Western mass hysteria: 'Everyone blaming everything on Islamic extremism'

© Eric Gaillard
Western Europe and the US are getting close to mass hysteria where the public is increasingly attributing tragic events to Islamic extremism or right-wing extremism, geopolitical analyst Patrick Henningsen told RT.

READ MORE: Ax-wielding Afghan teen attacks German railway passengers

A 17-year-old Afghan asylum seeker attacked railway passengers in the German city of Wurzburg on Monday night.  Many of them sustained injuries and psychological shock.

Bavaria's Interior Minister claimed a hand-drawn ISIS flag has been found in the room of the axe-wielding Afghan teen.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility saying the attacker was one of its fighters, according to IS-affiliated Amaq news agency, but the Bavarian interior minister said evidence indicates the teen could have been self-radicalized.

RT: The attack comes days after scores were killed by a so-called "ISIS-inspired" attack in the French city of Nice. What do you think about the ISIS connection to the German attack?

Patrick Henningsen:  There is sort of an inherent problem with the whole concept of an ‘ISIS-inspired’ event. And this has been unfortunately bandied about in the US media now for about a year or two as a kind of legitimate category of a terrorist attack to be inspired. Unfortunately, there was a very similar attack on a commuter train in Germany in May, involving a 27-year-old. And the initial reports were that he shouted ‘Allah Akbar’. And later the police investigated and found that that claim was not credible and there was no religious motive. That was weeks after the actual event. So, what happens is when this talking point of being inspired by religion or by ISIS makes it into the Bildt newspaper, for instance, and all of a sudden this hits the airwaves and everyone is saying it’s an ‘ISIS-inspired attack’, and then two weeks later we find out that it’s not.

This is the problem; it is very emotive and very politically charged. Any sort of mentally ill person can go on a rampage. And if the paper reports ‘Allah Akbar’ was said, all of a sudden it is an ISIS event. So, this is a serious problem now with news reporting in Europe and in the US and media just happy to fly off the handle immediately after anything like this happens, if anybody is involved of a nationality that happens to be from a Muslim country, for instance. Nice is in the same category, I am afraid. All the recent stories have come out there is very little that is Islamic about the truck driver in Nice aside from the fact that he is from Tunisia.

It is not necessary that a fighter needs to be part of the structure of the system of ISIS itself. It is enough if people self-radicalize and just respond to the calls of ISIS that are issued via the internet or other media, and which definitely reach those elements that are out there and then can attack always in a lone-wolf attack. This issue will contribute to division in [German] society and this is very critical because this is certainly a point which is going to be discussed more and more inside German society… - Dr. Rainer Rothfuss, geopolitical analyst and consultant

RT: Given the attacker was an Afghan immigrant, what are the chances that Germany and indeed other European countries may now push for stricter immigration laws?

PH: I don’t see that happening. Germany is very dug into the current policy that it has. And so are the rest of the European countries, including Great Britain. I don’t see any major change in policy. What I do see is a lot of political capital being extracted from anyone of these events: mostly on the right, but also on the left as well. This is the game that is being played in terms of the polarization of the conversation around this subject, around migration in Europe. It is very polarized politically and the right wing especially is capitalizing hugely on anyone of these events. This could have been someone high on drugs; this could have been someone mentally ill, which was the case in May, and nothing to do with ISIS at all.

If someone says, ‘Oh my God’ when they are stabbing somebody, they could be Christian, Muslim, whatever. It’s the same as ‘Allah Akbar.’ We’re getting into a really dangerous mass-hysteria environment right now in Western Europe and the US where everyone is attributing everything to Islamic extremism or right-wing extremism…

'Radicalization is one thing, people working for ISIS another'

RT: A hand-drawn Islamic State flag has been found in the room of the axe-wielding Afghan refugee. Moreover, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has said the attacker was one of its fighters, according to IS-affiliated Amaq news agency. So should we expect more violence to come?

Catherine Shakdam, political analyst: It is always a possibility especially now when things have become so violent and spiraling out of control. That being said, and without taking away from the gravity of the attack in Germany, I think that this claim by ISIS is a bit convenient. To immediately come out and claim the attack was theirs and they acted upon their orders. Because I think… ISIS is trying to really bank on this narrative of fear and instability that the influx of refugees has created. And they are really trying to play into the racist narrative, to be quite fair. [The situation needs to approached] very carefully and we need to be quite levelheaded as to where we point the finger until we establish guilt. Clearly, this young man was radicalized. Whether he was actually actively working for ISIS remains to be clearly determined.

The problem is that there is always this danger that because he was underage, because he was an asylum-seeker that people will try to automatically paints all refugees under the same brush. Children would be criminalized because we would assume that they are potential terrorists. And this actually a great danger… We need to understand that radicalization is one thing, and the fact that people are working for ISIS is another. There is a great degree of difference… We stand the risk of playing into the hands of ISIS by making them bigger and actually more effective than they truly are.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.