Lessons from Vienna’s terror attack

Vienna’s terror attack, which happened on November 2nd, has caught Austria as well as Europe by surprise. Since the 80’s there hasn’t been a major incident in the calm Austrian capital and so the attack came as a total shock. An armed terrorist, who was later identified as a Viennese resident, purchased an AK47 in Slovakia and then carried out a horrific attack in Vienna’s inner city. The attack chose to target an area right by Vienna’s old synagogue which was initially believed to be the main target. While the reason for the choice of location hasn’t yet been revealed, it’s clear that the attacker’s main goal was to take innocent lives and as many as possible. Four individuals were murdered that terrible evening with several others severely injured. The police’s response and the heroism shown by civilians who rescued the injured, definitely helped prevent further casualties. 

Several days after the attack, the picture has become clearer in regard to the assailant, as more and more details were gathered about him. It was revealed that the terrorist, 20 years old Kujtim Fejzulai was long known as a radical islamist and a potential security threat. According to the Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer, he was jailed for 22 months in April 2019 after trying to join the Islamic State in Syria. He was detained in Turkey in September 2018 and was returned to Austria to be placed under arrest as a foreign fighter. 

This, as well as other details from his past association with radical individuals in Vienna, has raised many questions as to his ability to travel, purchase a gun and carry out the attack.

Could a youth program help prevent the attack?

When asked to describe the terrorist, his lawyer said: “He was a young man who was searching for his place in society, who apparently went to the wrong mosque. I’d never have imagined he could become a killer.” This answer is exactly why Not In God’s Name exists. 

Every radical individual begins the path to extremism through search for answers, for an identity and for a strong group association. Those who feel like outsiders often look for other outsiders who share their sense of resentment towards the majority which continuously denies them. Such new group associations often include ideologies which utilize the negative emotions within to their own radical cause. Young individuals are then told that a glorious death is worth more than a life as an outcast, thus convincing them to become a martyr for their newly adopted ideology.

Not In God’s Name is the solution:

One key solution, which has been successfully implemented by Not In God’s Name since 2016, is to take the process of radicalization and utilize it to lead people in the opposite direction towards tolerance, motivation and hope. Through working with renowned martial artists who were once refugees, migrants and therefore outsiders, the participating youth can see a living example of those who took responsibility and defied all odds. They can meet successful athletes who took the difficult emotions they surely felt and utilized them as motivation and determination to prove the world their worth. Such meetings break the strong, hindering mental barriers in the minds of the participants and enable them to see reality from an entirely different perspective. They get to ask questions, take pictures and acquire a new role model they can look up to and aspire to be like. 

For the victims of the terror attack in November it’s unfortunately too late, but for many others there’s still time. The team of Not In God’s Name is determined to continue offering transformational workshops, class visits and other projects and aim to reach as many individuals as possible. Eventually, we believe, this can save many lives.

Published On: June 24th, 2020 / Categories: News / Tags: , , , , /