Loners, weirdos, misfits: The new face of terrorism

You do not need to espouse an ideology to execute a terrorist attack. It is enough to be a criminal

Dr. Halla Diyab
Dr. Halla Diyab
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The recent atrocities in Nice and Orlando have led to the realization that terrorism has a new face. The insistence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) that it is acting in the name of Islam suggests to many that the group’s war is one of theological ideology.

However, the profiles of the perpetrators in Nice and Orlando, who acted in the name of ISIS, demonstrate the criminal impulse of its followers rather than their devotion to Islam. To understand ISIS’s appeal, we need to understand the actions and profiles of its followers.

Nice’s Mohamed Lahaouaiej Bouhlel and Orlando’s Omar Mateen prove that you do not need to espouse an ideology to execute a terrorist attack. It is enough to be a criminal. Both massacres were executed by criminals who happened to be Muslims of Middle Eastern descent.

Their acts serve ISIS’s aim of being ubiquitous. In the age of social media, the group is garnering popularity worldwide, especially among loners, low achievers and misfits such as Bouhlel and Mateen. They find in the group a haven for restoring their self-esteem and sense of belonging.

You do not need to espouse an ideology to execute a terrorist attack. It is enough to be a criminal

Dr. Halla Diyab

Although they do not develop an ideological devotion to ISIS, they act on the animalistic impulse that is easily stimulated by its barbarism. It is enough to make them one of its soldiers - ideological and theological devotion is not necessary. This is restructuring the dynamic of modern jihadism and jihadist archetypes. Today’s terrorists are no longer anonymous actors serving an ideology, but humans with personal traits of love, stress, insanity, anger, loneliness and sexual preferences.

Al-Qaeda was personified by its late leader Osama bin Laden, the mysterious villain who we feared but did not expect to be our neighbor. However, ISIS jihadists are independent and visible individuals who orchestrate their own acts of terror and come up with unconventional methods, such as Bouhlel’s use of a truck. ISIS has invaded every aspect of our lives. Rising public fear following the massacres in Nice and Orlando is propelled by the idea that almost anyone among us could be a terrorist.

Dr. Halla Diyab is an award winning screen-writer, producer, broadcaster, a published author and an activist. She has a Ph.D. in English and American Studies from the University of Leicester. She carried out research in New Orleans, USA while working on her thesis “The Examination of Marginality and Minorities in the Drama and Film of Tennessee Wil-liams”. She holds an MA in Gender and Women Studies from the University of Warwick. She has written a number of scripts for TV dramas countering religious extremism and international terrorism resulting in her being awarded Best Syrian Drama Script Award 2010 and the Artists Achievement Award 2011. She is a regular commentator in the Brit-ish and international media and has recently appeared on Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight, BBC This Week, CNN, Sky News, Channel 5 News, ITV Central, Al Jazeera English, and BBC Radio 4, to name a few. She is a public speaker who spoke at the House of Commons, the Spectator Debate, Uniting for Peace and London’s Frontline Club. She has worked in Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Syria and is an expert on the Middle East and Islamic culture. As a highly successful drama writer, she has been dubbed ‘one of the most influential women in Syria’ in 2011. She also produces documentary films for UK and international channels. She is also the Founder & Director of Liberty Media Productions which focuses on cross-cultural issues between Britain and the Middle East. She can be found on Twitter: @drhalladiyab

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