Although I’ve lived in Europe since 1998 and traveled widely on the continent ever since, I’d never set foot in Austria until November of two years ago, when I spent a few days in Vienna. I enjoyed the visit so much that I went back in September of last year. I’d hoped to make these visits an annual practice, but the pandemic got in the way.
Meanwhile, I found myself writing a great deal about the U.S. presidential campaign, which shifted my focus away from my longtime principal topic, Islam in Europe. Also contributing to this shift was the fact that terrorism in Europe went through something of a lull. Yes, there were those horrible beheadings in France, which I wrote about. But for the most part I was preoccupied with Trump vs. Biden.
Then, on Monday evening, in an effort to clear my mind of all thoughts about the election, I sat down with my partner to re-watch The Americans, the best drama series in the history of American television. While we were watching it, he said that something had happened in Vienna. I replied that he must have misunderstood: nothing in the entire series has ever had anything to do with Vienna. He said no, he was talking about the real world. I looked over to see that he’d been checking the news on his phone.
Vienna! Multiple shooters, it was reported, had opened fire at several locations in the city center. Latest reports from the BBC indicate that two men and two women were killed and twenty-two more wounded, most of them apparently shot outside of bars and restaurants.
One of the terrorists, a 20-year-old with dual North Macedonian and Austrian citizenship who carried a rifle, a pistol, and a machete, was shot dead by police; reports are that he was imprisoned in April of last year “after trying to get to war-torn Syria to join Islamic State (IS) jihadists,” but was given early release in December “under more lenient terms for young adults.” Home searches in Vienna led to the arrests of several suspects; two others were arrested in a nearby town. As of Tuesday afternoon, Vienna time, people were being urged to stay inside, and to keep children out of school, while the police hunt down other suspects; 90% of stores in downtown Vienna were closed.
In its report, the BBC noted that in recent years Austria had largely been spared the kind of terrorist acts that have taken place elsewhere in Western Europe. Let it be remembered, however, that it was in Vienna, 337 years, seven weeks, and four days ago, that the united forces of much of Christendom, under the command of Polish king Jan III Sobieski turned back the army of the Ottoman Empire, thereby effectively quashing an Islamic threat to Europe that has been revived only in the last few decades.
Eastern European leaders have long made clear their determination to stand up to Islam; in an October 2 speech, French President Emmanuel Macron, formerly wishy-washy on the topic, seemed to channel his own Jan Sobieski, issuing a ringing affirmation of French secularism and condemning decades of creeping Islamization in French institutions. And Austria’s own chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, is arguably tougher on the enemy within than any other head of state in Western Europe, closing foreign-funded mosques, deporting dangerous imams, and spearheading an initiative to uproot the influence of “political Islam” in Austria.
All very good, but not enough. If Western Europe is to survive, its leaders need to get on the same page – defending human freedom and civilization against a barbaric ideology of violent conquest and oppression. So do the Western European media, such as the Financial Times, which only hours after the attacks in Vienna posted a ridiculous article in which Brussels correspondent Mehreen Khan accused Macron of “stok[ing] moral panic about the ‘Muslim question,’” and the Guardian, which on November 1 ran a despicable column in which Simon Tisdall essentially blamed the recent beheadings in Paris and Nice on Macron’s October 2 speech.
What are the chances that Western Europe will straighten up and fly right? Well, consider this: yesterday afternoon, according to Reuters, police in seven European countries – the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Norway, and the Czech Republic – took part in “coordinated raids.” They searched 83 apartments and questioned 96 suspects. What were those suspects suspected of? Planning jihadist attacks? No. Of writing “hateful posts…online” about guess who.