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The radicalisation of the Nice attacker

If the perpetrator of mass murder in Nice – Mohamed Lahouaiyej Bouhlel – really was radicalised in two weeks, then it shows how quickly so-called “lone actor” attackers can be activated.

As other reports have indicated, Bouhlel was not particularly religious. Though the fact that he knew little about Islam is not unusual among those radicalised by Daesh. Indeed, having a poor grasp of the Qur’an helps Daesh to land its ideology on vulnerable individuals. What Bouhlel had done was to soak up terrorist propaganda online that gave his desire to lash out a vicious rationale.

 How could somebody be turned into a terrorist so quickly?

His path to terror had other features that are all too familiar. Those who knew him were aware of his violent streak and strained relations with his wife and children. He had a record of petty criminality and alcohol abuse and possibly issues with his self-esteem and identity.

None of this is unique – in fact it follows a depressing pattern. But what is noteworthy is the sheer speed with which he seems to have transitioned from a troubled man to committed terrorist. Bouhlel’s uncle told the media that an Algerian recruiter for Daesh had indoctrinated his nephew within a fortnight.

How could somebody be turned into a terrorist so quickly? One answer is that Daesh offers a simple answer to those who feel deeply disaffected, alienated and hostile to their surroundings. It says – you may have lived badly but you can die well. It offers martyrdom as a false short cut to heaven on condition that as many other people are slain at the same time.

The greatest tribute […] is to work even harder to protect families

Clearly Daesh is not bothered if those killed by their radicalised killers are men, women or children and even if they are Muslim. Their attack on Nice brought terrible grief and heartache to the families of those slain. For all the pious talk, they will kill Muslims without a second thought. For all of us, this presents a massive danger in our communities. If individuals can be radicalised in such a short period of time, then we must be super-vigilant for the warning signs.

Our hearts go out to those in Nice, Istanbul, Baghdad and so many other places who have lost their lives or grieve for loved ones. The greatest tribute we can pay to those murdered all over the world by Daesh is to work even harder to protect families from the radicalisers. Over this summer holiday period, let us strive with renewed vigour to protect those we love.

If you are worried about a loved one, please get in touch.

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