Two European cities, two terror attacks.
In Finland, 18-year-old Moroccan Abderrahman Mechkah is suspected of stabbing two women to death and injuring eight others in the southwestern city of Turku on Aug. 18. Mechkah is believed to have been specifically targeting women but also ended up wounding the men who tried to defend them. In Spain, the manhunt for the driver of a van which rammed into pedestrians in Barcelona on Aug. 17, killing 14 people and wounding more than a 100 others, ended with Spanish authorities shooting and killing 22-year-old Moroccan national Younes Abouyaaqoub. The suspect had been sought throughout Europe, amid fears he might have escaped across Spain's border with France.
The manhunt echoed another haunting episode in Europe, namely, the one in search for the terrorists behind the November 2015 attacks in Paris, when some of the perpetrators subsequently drove to Belgium. How did the Barcelona attacker flee the crime scene — a tourist area — on foot? How was he able to slip through authorities' fingers with such apparent ease? These questions have nothing but painful answers.
This debate could have started at least two-and-a-half years ago.
The first, and obvious, response is to reinstate functioning border controls not only inside Europe but also on its exterior boundaries. This has become all the more pressing as thousands of jihadists, who had left Europe for Syria and Iraq, are now returning to the Old Continent, as reported by journalist Jean Chichizola for the French newspaper Le Figaro. But this, by itself, won't suffice.
We also desperately need to have a calm, honest and open debate about immigration and the Islamist ideology that drives terrorists. After each attack, we are told that this has nothing to do with Islam, and we're chided not to paint these portrayals with a broad brush. Yet, the fact of the matter is, the perpetrators of terror attacks — from 9/11 and the Charlie Hebdo shootings to last week's massacres — share a religion, or at least one interpretation of it. This debate could have started at least two-and-a-half years ago, when the current wave of terrorism first hit Europe. Instead, it was deemed easier to avoid it. The result is there for all to see: Attacks have grown even as assailants use cars and kitchen tools like knives to wreak widespread havoc. Statistics released days ago in France show that the number of "radicalized Muslims' has increased by 60% over the past two years.
Vigils, keeping monuments lit up at night, #prayfor hashtags and official statements to "stand in solidarity," are all a reassuring and necessary display of respect to the victims of the war being waged against us. But another way of honoring their memory would be to ensure that they didn't die for nothing, that their names aren't just the latest in a long list that will continue to grow unremittingly while our political leaders endlessly copy-paste the same message about love and tolerance. As morally rewarding as it may be to strike that pose, it looks like weakness to our enemies and it only serves to embolden them.