On Thursday during annual Bastille Day celebrations, a horrific attack took place in Nice. While the death toll may rise, 84 people are known to have been killed and the number of wounded is in the hundreds.
No organization has come forward to claim the attacks, although contradictory claims are being made by leaders.
Earnest: "We're mindful of the risk that is posed by a so-called lone wolf." Doesn't necessarily have links to a terrorist organisation.— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) July 15, 2016
The suspect, a 31-year-old Tunisian-born Frenchman has been named as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, but police have not yet confirmed his identity. Bouhlel wasn’t on any terrorist watch lists, but he had a criminal history and was regularly in trouble with police. He was unknown to French terror organizations, investigators have noted.
Bouhlel had been arrested for assault with a weapon, domestic violence, threats, and robbery, according to The Telegraph. As recent as this past March, Bouhlel had been detained by police and appeared in criminal court for a road rage incident in which he battered another driver with a wooden pallet, The Guardian reported.
Bouhlel was a divorced father to three children and had become depressed over the breakdown of his marriage. His neighbors knew him as a “very weird loner” who was both anti-social and unfriendly. The police are currently questioning his ex-wife for details about his past and possible links to terrorism.
But, based on what we know so far, Bouhlel wasn’t radicalized by the Islamic State or other terror organization; he was a violent man with a criminal history of domestic abuse and outward acts of hostility.
Despite assumptions that Bouhlel could have jihadist affiliations, his ex-wife's cousin discredited those assertions in an exclusive interview with The Daily Mail.
"Bouhlel was not religious. He did not go to the mosque, he did not pray, he did not observe Ramadan," Walid Hamou told the news outlet. "He drank alcohol, ate pork and took drugs. This is all forbidden under Islam."
Hamou continued, "He was not a Muslim, he was a s***. He beat his wife, my cousin, he was a nasty piece of work."
Furthermore, reports have revealed that Muslims and Arabs were victims in the attack, suggesting that Bouhlel was indiscriminate in his carnage.
“There were so many Muslim people who were victims because I could see they had scarves over their head and some were speaking Arabic, one family lost a mother and in Arabic, they were saying she’s a martyr,” Maryam Violet, an Iranian journalist on vacation, told The Guardian.
Today’s terrorist attack in France is a horrific reminder of the threat facing Western civilization. This must end.— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) July 15, 2016
French police have urged caution with declaring Bouhlel’s murderous rage as an act of terror. A similar attack in 2011 in Dijon in which a man drove into pedestrians shouting the Takbir, was not an act of terrorism, but a man with a severe psychiatric disorder, The Guardian noted.
So you can live your whole life as irreligious drunk wife-beater, then shout 'Allahu Akbar' before you do a massacre, and Islam is to blame.— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) July 15, 2016
Time and time again, the sweeping generalizations made by right-wing media and politicians have a tendency to demonize entire groups of individuals because of the ill-founded actions of a few.
As the frequency of seemingly random mass murders in the West escalates, the media is having to reconcile for the disturbing nuances of the human psyche. It’s no longer acceptable to simply blame radical Islam because of an attacker’s Arabic name, as the French police have made clear.
As happened with the Orlando attack carried out by United States citizen Omar Mateen, the media, Donald Trump, and others immediately blamed Islam for his attack. Mateen, too, had a history of domestic violence.
.@cjwerleman We're seeing it again and again. Unstable lonely men using the ideology of ISIS, etc, as cover to vent their murderous rage— Miriam Cosic (@miriamcosic) July 15, 2016
This is not just the case with the out-of-touch assumption that all Muslims are radical Islamists who pledge allegiance to Daesh. In the U.S., we’ve seen it recently with right-wing politicians who automatically assume a link to Islam to describe any violent attack. The media and politicians rush to use religion as a basis for any hateful acts. This was even the case for Micah Johnson’s murder of five police officers in Dallas.
The French law enforcement should be commended for warning caution to the public to not assume Islam is the reason behind the acts carried out by Bouhlel. As investigators divulge more about Bouhlel’s past, we are learning that he was a psychologically disturbed man with a proclivity towards violence, not a radicalized Muslim.
Photo credit: Twitter, @cjwerleman