The attacks in London and Manchester which killed 29 people might have been a “desperate last throw of the dice” by extremist groups losing ground against counter-terrorism operations and frustrated at their failure to bring about change in the Middle East, a security expert in Yorkshire has said.
Dr Lars Berger warned that the so-called Islamic state was reaching out to disenfranchised young men “to take the fight into their own hands” by embarking on suicide missions in the mistaken belief that they were representatives on Islam.
He said it was up to Muslim communities to target such beliefs and to teach that “it’s not cool to be a radical Islamist”.
He told The Yorkshire Post: “It is a sign of weakness. What we are seeing is not the radicalisation of Islam - it’s the Islamisation of radicalism.”
Dr Berger, an associate professor in international security at Leeds University, said the British government should look into the role Saudi Arabia had played in “promoting radical Islamism by financing certain mosques and organisations promoting a very narrow interpretation of the faith”.
He also said young people were using Islamism to justify their own failure in life.
“It’s a desperate attempt to make sense of their own sense of failure. We are seeing the coming together of two failures - the failure of IS to bring about political change in the Middle East and the failure of these individuals to live the lives they wanted,” he said.
Dr Berger, a German national, said today’s terrorism echoed that of Al-Qaeda.
“They realised that they did not have the capacity any more to launch more sophisticated attacks like 9/11 or 7/7,” he said. “Instead, they called on supporters to attack the so-called infidels by any means possible. They put out general calls in the hope that one person responded.
“We now see a move away from the more sophisticated attacks of the past to a situation where people with very limited tools know that because of the ease of access to targets, they can easily generate a response.
“We are not sure to what extent Isis is directly involved. We have to be careful in assuming this is a part of a strategic order or top-down approach from Isis.”
Dr Berger also said the acts of “suicidal rage” in London and Manchester were likely to have been perpetrated by “frustrated young people trying to make sense of their lives”.
He said: “These are people who are, for whatever reason, deeply unhappy with their lives and see a chance to inject meaning into their lives.
“There is some rationality in that if you start believing in this radically distorted version of Islam. If you engage in suicide in this way, at the hands of the police, then you inject greater meaning into your rage.
“This is what needs to be discouraged and it has to come from within the Muslim communities.”
Dr Berger said events in the United States - especially President Trump’s proposed travel ban to Muslim majority countries, were counter-productive because they fuelled fears that the west was “out to get at Muslims”.
He said: “Radical Islam feeds on the notion that there is a war between Islam and the world, which is easily discredited.”