The third wave of bloodshed in France is not really about Islam but lone wolf criminality

Rashmee Roshan Lall
2 min readOct 30, 2020

Three years after 9/11 came the Madrid train bombings and in 2005, there were the London bombings. All of these can arguably be described as the first wave of bloodshed in the West in the name of Islam.

The second wave was the slew of attacks from 2015 to 2017. Take a look at the Wikipedia table above. It’s pretty comprehensive.

Now, France (and Germany) have the third wave. So far, it has run as follows (the earliest incident is at the top):

** the beheading of civics teacher Samuel Paty in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, near Paris.

** the murder of a gay man in Dresden by a failed asylum seeker and ISIS supporter

** a deadly knife assault in a Nice church, the Notre-Dame Basilica, where the assailant killed two women and a man and wounded several people.

Confronted with such a dreadful spiral of bloodshed, how should the authorities in France and elsewhere react?

Not quite as they have been doing.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron is making the Nice incident all about Islam. “Our country suffered an Islamist terrorist attack,” he said.

Meanwhile, Turkey and Pakistan have rather pointedly objected to Mr Macron’s objections to the apparent reason for Paty’s decapitation. To paraphrase Mr Macron, it’s just not good enough to be angered by the sight of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.

Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov promptly accused Mr Macron and France as a whole of Islamophobia.

So how to make sense of the tangle?

Are these violent attacks in France and Germany about Islam, the religion, per se? Or might they more accurately be described as the actions of people who have a perverted view of both Islam and the individual’s role in upholding what they perceive to be core tenets of the faith? It bears repeating that there is nothing within Islam that takes a hostile view of representation and there is certainly nothing that encourages violence in response to representation.

Second, the intemperate words of various Muslim leaders. These are ill-judged. A criminal act committed by people of Muslim faith is a crime no matter their religion.

Third and last, Mr Macron’s insistence on labelling criminal acts as Islamist terrorism.

These were crimes. The religious persuasion of the perpetrators is less important than the fact a crime was committed.

After 9/11, President George W. Bush launched a war on terror when he should prosecuted a crime. Nearly two decades on, have we learnt nothing from those dreadful errors of judgement?

Originally published at on October 30, 2020.

Rashmee Roshan Lall

PhD. Journalism by trade & inclination. Writer. My novel 'Pomegranate Peace' is about my year in Afghanistan. I teach journalism at university in London