The Guardian view on the Vienna attack: refusing division

The Guardian-2 months before

Monday’s attack took place in the last few hours before Austria reentered lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19. Police shot dead a gunman, but are still determining whether he acted alone or with others. They have identified the 20-year-old man as a citizen of both North Macedonia and Austria, who had been released early from pr...son after his conviction for membership of Islamic State.

took place released early from prison Inevitably, questions will follow about the actions of security services in this case, and the issue of handling significant numbers of extremists. But broader questions must also be considered. Killings in one country have often been followed by attacks in another. Jihadist groups have seized upon Mr Paty’s killing and the row over the cartoons more generally to incite hatred and violence. While many leaders abroad have condemned the terrorist attacks in Europe, rhetoric from some in the wake of Mr Paty’s murder has dangerously fostered the perception that Islam itself is under attack. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has claimed that Muslims are “now subjected to a lynching campaign similar to that against Jews in Europe before the second world war”. Imran Khan, Pakistan’s prime minister, accused the French president, Emmanuel Macron, of “attacking Islam”. (Both men have been strikingly silent about China’s treatment of Muslim Uighurs, around a million of whom have been held in detention camps in Xinjiang.)

has claimed accused Austria’s chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, has vowed to give no room to hatred, warning that Islamist terror sought to split society. His stress that the country’s enemies were terrorists, not the members of a religious community, was welcome: “This is not a fight between Christians and Muslims, or Austrians and migrants, but a fight between civilisation and barbarity,” he said. Monday’s attack on Kabul University, in which 22 students were slain and as many wounded by Isis-affiliated gunmen – the second killing of Afghan students in less than a fortnight – is a potent reminder that most victims of Islamist terrorism worldwide are Muslims.

attack on Kabul University Maintaining the distinction in public discourse will be crucial. Mr Kurz has previously pursued hardline anti-immigrant policies, and this year extended a ban on religious head coverings in schools, which applies to the hijab but not to Jewish or Sikh headgear. As in France, where Marine Le Pen of National Rally has seized upon the attacks ahead of the 2022 presidential election, there is real concern that a necessary stand against extremism and violence could degenerate into Islamophobia and collective punishment. Soon after the Nice attacks, police in Avignon shot dead an armed man, reportedly a far-right extremist, who had assaulted another man. In the UK last year, police warned that the fastest-growing terror threat was from the far right.

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