By Rohit Srivastava
As United States struggles to elect its new President, who has traditionally been regarded as the leader of the free world, Europe has witnessed a series of attacks by Islamic terrorists. The current series started in reaction to the re-publication of cartoons of the Prophet of Islam by French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo in its September 2020 issue.
The first incident occurred on September 25, when an 18-year-old immigrant grievously injured two people near the magazine’s headquarters. This was followed by the beheading of a school teacher on October 16, by a young Chechen Muslim refugee.
On October 29, a man of Tunisian origin killed three people at a Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice. One of the victims was beheaded. Two days later, a Greek orthodox priest was shot in Lyon.
Throughout these attacks, the French President stood by the shocked people of France. His stand has infuriated Islamists across the world and they have called for boycott of French products.
The attacks moved beyond French borders and on Monday, November 2, a heavily armed man opened fire outside cafes and restaurants near a synagogue in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The 20-year-old assailant of Macedonian origin was a convicted terrorist who was released early from his 22-month sentence in April. Before being shot dead, he killed four and injured 22 persons.
A common factor in all these and other incidents over the past decade is that the assailants are not part of any terror group and always appear as lone wolves. This is not a mere coincidence, but a new strategy evolved in response to the US-and-Allies in Iraq and Afghanistan. Any armed group has a limited chance of survival against modern armies. The collateral damage is too much for any society to bear. This is why Afghanistan and Iraq favoured elections within a few years of the War on Terror (WOT).
Any Islamist armed group would require massive funding and sourcing of weapons and other resources which is not possible without State support. This was precisely the reason why Taliban and Al-Qaida survived in Afghanistan as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia provided the necessary support.
Today, thanks to the global resolve to curb terror funding, it is difficult to garner such enormous funding. Given the state of affairs, the global network through which Islamists across the world craft and implement global strategies, decided to use the Syrian crisis to push adolescents (without accompanying parents) from across the Muslim world into Europe. These young men are warriors of population jihad. Astonishingly, European leaders did not analyze the presence of huge numbers of adolescents among the refugees.
The current Islamist strategy is to spread their warriors across Europe and terrorise the populations into submission. They have created ghettos strategically. Sweden and Belgium are the best known victims of this strategy; recall the large-scale violence in Sweden in September.
As it is very difficult to procure or import weapons in Europe, the assailants use knives, rioting and vehicles as weapons. These are very effective and low cost option for terrorists and difficult for law enforcement agencies to detect in real time. Moreover, Islamists know that European society does not attack a community for an individual’s actions. They are thus free to continuously poison the minds of youngsters in madrasas, while enjoying the benefits of multi-culturalism.
Among the recent episodes, the attack on Vienna is historically most relevant. It revives memories of the time when the Ottoman Empire was expanding into Europe and had reached the gates of Vienna in 1529. The Holy Roman Empire and its allies fought Ottoman emperor Suleiman the Magnificent’s army between September 27 and October 15. Vienna survived the siege, and thus began the almost two century long military conflict between the Hapsburg and Ottoman Empire.
The Turks returned to the gates of Vienna in mid-1683. This time Europe fought back better and destroyed the army of over 1.5 lakh under the leadership of Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha Pasha on September 11/12.
Three centuries later, Al-Qaida targeted the most important city of the western world, New York, on September 11, 2001. In the 16th and 17th century, Habsburg Vienna was the foremost city of the western world.
In the battle to save Vienna, Polish King John III Sobiesky was the supreme commander of the Christian coalition. He led the greatest cavalry charge in history with around 18,000 horsemen with Polish winged Hussar, the best in Europe. The cavalry charge on the evening of September 11 is credited for the victory of the coalition. Pope Innocent XI bestowed upon him the title of ‘Defender of Faith’.
Another man who distinguished himself in this battle was Prince Eugene of Savoy who went on to lead the Habsburg army to victory against the Ottomans for four decades. He never lost a battle in his life; Napoleon considered him one of seven greatest commanders of all time. At the decisive Battle of Zenta which ended Ottoman dominance in Europe, Prince Eugene was central to European victory.
This was happening even as Western Europe was colonizing distant lands. The war in Catholic Central Europe helped Protestant England to expand its colonies across the world. It is pertinent that the Ottomans had close strategic relation with Britain since the days of Queen Elizabeth I who converted England to Protestantism and was under attack from Catholic nations like Spain and France. The relations between the two empires was also religious as Elizabeth told Murad III, the Ottoman emperor, that Protestantism and Islam are two sides of same coin.
It is no surprise that the British Empire created Sunni Islamic states like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The War on Terror launched by US and Allies did not target Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, the real propagators of Islamic terrorism, but secular Baathist Iraq, leading to the rise of ISIS which targeted secular Syria. Ultimately, the whole chain of events created circumstances favourable to the rise of Islamism in Turkey, which is fuelling Erdogan’s ambition of recreating an Ottoman caliphate.
The Syrian civil war is a struggle between seculars and Islamists, and the US and UK along with the European Union came out against secular Syrian President Bashar al-Asad. This is not a coincidence, but a long-held worldview. As events unfold, the people of Europe need to understand the long-term Islamist agenda.
As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan moves to create a modern Ottoman Empire, conflicts and violence in central Europe are critical for Turkish ambition. Eastern European demography favours Erdogan’s ambitions.
Europe needs another Eugene of Savoy, a brilliant strategic mind backed by State and society, to uphold its civilisational values of liberty and democracy, and above all, its homeland. The war is against an invisible but subtly organised set of individuals driven by a zeal to dominate lands that have long belonged to other faiths and cultures.
It is an unequal fight and calls for a clinical strategy based on collective understanding and resolve to fight to win. Will French President Emmanuel Macron be the Eugene of Savoy of this war? Going by his past, he seems an unlikely saviour, but Europe must stand behind him for its own survival and because he has taken the lead. This will give time, should Macron fail or fall, for someone else to take his place.