Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel used a truck to attack a crowd that had been watching fireworks on Bastille Day. (Luca Bruno / AP)

The attack in Nice, France, on Thursday, which killed 84 people, was heartbreaking, but the West must respond with tranquility and calmness, according to Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept.

French President Francois Hollande was quick to describe it as a terror attack, and links to Islamic State have begun to crop up. But Hussain lays out his reasons for why governments and the media should not overreact:

[Islamic State’s] model for terrorism relies on the weaponization of individuals such as [Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, the Nice attacker]; the group calls on the young, angry, and purposeless around the world to lash out at those around them in its name. In this way, the power of desperate insurgents is magnified through a combination of social media and propaganda of the deed. An influential text used by the group, titled The Management of Savagery, prescribes terrorist attacks as a means of “inflam[ing] opposition,” to drag ordinary people into conflict whether “willing or unwilling, such that each individual will go to the side which he supports.”

In the West, deadly attacks in Paris, Brussels, Orlando, and elsewhere are bringing the Islamic State’s goal of a divided world closer to fruition. …

But from both a strategic and moral perspective, the worst thing that could be done in response to the horror of incidents like Nice would be to give [Islamic State] what it says it wants: polarization and communal hatred. Proposals for ethnic cleansing or “civilizational war” may satisfy a desire to project toughness, but in reality, they feed into the group’s narrative of a world irrevocably divided along religious lines.

While traveling recently through one of the Paris neighborhoods hit by terrorists in November, I asked residents what they felt about the Nice attack. Their response was sorrowful, but not aggressive. They expressed fear, not of Muslims, but of overreaction by the West. A sandwich shop owner named Celia in the 20th arrondissement—a block away from one of the November attacks—told me, “Terrorist attacks are inevitable, and there will be more. But we have to accept that reality. We cannot give away the freedoms and values we hold dear because we are scared.”

Cedric, a computer programmer and Paris native, expressed the same sentiments. Hussain’s analysis appears to be closely aligned to that of the Parisians I talked to. Their hope is that the reactions of Western governments will not be overly forceful.

—Posted by Donald Kaufman


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