By Dr. Halla Diyab
19 July 2016
The recent atrocities in Nice and Orlando have led to the realization that terrorism has a new face. The insistence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that it is acting in the name of Islam suggests to many that the group’s war is one of theological ideology.
However, the profiles of the perpetrators in Nice and Orlando, who acted in the name of ISIS, demonstrate the criminal impulse of its followers rather than their devotion to Islam. To understand ISIS’s appeal, we need to understand the actions and profiles of its followers.
Nice’s Mohamed Lahaouaiej Bouhlel and Orlando’s Omar Mateen prove that you do not need to espouse an ideology to execute a terrorist attack. It is enough to be a criminal. Both massacres were executed by criminals who happened to be Muslims of Middle Eastern descent.
Their acts serve ISIS’s aim of being ubiquitous. In the age of social media, the group is garnering popularity worldwide, especially among loners, low achievers and misfits such as Bouhlel and Mateen. They find in the group a haven for restoring their self-esteem and sense of belonging.
You do not need to espouse an ideology to execute a terrorist attack. It is enough to be a criminal
Although they do not develop an ideological devotion to ISIS, they act on the animalistic impulse that is easily stimulated by its barbarism. It is enough to make them one of its soldiers – ideological and theological devotion is not necessary. This is restructuring the dynamic of modern jihadism and jihadist archetypes. Today’s terrorists are no longer anonymous actors serving an ideology, but humans with personal traits of love, stress, insanity, anger, loneliness and sexual preferences.
Al-Qaeda was personified by its late leader Osama bin Laden, the mysterious villain who we feared but did not expect to be our neighbour. However, ISIS jihadists are independent and visible individuals who orchestrate their own acts of terror and come up with unconventional methods, such as Bouhlel’s use of a truck. ISIS has invaded every aspect of our lives. Rising public fear following the massacres in Nice and Orlando is propelled by the idea that almost anyone among us could be a terrorist.