People stand next to candles and flowers placed on the ground after a terror attack that killed 14 people and wounded over 120 in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez) Image Credit: AP

I think it’s time we stopped deluding ourselves. The frequency of terrorist attacks worldwide is increasing despite the best efforts of intelligence agencies and police forces which are virtually stymied faced with the killers’ new weapons of choice — trucks, vans and cars. Anyone can buy, rent or steal a vehicle; that needs no training or planning and the intentions of the driver cannot be detected.

Two months ago, the CIA warned Spanish authorities concerning a potential attack on Las Ramblas. However, without specific details the Catalan police were hamstrung short of closing the famous shopping area favoured by tourists. Even then, the murderers would surely have pinpointed a softer target.

Data provided by the Global Terrorism Database shows fatalities from such attacks in Western Europe have been on the rise since 2014 when there were just two. Over the past 20 months, hundreds of innocents have been killed or injured in London, Manchester, Stockholm, Paris, Nice, Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona and elsewhere.

Last year saw a 650 per cent increase of deaths from terrorism in the previous 12 months and since the beginning of this year there have been over 540 attacks across the globe.

The post-September 11 War on Terrorism was a mega failure, which if anything only served to generate a ‘them-and-us’ environment. After each major attack, government spokespersons utter the same platitudes. “They will not defeat us. They will not change our way of life.”

Such defiant statements may be of comfort to some, but the unpalatable truth is that they have changed our way of life. I still fondly recall the days when there were no CCTV cameras monitoring the streets, air travel was virtually hassle-free and people could gather together in iconic squares without fear of being mowed-down. That was before ‘Islamophobia’ and the phrase ‘flying while Muslim’ had entered common parlance.

We can analyse the reasons why so many young men professing to be Muslims are attracted to a culture of death. Do they feel marginalised by society? Are they in dire economic straits? Have they been brainwashed to hate by recruiters on social media? Perhaps in some cases they are politically-motivated, seeking revenge for unjust wars, criminally-inclined or simply mentally unhinged.

Ultimately attempting to understand the whys and wherefores is a fruitless exercise because the sick ideology they espouse, the very antithesis of Islam’s message, has taken root in large swathes of Europe, the Middle East, Africa and South-east Asia.

The foe that lives within these societies include nationals of the afflicted countries who’ve grown-up enjoying democracy’s benefits and opportunities like any other citizen. Several come from well-off families, hold university degrees, have good jobs or businesses, while others live in state-subsidised housing on welfare.

Yet they eschew loyalty to the countries that have nurtured them preferring to pay allegiance to groups operating on medieval principles holding to the conviction that anyone who does not share their beliefs is deserving of decapitation, drowning, burning, raping or enslaving.

One thing they all have in common is a disregard for human life and suffering and, as such, they have forfeited their right to be considered members of the human race, let alone adherents of Islam. What many people tend to forget is that more Muslims have been victims of terrorism than non-Muslims. The Global Terrorism Index tells us that the countries under the biggest threat are Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and India, but such incidents in non-western countries receive far less media coverage than those that take place in say, London, Paris or Berlin.

The dilemma for European governments is how to deal with fighters returning home from Syria and Iraq, many of whom fought alongside Daesh and the former Al Qaida affiliate Jabhat Fatah Al Sham. David Thomson, author of the book Les Revenants told AFP that “the problem is when they are questioned after their return they all say they were nurses.”

France and Spain locks them up and asks questions later. Returnees to Sweden complain they cannot get jobs. Denmark treats their injuries and assists them in finding work and accommodation. Britain has only prosecuted one in eight and has no reliable records on how many travelled back let alone how many lone wolves lie in wait preparing to bare their teeth.

Of course, there are measures governments can take to minimise the risks. But until authorities get that Muslims and non-Muslims are in the exact same boat instead of alienating Muslims with terms like “Islamic terrorism” that tars all believers with the bestial acts of death cults hiding under Islam’s umbrella, progress will be slow. The more Muslims are marginalised the more terrorist recruiters there are rubbing their hands.

— Linda S. Heard is an award-winning British political columnist and guest television commentator with a focus on the Middle East