In Magnanville last night, not two miles from my house, a man and his wife were killed in their home by a man with a knife. The murdered couple were police officers – one worked in a nearby town and one worked here in Mantes. The killer was a man from their neighborhood who had already served 6 months in prison for planning a terrorist attack. He ambushed the man as he came home from work, stabbed him, then broke into the house, killed the woman and took a 3-year-old boy hostage. He claimed allegiance to Isis. He posted on his Facebook page that he was in despair. He couldn’t get work, he failed his CAP (vocational qualification). He found solace in religion and was radicalized on the Internet by recruiters from Isis.
In the US, a man took people in a gay nightclub hostage. It turns out that the killer in Orlando was a regular at the bar where he killed 50 people. He too used religion as an excuse. He felt he was a failure, he turned to religion on the Internet, and was recruited by Isis. But though they were both turned into violent extremists, it’s worth looking at who they were, and why they were recruited so easily.
In Mantes, two people died. But if the killer in Mantes had been able to get an assault rifle, the carnage would have been equal to the Orlando killings. Mantes is a densely populated village, and he would have been able to do far more damage with a gun. As it is, armed with only a knife, he killed two people. I’m also going to state the obvious: from his remarks to friends and family, and from comments on Facebook, it seems that here was a young man who had failed at life and who had turned to religion for solace. He had no job. He failed an exam. He was made to feel worthless.
The killer in Orlando had a good job and had been married. On the surface, he wasn’t a failure. But it comes to light that he wasn’t what he seemed. He frequented the gay bar, and had done so for more than four years. “…He’d get really, really drunk… He couldn’t drink when he was at home—around his wife, or family. His father was really strict… He used to bitch about it,” a witness told the Canadian Press. So here was a guy who had to pretend to be someone he wasn’t because his father, a very strict religious nut (has to be said, I saw the interview with him) was keeping his son from expressing himself and being comfortable with who he was.
Here are two young men who went crazy and who killed people – and both used the excuse of radical Islam to justify their murders. Both felt like failures. The Frenchman because he couldn’t get a job and had failed his exams. Right now, in France, unemployment for youth is a huge problem, and if France is serious about dealing with radicalism, they would address the problem of unemployment. A good job goes a long way towards self-confidence and that people are less likely to run to extremist religion if they are feeling good about themselves. In the US, it was homophobia that made the shooter’s father create a monster. His son was gay – but he was made to feel like a failure and a monster, so he snapped. Unfortunately, he did so in a country where he could walk into a store and buy a machine gun.
Blaming Islam is wrong, but you can blame people who use Islam as an excuse for violence. You can blame Christian extremists for bombing abortion clinics and killing doctors, but you can’t say Christianity is bad. Point a finger at homophobia and a weak economy where youths are left behind and made to feel like failures. Our society, which worships wealth and success is to blame. The part of religion which is intolerant of others – no matter the religion – and makes people hate themselves and others is to blame. And the NRA, for joining with the gun manufacturers to form a demonic cabal that enables Americans to buy machine guns, is to blame. Senators and Congressmen who refuse to vote for gun control are to blame.
Right now, there is a lot of blame going around. I know many will be ranting against the NRA, Islam, Homophobia, extremism…but it will be more helpful to actually look at Why this happened, instead of How. In Europe, we have to address the problem of youth unemployment. We have to find a way to solve the problem in Syria, we have to stop trying to pretend that our actions in the Middle East have no repercussions. In the US we have to find a way to regulate gun sales. And all over the world we have to stop racism, address homophobia, and find a way to make religious extremism less appealing to the outcasts, to the frustrated, to the despairing. It’s also important to stress the fact that these people are mentally ill. The fact is, we don’t have the resources to find people with mental illness and help them. They needed professional help and could not get it. Instead of treating the problem with violence, we would do well to use empathy, because that is why they are turning to religion – they are confusing extremists who want to use them for their twisted means with acceptance. They are sick and cannot tell the difference. They are like drug addicts who have found opium.