The Islamic State has raised the bar.
On Tuesday, two terrorists killed an elderly Roman Catholic priest during morning mass in a quite suburb in Normandy, some 70 miles from the heavily guarded Paris. While France has seen a spate of deadly attacks in Paris and Nice, this is the first attack in a more rural area and has sparked fear that the jihadist movement is spreading. The perpetrators were not some mentally unstable, self-radicalized individuals, but militants with established links to ISIS.
After the recent terror assaults in France, Belgium, Germany and Turkey, Europe has come under attack at a time already filled with uncertainty for the European Union, both financially and politically. By targeting a church, SIS is hoping to fan the flames of a clash of civilizations, especially in the wake of losses the terror group has experienced on the ground. Depicting the recent wave of terror hitting Europe as a religious war would play directly into ISIS’ strategy. It would help expand its recruiting base among a marginalized Muslim population. It also would transform the stated goal of ISIS — the restoration of a caliphate — into a more credible goal.
A caliphate, or religious domination, does not represent a credible political, economic and social model. It is just the last spasms of a wrecked ideology resulting from the chaos in the Middle East.
Europe shouldn’t bait the hook.
The first testing ground will be Germany, recently hit by three episodes of violence that echoes some link to fundamentalist ideology.
Germany’s federal election next year will be crucial moment for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition. A recent poll by the German political magazine Cicero found that two thirds of German voters would oppose a fourth term for Merkel and found that the support for the chancellor’s party has fallen sharply.
This would open the door to the Alternative for Germany, the anti-immigration party and anti-establishment alternative. After last week’s shooting rampage in Munich — even after it was established that the attacker had no link to ISIS — a local leader of Alternative for Germany blamed “the Merkel-Unity party” for the terror in Germany and Europe.
Nationalistic parties rising to power in Europe would further divide and weaken the continent. And a weak Europe, without a clear foreign policy, unable to deal with the migrant crisis and unwilling to militarily engage the terrorists, is the only thing that can keep ISIS alive.
Roberto Capocelli is an intern in Newsday Opinion.