Acid Attack on American Tourists in France

Another disturbing new trend in Europe.

A woman described as having “deep psychological problems” is in police custody after allegedly spraying four American tourists with acid at the Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles station on Sunday morning. She was reported to have used a cleaning substance containing hydrochloric acid. 

 “Two American women aged 20 were hit in the face, while the other two were sprayed in the legs, and were mainly suffering from shock,’ said a source close to the case. “The two with facial injuries were taken to hospital, while the others were treated at the scene. They were also aged 20 or 21. The attacker wanted to show off photographs of her own injuries.”

The attack does not as yet appear to be terrorist-related, although a criminal investigation is underway. Islamic terrorists prefer to use bombs, vehicles, guns and knives to commit their massacres because they are more dramatic, resulting in multiple deaths. However, Islamic terrorists do use acid in some of their attacks. And when they do so, they display their customary brutality.

For example, in 2016, ISIS executed 25 people in Iraq, whom it accused of being spies, by lowering them in a vat of nitric acid. According to a source quoted by Iraqi News, “ISIS members tied each person with a rope and lowered him in the tub, which contains nitric acid, till the victims organs dissolve.” In 2015, an all-female ISIS “police” unit enforced ISIS’s Islamic code of behavior by pouring acid on 15 Iraqi women who had not properly covered themselves. 

Acid attacks have occurred with the most frequency in South Asia, including Pakistan where honor killings and acid attacks on females who dare to seek an education are all too common. While Pakistan has a law on the books criminalizing acid throwing, it is rarely enforced.

"The Qur'an directs men to beat women from whom they 'fear disobedience.' We have seen women who don't abide by Sharia restrictions disfigured with acid in Pakistan and elsewhere," according to Robert Spencer, the founder of the Jihad Watch website. 

However, as the attack on the American tourists in France illustrates, acid attacks are not confined to the developing world. And the perpetrators of acid attacks have varied motivations. The United Kingdom in particular has seen a surge of acid attacks in recent years. While worldwide 80% of attacks are on women, in the United Kingdom males are more often the victims of acid attacks by other men. Many of these attacks have been found to be gang-related.

According to a report in the Sun, “Criminologists believe gang members may be swapping guns and knives for acid as a weapon of choice as possession is hard to police and because of the lasting impact attacks have on their victims.” The law also appears to be more lenient in punishing attackers using acid as opposed to other weapons of choice such as knives. Rather than being charged with attempted murder, attackers using acid in the United Kingdom have been charged with the lesser crime of “Gross Bodily Harm.” 

According to the Acid Survivors’ Trust International (ASTI) website, there has been a 90 percent increase in acid violence in the United Kingdom over the last 10 years. In London, the number of reported cases of acid attacks rose from less than 200 in 2014 to 431 in 2016. To understand what may be contributing to this sharp increase, it is important to know where in London many of the attacks have taken place, as they are not evenly distributed throughout the city. The East London borough of Newham has experienced the majority of attacks - three times more attacks than the next highest borough.

Newham is poverty-stricken according to various indicators such as unemployment, homelessness and overcrowding, although it ranks relatively high amongst London’s boroughs in terms of quality of education. 

Before one points to poverty as the reason for acid attacks, however, consider the borough of Hackney, which is also one of the more poverty-stricken boroughs of London. Compared to Newham’s 398 acid attacks from 2011 to 2016, Hackney experienced 45.  

Another reason for Newham’s high number of acid attacks is likely the fact that Newham is a walking example of the apparent failure to assimilate its rising immigrant population from the very areas where acid attacks have been common for some time, particularly South Asia. The largest group of Pakistani-born people residing in London are located in Newham.

Newham’s population is 40.8 percent Muslim, rising from approximately 25 percent in 2001. Hackney’s population is 14.1 percent Muslim. English is the main language spoken in Hackney by 75.9 percent of the population. In Newham, there are over 100 languages spoken, with English being the main language spoken by just under 60 percent of its population. Nearly 10 percent were reported, based on 2011 census data, as not having been able to speak English at all. Among primary students in Newham, English was the first language for only 25 percent, as compared to 45 percent for Hackney’s primary students. Among secondary students, English was the first language for 33 percent, as compared to 54 percent for Hackney's secondary students. In short, assimilation does not appear to have been taking hold in Newham to the degree that it has in Hackney, a borough with similar poverty conditions but experiencing far less acid attacks. 

Of course, not every acid attack occurring in the United Kingdom or elsewhere in Europe can be attributed to the rise in immigration from parts of the world where acid attacks historically have been more common, or to the failure of multiculturalism. The woman accused of spraying acid on the American tourists at the Gare de Marseille-Saint-Charles may turn out to have been driven solely by her own internal demons. Her attack may have been random or revenge for some perceived slight. 

However, at the same time, not every acid attack is an isolated event that can be treated as an unfortunate incident for which the particular perpetrator should be punished, but then soon forgotten.  There is a disturbing trend that needs further analysis and corrective action, demonstrated by the London borough of Newham. It is no coincidence that this borough has experienced the city’s highest number of acid attacks in recent years, while also experiencing a change in the composition of its population driven by immigration and a failure to assimilate people from countries where acid attacks are culturally ingrained.

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