Muftic: Jumping to conclusions in Toronto
On April 23, a 25-yea-old Canadian drove his van on the sidewalk for blocks in Toronto, killing ten and injuring many more. Immediately people around the Western world jumped to conclusions that this was another act of Islamic terrorism and the perpetrator had to be “one of those.” However, days after Toronto, Canadian officials have not yet found a motive or discovered an Islamist connection, but they have found evidence in social media that the van driver identified with cultist movements that hated women and had a troubled past.
There seems to be a knee jerk reaction to acts of mass killings to blame Islamic terrorists in all instances until proved otherwise by law enforcement officials. That is easily assumed when the techniques used by non-jihadists are the same used by those inspired and directed by radical clerics abroad. Non-Islamic mass killers have taken a page from handbook of Islamic terrorists and used the same techniques to kill many, from bomb making to using vehicles.
Like the Toronto attack, we have witnessed some horrendous acts inspired by radical terrorists from abroad: plowing a rental van into crowds of innocents, whether on the banks of London’s Parliament and lower Manhattan, or in a Christmas market in Berlin and a crowd celebrating a national holiday in France, among others.
It is little comfort to many that most acts of terror and mass killings in the United States have been perpetrated by those with domestic connections and non Islamist related motives.
In the United States, most mass shootings have been conducted with assault type weapons geared to kill many quickly , easy to use without much skill, and cheaply accessible. Gun rights proponents point to lack of mental health treatment as the cause. Gun control advocates want to ban assault rifles. Islamophobia has swept the political right wing, demanding Muslim immigration bans. Better mental health services and banning assault weapons have merit and are not by themselves the solution, but would certainly reduce the carnage. Religion based immigration bans are unconstitutional, but the Supreme Court is now deciding whether the greatly modified Trump administration immigration bans are still unconstitutional.
Even with all of these steps, terrorism and mass killings will not be completely wiped out because other forces are at work. One of the worst cases of U.S. domestic terrorism was committed by the Oklahoma City bombers who destroyed a federal building, killing 168 people. They seeking revenge against federal government’s handling of Waco and Ruby Ridge.
So what is causing this wave of terrorist like attacks by both wannabe Jihadists, by some on the far out political right, or by some that seem just to be unhinged? One element is demographics. White young males and Islamic motivated terrorists have something in common. They are mostly males of about the same age.
Citing evidence of the past ten years of terrorist and mass shooters in the United States, Business Insider found that these mass killers had some characteristics in common: “Men between 20 and 30 years old are overwhelmingly more likely to commit mass shootings, attacks, and acts of terrorism than any other gender or age group in the US, the evidence suggests. Psychiatrists and social scientists believe the trend can be explained by a mix of factors, including a lack of neurological development, the need for belonging, and an evolving trend of past attacks that make future ones seem less horrific to perpetrators, and perhaps even noble.”
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