaths. With these data it could be interpreted as a contradiction and an oxymoron the perception that is had on the current situation in Iraq, where it is celebrated that at this point of the year the number of victims is three hundred, given that in the previous years the deceased are They counted in thousands.

On the other hand, and focusing attention in our country, a survey conducted by the Center for Sociological Research (CIS) in September 2017, just a few weeks after the attacks in Catalonia , concluded that for 15.6% of citizens , international terrorism was one of the three main concerns. A month later, this percentage was 3.7% and four months later, 1%. Similar figures to these last two were those that fluctuated in this same survey during the months prior to the attacks of Barcelona and Cambrils, when various high-lethal attacks in different European cities were already taking place two years ago.

These figures are as illustrative as they are useful in emphasizing the way in which world society perceives the threat posed by terrorism based on prisms and spacetime criteria that are as volatile as the dynamism itself with the that the jihadist phenomenon evolves. This reality is magnified even more in the case of Western society, where only those attacks that occur in our immediate surroundings are monopolized, ignoring that precisely in not a few Muslim-majority countries jihadist attacks are being committed daily that , with few exceptions - such as those attacks in which hundreds of victims occur, as well as others in which our tourist interests are affected or we feel culturally or religiously identified with the deceased - receive no attention from us.

It is essential that both specialists in the field and public opinion through the media make an effort to understand the international vision of the challenge presented by jihadist terrorism and know how to explain it adequately to all citizens, so that it Be able to understand the real dimension and know the phenomenon itself in a panoramic way. Only in this way will we ensure that the real threat posed by jihadism does not occur every time there is an attack inside our borders, and we will avoid the proliferation of Islamophobic speeches that are gaining so much weight in recent years. in a part of society.

Carlos Igualada Tolosa is director of the International Observatory for Terrorism Studies (OIET).

According to the criteria of The Trust Project

Know more

  • Europe
  • Islamic State
  • Catalonia
  • Iraq
  • Syria
  • Paris
  • Nigeria
  • London
  • France
  • Spain
  • Barcelona
  • Afghanistan
  • Attacks
  • Jihadism

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