Opinion: The normality of terrorism | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.05.2017
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Opinion: The normality of terrorism

For Europe, the period of grief following a terrorist attack has become routine. This may help to hide the feeling of helplessness, but DW's Felix Steiner asks whether politicians should do more to prevent such violence.

Once again, terrorism targets the center of a European city. Another attack on people - people just trying to have fun, people out for a good time. It was another suicide attack. And once again, the so-called "Islamic State" (IS) has claimed responsibility, even before the police made anything public.

The choice of venue to attack - the Manchester Arena - seems particularly horrible this time: a pop concert. This means that among the victims are many children and young people. Those who can remember their teenage years, or who have kids this age themselves, know how exciting these kinds of evenings are for young people. They know how happy and animated these kids are when they come home. And then to fall into the hands of such brutal murderer... there is no terrorist cause on the planet that could possibly justify such an act. How sick must the person be who consciously targets such victims?

Media experienced in shock

Dealing with terrorist attacks has become like a deja vu experience. All the news outlets carry the same headlines: "Chronology of terrorism," "What we know and what we don't know." Then there the meaningless and merely voyeuristic eye-witness reports: "People started screaming and then they ran away" - what else would they do? There are numerous reactions from the music world and politicians: They want to show their anguish but they just appear interchangeable - as if they are going through the motions. Since early morning, people have been taking to Twitter, for what its worth: Everyone's thoughts are with the victims. And all civilized nations are showing their solidarity with Britain. Whatever that actually means, on a day like today.

Steiner Felix Kommentarbild App

DW's Felix Steiner

It should also be mentioned that the Eiffel Tower in Paris will go dark on Tuesday night. It is, of course, a symbol of grief that will be shown on all news outlets the next morning. Just like the pictures of the British prime minister at the scene of the attack and of the memorial services in Manchester that will be held. All this shows that Europe, which has become a regular target for Islamic terrorists, has by now a well-established routine for dealing with such shock. These are rituals that serve to hide the fact that there is no easy or quick, effective answer in dealing with the struggle against terrorism. And that no such answer will be found either.

As if nothing happened

And by tomorrow, life in Europe will go on as if nothing ever happened. People will still attend concerts, go to shopping centers, soccer games or, in Germany, go to the Protestant Church Assembly. They might have an uneasy feeling - but they will still go. And this is because they have accepted the possibility of terrorism as normal. Right-wing extremists would see this as a sign of weakness and continue to rant about banning all Muslims from Europe. But everyone else sees this as a sign of strength and steadfastness, because people are not being intimidated or brought down by terrorism.

But still, there is more action that could be taken by politicians, there are other options: For example, by exercising tight controls over, and if necessary banning, all places of worship in which terrorists have been radicalized. These are actually all over Europe. Or, as pragmatically demonstrated on Sunday in Saudi Arabia by Donald Trump: He had a contract signed by over 50 heads of state - above all the King of Saudi Arabia - to prevent the direct, as well as indirect, financing of IS in their countries. It may be that this does little to prevent terrorist attacks in European cities - that remains to be seen. But it is definitely smarter than doing nothing, or stupidly bombing cities in Middle East in which, of course, civilians also live.

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