Europe has experienced three terror attacks in recent times. Sixteen people were killed and more than 100 were seriously injured in two attacks in Spain and one in Finland.

In the past, terrorists used bombs and firearms to launch attacks in Europe and other parts of the globe. Now, they are using cars (especially trucks) and sharp weapons, like knife, to harm innocent civilians. They have killed around 450 people in Europe since changing their tactics in 2015. But, the main questions are: why is this happening and who are these terrorists?

Michel Houellebecq, one of the most powerful contemporary French writers, penned a novel in 2015. His ‘Soumission’ (or Submission) is basically a political fiction in which Houellebecq describes how the Islamic fundamentalism has defeated the secular republican culture of France. In this novel, the author predicts that a hardline fundamentalist will soon become the ruler of France with the help of centrist, moderate and socialist parties. And gradually, the French Taliban will take control of every organisation in the country.

According to critics, the novel tries to instigate the ultra-nationalism (or racism) in order to tackle the religious fundamentalism. They argue that the existence of ultra-nationalism depends on the imaginary fear of ‘surrender’ (or submission) to immigrants.

A counter-narrative can be ‘La Haine’, a 1991 film directed by French director, screenwriter, producer, editor and actor Mathieu Kassovitz. The film depicts approximately 19 consecutive hours of lives of three friends from immigrant families in the aftermath of a riot. All of them are in their early twenties and live in an impoverished multi-ethnic French housing project in the suburbs of Paris. In this film, the armed forces become the only link between those young men and the mainstream French society. Kassovitz has sent a strong message to the society through this movie and the message is: “hatred breeds hatred”.

In fact, the condition of young people (mainly immigrants) in Western European countries is pathetic. They have no jobs, no money, no recreation. Their situation encourages them to become criminals. And when these young people become criminals, religious fathers try to motivate them to do something against the society (which has already “rejected” them). Suddenly, they become hardliners, change their food habits and leave their countries for Iraq or Syria. Even if some of them return to their homelands, they definitely have other intentions.

In 1968, youths (read anarchists) in France tried to overcome their frustration by enjoying (free) sexual life. However, the aggressive young jihadists, motivated by hardline Islamic thoughts, behave in a different way. Usually, they have no interest in sexual pleasure or in physical relations. Through this self-deprivation, they try to find remedy for their social deprivation and it reflects in their aggressive body language. Jihadists feel an urge to prove themselves in order to get rid of their lost dignity. So, they try to punish the society that rejected them in the past. For them, the only way to punish the society is to kill its members.

However, Islam doesn’t always mean militancy. There is a difference between ‘peace-loving’ Islamism and ‘militant’ Islamism. Social scientists believe that some ‘hardline’ sub-sections in Islam have played an important role in the resurrection of ‘militant’ Islamism across the globe in recent times.

From the 50s to the 70s of the last century (considered as the golden era of economic development), labourers used to stay in slums in major European cities. As a result, various socialist groups set up their bases in those slums. Religious fundamentalism tried to fill that vacuum only after the collapse of socialist movements in Europe.

This ‘anti-West’ Islamist doctrine is all about returning to the ancient roots of religion, as it encourages the establishment of the Caliphate. We can experience the practical application of this doctrine in Syria. It means religion is no longer a matter of mere practice, but it prescribes an all-round political programme for a particular religious community.

Countries, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, back this theoretical implementation of militant Islamism and also its expansion. Unfortunately, the Western countries maintain ‘close’ ties with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, thus, encouraging them to create trouble in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the world. Many social scientists opine that the Western countries’ poor diplomatic decisions are responsible for the rise of militant Islamism.

After the attack at the office of French satirical weekly ‘Charlie Hebdo’ in January 2015, then French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared a war against Islamic terrorism and hate, saying: “We are at war – not a war against a religion, not a war against a civilisation, but to defend our values, which are universal.” Spain’s Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, too, called the August 17 incident at the renowned Las Ramblas Avenue – a popular tourist section of Barcelona – an act of “jihadi terrorism”. Just a couple of hours after a van ploughed through crowds in Barcelona, the Spanish premier said: “Today the fight against terrorism is the principal priority for free and open societies like ours. It is a global threat and the response has to be global.” He also said that Spaniards “are not just united in mourning, but especially in the firm determination to beat those who want to rob us of our values and our way of life”.

Rajoy was right. But, the point is: whether we can get rid of terrorism only by declaring war against the global menace or by sending terrorists to jail. The European countries will have to reshape their policies towards West Asia (or Middle East) immediately, if they really want to ensure peace and stability in the continent.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog – Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]