Attacks in London and Paris Can’t Be Ignored

The stabbing attacks of an English serviceman in London, and later, the stabbing of a French serviceman outside Paris are two very recent and publicized examples of religious extremism.

attacks-london-parisThe young men involved in these attacks were converts to a radical form of Islam, which they say was the motivation for their attacks. These were not large-scale attacks, yet they are troubling and captivating due to their intimacy.

Invasive Violence

The London attack is invasive on several levels. First, the immediacy of our contact with the attacker. We do not merely have a name and photo of the man in question; instead we have video of him speaking to us directly.

Moments after the stabbing in London, Michael Adebolajo spoke to people on the street, hands still bloodied, wanting to make his motivations known. Witnesses say he wanted people on the street to film him, to capture his message. We did not have to make assumptions about who this man was or what his motives were, he outlined them for us. There is no distance between the attacker and us.

Not long after this initial attack, a second occurred in France and is thought by authorities to be a copycat. This highlights the powerful nature of Michael Adebolajo and how his self-promotion via the media following the attack manifested itself in a second stabbing on a serviceman.

Safe Space?

Second, the location of this attack, on street level, invades our sense of safe space. This similar feeling of violation has been felt in other terrorist attacks. When public space, whether it be streets, the public square, transit are invaded and used as a platform for violence, people have their feelings of safety, comfort, and community tested greatly.

We perceive this space as monitored or secured in some way (however false that assumption may be). Attacks like this remind us that these public domains are volatile and potentially dangerous.

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Uncomfortable Questions

These attacks are invasive and show terror and violence acted out on individuals, by individuals, in a very personal and tangible way. It is events such as this that bring to light many uncomfortable moral and ideological questions; questions about justice and injustice, violence and nonviolence, and the definition of terror. These topics are muddy, but must be tackled and not ignored, however challenging the process.

Emma Sturgeon holds a Master’s in Religion and Modernity from Queen’s University, Kingston. She is a researcher, writer, and political analyst living in Toronto Canada. Read other articles by Emma.

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