Ideology Connects Spain, Finland, Russia

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A Spanish police officer stands guard after the terror attack in Barcelona. (Photo: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)
Spanish police officers stand guard after the terror attack in Barcelona. (Photo: LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images)

When British Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for restrictions on hiring vans as a solution to the Barcelona terrorist attacks, he clearly thought he was helping.

After all, attacks have just killed 14 people in Spain, killed two people and injured eight in Turku in Finland, and wounded eight in Surgut, Siberia. The terrorists used vehicles and knives to carry out their attacks.

Surely it makes sense for states to take security measures that will protect their citizens such as restricting the sale of knives and access to vans?

“There are building companies, there are self-employed workers. Lots of people do need to hire a van at short notice, and I think a requirement to show identification and show what you want to use the vehicle for is fair enough,” Corbyn said. “It’s reasonable that sort of thing should be brought in to prevent use in crime.”

His approach, to restrict access to a particular item following an attack that used it as a weapon, will never be effective at curbing terrorism. There are a myriad of ways to kill people. If states restrict access to whichever improvised weapon after each attack, the lives of ordinary people will be curtailed while the terrorists will only find new methods of slaughter.

This approach will never be enough.

What connects the attacks in Barcelona, Turku and Surgut is the hateful jihadi ideology that seeks to use extreme and wanton violence against civilians to destabilize and ultimately take over the world. Jihadis want to implement a global Islamic Caliphate ruled by sharia as a system of law and want to kill anyone who disagrees with them.

Jihadism is a subset of Islamism, a broader political movement that seeks to establish states governed by sharia and take over the world. The difference is that jihadis are willing to use violence whereas Islamists seek the same end goal by non-violent means and are willing to work within existing power structures. Such Islamist groups include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir and Jamaat e-Islami.

Tackling the radicalizing processes by which individuals are drawn to join these movements is essential to stopping them. Exposing and deconstructing the ideology of Islamism is the only way these attacks will ever be stopped completely.

This has to happen on an international level, because the ideology of Islamism is an international ideology.

Security approaches taken by individual states are necessary to keep their citizens safe. However, on their own they will never be enough.


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Elliot Friedland

Elliot Friedland is a research fellow at Clarion Project.

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