There is no doubt that the radicalisation of a few individuals who mistakenly invoke Islam for their crimes is a cause for concern. But Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly's actions in Sweden should be taken as what they were: an aberration.
Suicide attack in Sweden should be seen as an aberration
When Taimour Abdulwahab al Abdaly stalked out of the Luton Islamic centre several years ago after a heated debate, few imagined that his indignation would turn deadly. There is no reason anybody should have.
The 28-year-old's failed suicide attack on holiday shoppers in Stockholm on Saturday was a shock not only to Swedes, but to the British Muslim community that he had once been a part of. "He had a very bubbly character and he was concerned about people," said Qadeer Baksh, the chairman of Islamic centre in Luton, 50 kilometres north of London. "Nothing pointed to the fact that he was going to do something stupid."
Stupid would be an understatement. Last week's attack was shocking, upsetting and a first for Sweden, whose open society is only the latest to be forced to come to grips with terrorism.
Repercussions will surely reverberate beyond the country's borders and even beyond Europe, which has dealt with too many terrorist attacks this past decade. The British town of Luton, in fact, had already been tied to terrorism as London's 7/7 bombers in 2005 began their journey from its train station.
More worrisome, however, is the impact that the fallout may have on Europe's Muslims. With Islamophobia rising in the UK, Denmark, France and other nations affected by immigration, there is the danger of a backlash as another "terrorist on the continent" makes headlines.
We hope that the generally liberal Swedish society offers a tolerant alternative. As a country with open asylum policies, Sweden has welcomed a large number of Muslims into its community in the past two decades. With around 80,000 Iraqis now calling the country home, al Abdaly is an isolated case who does not reflect the larger community.
But his extremist ideas sound like those espoused by other young jihadists radicalised by al Qa'eda-linked ideology. In a taped message sent to authorities before he blew himself up, al Abdaly cursed Sweden for its presence in Afghanistan and railed against offensive caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed. Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistan-American who attempted a car bombing in New York's Times Square in May, echoed similar sentiments. There may be legitimate issues with Sweden's policy, but violence is the solution of the morally bereft.
There is no doubt that the radicalisation of a few individuals who mistakenly invoke Islam for their crimes is a cause for concern. Undoubtedly, security measures and counter-terrorism efforts will be stepped up in the coming weeks as investigators struggle to unravel the plot behind this latest attack. But whether a lone wolf or a network operative, al Abdaly's actions should be taken as what they were: an aberration that harms both Muslims and non-Muslims by its destructive ideology.