An injured woman is assisted after an incident on Westminster Bridge in London, Britain March 22, 2017. Photograph: (Reuters)
'Lone wolf' terrorists feed off each other
As a deadly terror attack strikes London, the world discovers how lone wolves can go on a rampage. The authorities, however, remain clueless about methods to avert such incidents.
On March 17, a suicide bomber in Dhaka blew up himself at a site demarcated for Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) headquarters.
Such attacks are often called "lone wolf" attacks. Serious questions are being raised as to how these attackers are drifting so radically away from their societies to indulge in such insane acts of terrorism.
The attack on a cafe in Dhaka on July 2016 is another classic instance of how young men from affluent backgrounds get drawn into the paths of radicalism. At least three were from privileged backgrounds and one had studied in the reputed Monash University of Malaysia.
To quote Anna Erelle from her non-fiction book "In the skin of a Jihadist", "Recent cases of young people moving to the Middle East have often involved solitary radicalisation."
Erelle has written from her experience of interviewing radical youth below 20 until she had begun interacting with a jihadist in Syria who had firmer compassion in what he believed he was doing.
It is important to note that from 1980s onwards, generations are growing up in close association with cyberspace. For the members of these generations, self-development is happening through interactions in the cyber world and not through socialisation with real people.
The father of the assassin Meer Saameh Mubasheer had a hard time believing how his son, who was afraid of driving even a car on the streets of Dhaka, could kill people at the Dhaka cafe. Mubasheer had disappeared in February 2016 and returned in an avatar his parents could hardly recognise.
His father claimed that Mubasheer was not even religiously driven. He had not read the Quran, so any reference to his transformation on the path of Islam is feeble and was based on the influence of vested quarters.
Last week, the Islamic State released a posthumous video by Neaz Morshed Raja, a Bangladeshi who died in Tikrit in 2015. He appeals to the people of Bangladesh to wage "lone wolf" attacks against the infidels.
Two days into the release of the video, a suicide bomber trespassed into the premise of a security agency in Dhaka to blow up himself. The Islamic State's Amaq news agency claimed the attack.
This incident brings to the forefront how lone wolf attacks are so difficult to prevent. While some extremists may share their views publicly, there are many introverts like Mubasheer who may not have been as vocal. However, traits of extremism have been noticed in all kinds of individuals, both extroverts and introverts as well as among socialites and loners.
Only a day before the Westminster attack, authorities in US and UK imposed restrictions on carrying electronic devices on flights from Middle Eastern countries.
Electronics ban on aircraft and blanket restrictions on Muslims are examples of ethnocentrism: a religious community is being targeted which is already suffering from a crisis. This is likely to give radicals all the more reason to spread extremist sentiments among youths and mobilise them. It is important to remember that Islamist militancy has not even spared Muslim-majority countries like Bangladesh.
While it is important to counter violent extremism, several global strategies of the United States and United Kingdom will be responsible for the course that extremism would take.
Isolating communities is certainly not an answer.