Screen grab of the stabbing attack in Mannheim, Germany, May 31, 2024. (via X)

Islamists Keep Stabbing People. Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

Many in the West seem resigned to violence that once shocked us.

Last week, a 25-year-old Afghan man went on a stabbing spree in a marketplace in Mannheim, in southwestern Germany, killing a police officer and wounding five other people.

In a video of the attack, the man, whose name has not been released, can be seen repeatedly stabbing several people—including the police officer, in the back of his head and neck—until another police officer shoots the assailant.

All we know about the dead police officer is his name was Rouven L., and he was 29, and he was trying to stop an attack on Michael Stürzenberger, a well-known blogger who has been critical of Islam. (Stürzenberger was wounded, but not critically.) 

It took four days for anyone with a uniform or in office to say publicly what was obvious, which was that this had something to do with Islamism. 

“Islam belongs to Germany, but Islamism does not,” Justice Minister Marco Buschmann tweeted Tuesday. “It is a deadly form of fanaticism. There is now clear evidence of an Islamist motive for the crime in #Mannheim.”

This latest violence is part of a gathering storm of Islamist stabbings, riots, and violent demonstrations engulfing the West, with Europe at the center of the maelstrom. 

These include:

—The bishop and priest who were stabbed during services in a Sydney suburb in April. Their 16-year-old attacker, captured on livestream video, shouted: “Allahu Akbar.”

—The four people connected to “violent Islamist extremism” who were arrested in March in Stockholm.

—Mike Freer, a member of Parliament in the UK, who announced his resignation in late January lest he wind up dead. For years, Freer has worn a stab vest because of threats by Islamists. (Freer’s colleague, David Amess, was murdered in October 2021. His murderer, Ali Harbi Ali, had targeted government officials who backed air strikes against Bashar Assad’s Syria.)

—The murders and violent attacks in France and Belgium since the October 7 Hamas attack in Israel—including the Chechen who killed a teacher in Arras, France, in October; the Tunisian national who, a few days later, fatally shot two Swedes and wounded another in Brussels; and the Muslim man who killed a German tourist in Paris, in December.

—The mass stabbing in November 2023 at a party in Crépol, in southern France, which left a 16-year-old boy dead and two others seriously wounded. The assailants were a mob of Muslim teenagers, one of whom was reported to have said, “We’re here to kill whites.” 

—The two gay men in Sligo, Ireland, who were tortured and decapitated in April 2022 at the hands of a Muslim man who had immigrated as a child from Iraq. Officials and LGBTQ activists portrayed the murders as strictly homophobic, but there was an obvious religious-extremist element to it. The suspect, Yousef Palani, told police that homosexuality was “a sin” and that “you won’t find many Muslims gay and religious.”

—The mass shooting in Oslo in June 2022, which left two dead and 21 wounded. Police called it an “act of Islamist terrorism.”

—The five teenagers arrested in April of this year in Düsseldorf and Stuttgart, in Germany, on allegations of plotting an “Islamist-motivated terror attack.”

—The near-fatal stabbing of the novelist Salman Rushdie in upstate New York, in August 2022, at the hands of a radicalized New Jersey man whose parents had emigrated from Lebanon.

—And, of course, mounting fears about Islamist violence at the Olympic Summer Games in Paris next month. French authorities recently scaled back plans for the opening ceremony. “The main threat is Islamist terrorism,” one official said.

On top of all this, there has been an explosion of angry, unruly, often violent pro-Hamas demonstrations that have portrayed the butchering and raping of Jews as a kind of joyous liberation—from London to Amsterdam to Berlin

The last time Islamist violence swept Europe, from 2014 to 2017, when the Islamic State controlled much of Syria and Iraq and its adherents were pummeling France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Belgium, it felt like a much bigger story. It was more shocking, more outrageous.

Now, people seem resigned to the violence. They seem to grasp that this has become a permanent feature of Western society. That this is something we simply have to learn to live with.

There is a pattern to the way these things tend to unfold: first, most media outlets and senior elected officials urge everyone to withhold judgment before we jump to any conclusions about what has happened. Then—when we discover that Islamists are responsible—the focus of the conversation immediately shifts to the “far right,” the xenophobes, the angry, racist mob. 

The danger is not the people who did the killing, but the people who might be provoked by the killing—their specter of violence a bigger threat than the violence itself. 

Or the victims themselves are transformed into the instigators of the violence perpetrated against them: Wasn’t Michael Stürzenberger, the blogger who was stabbed in Mannheim, an “extremist”? Weren’t the 12 staffers of Charlie Hebdo who were murdered in their Paris office in 2015 racist? 

The reluctance to call the attackers what they are, or the jump to shift the blame for the attack to their victims, is how right-thinkers insert some cognitive space between themselves and those with unpopular opinions.

And so the right-thinkers let it pass, shrug it off, scroll to the next headline. Privately, perhaps in bed next to their spouses, they wonder: What are we going to do? 

Waking up to that battle—to say nothing of fighting it—will not be so easy. Europe has been in a kind of postwar stupor for nearly eight decades, and even today the people in charge seem to have trouble mustering a great deal of energy when it comes to defending their national interests or, more broadly, those of the West. 

Salwan Momika, an Iraqi refugee in Sweden who was raised as a Christian and has taken to burning Qurans in public, articulated the views of who knows how many when he tweeted Tuesday: “As an atheist, I must be realistic and believe that the West must return to its Christian roots so that it can fight the project of Islamizing the West.”

“Islam cannot be fought with liberal naivety or with democratic laws,” he went on, “because Islam does not believe in democracy, but exploits it to invade the West and Islamize the country.”

Is he right? Or can the West fight the Islamist threat without turning its back on the values, like democracy and liberalism, that made it the West?

Without that conversation, the far right—the real far right—will indeed step into the void. It will derail the whole liberal project. Members of the far-right party Alternative for Germany, for example, have entertained the mass deportation of Muslims, including German nationals. 

Right now, it is the second most popular party in the country.

Peter Savodnik is a writer and editor for The Free Press. Read his piece on Salman Rushdie’s new memoir: “Who Saved Salman Rushdie?” 

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