A man has driven a van into a group of Muslims in London, leaving one person dead and several more injured. His crime is a betrayal of European ideals, says DW’s Kersten Knipp.
The driver of the white delivery van that plowed into a group of Muslims just leaving their mosque Sunday night is clearly happy with his actions. "I’ve done my part," he reportedly said to a witness after getting out of the vehicle. His part: a cowardly attack on defenseless, peaceful people coming from prayer.
We may not know much about the perpetrator himself. But what we know for certain is that he has committed the most damaging kind of crime: an attack on members of a collective - on people distinguished solely by their identification with a group. In this case, Muslims. A hate crime, pure and simple; an unarticulated, and therefore deeply apolitical attack far below any civilized standards.
No better than 'Islamic State'
In other words, this was an act no different from the attacks carried out repeatedly in the past months and years by members of the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group. Their crimes are also of a cowardly, evil and cynical nature. IS is ruthless in its disregard for any ethical or political standards.
That's why terrorist acts like the one in London Sunday night are not just disastrous from an ethical standpoint; they are also disastrous for our civilization. People who do things like the attacker in his van are willing to sink to the same level as IS - the level of small-time crooks and failed lives; young men, driven by adrenaline, incapable of self-control or social productivity. The human reservoir feeding IS is filled with angry people all over the world - people with destructive, murderous instincts who feel legitimized by the terrorists peddling IS propaganda. Civilized Europe must not do the same.
What is Europe?
Yes, Europe is a continent with a bloody history. But it is also a continent of civility. A region that, despite all the bad mistakes for which it bears responsibility - the 2003 invasion of Iraq among them - always holds itself to account and seeks to learn from reflection and self-criticism. Europe has set a high bar for itself. Our ideals demand that we talk with each other, not fight each other, and never terrorize others based on outright hatred.
Is this too pretty a picture? Perhaps. But it undoubtedly remains the standard to which we aspire. It's not for nothing that Europe is, politically and civilly speaking, a magnet for people all over the world, as this year has once again shown.
And that is what makes the attack in London so abhorrent. It undermines our European standards.
Beating IS at their game
What's more, anyone who drives a vehicle into a group of Muslims is making themselves an agent of IS. The group's goal is to divide Muslims and non-Muslims - to make them hate each other. The twisted logic is that Muslims who feel rejected will turn to fundamentalism, maybe even jihad, furthering the spiral of violence.
There is only one acceptable reaction to the recent wave of hate crimes, and it lies in European intelligence and moderation. Anything else will be dealt with by the hard hand of the state.
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