‘Suffocating’: Europe on a knife’s edge

Just days after a deadly knife attack that left three people dead, including a woman who was decapitated at a church in the French city of Nice, police have confirmed multiple people have been injured and at least one killed after a shooting in the Austrian capital of Vienna.

The shooting took place just hours before the midnight start of a nationwide lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The extreme measures in Austria are among several lockdowns being imposed across Europe, including in France, where 67 million have just entered a second lockdown as tens of thousands contract the virus across the continent.


Forensic officers work at night in front of Notre Dame Basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice where a man armed with a knife fatally attacked three people in the church. Picture: Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images.
Forensic officers work at night in front of Notre Dame Basilica on October 29, 2020 in Nice where a man armed with a knife fatally attacked three people in the church. Picture: Arnold Jerocki/Getty Images.

In the wake of two terrorist attacks in France - the first being the brutal attack in Paris when a Muslim teen beheaded a schoolteacher in the streets of Paris and then the deaths in Nice - President Emmanuel Macron declared his country "under attack".

"We will not give in, ever," he wrote on Twitter.

"We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values."

In the hours following the unfolding attack in Vienna, President Macron took to social media to send his support to Austria, writing that the shooting brought "shock and sadness" to his country.

"We, the French, share the shock and sadness of the Austrians after an attack in Vienna," he wrote on Twitter.

"After France, it is a friendly country that is under attack. This is our Europe. Our enemies need to know who they are dealing with. We won't give in to anything."

But the growing spate of lethal attacks as more and more countries across the continent enter lockdown has inevitably put Europe on edge.

"What is wrong with world," one person commented on Twitter following the Austrian attack.

"Two weeks ago a history teacher was throttled in France, a few days ago an attack took place in my hometown (Nice) and a victim died in my favourite cafe and tonight an attack in Vienna at the exact spot where I was standing just two days ago. I'm absolutely suffocating," another added.

"Honestly WTF has been happening in Europe the past few days. Terrorist attacks in several different countries … This is just too sad," another added.

Experts say President Macron's response to the attacks in France, and his government's position to defended the right to publish derogatory religious caricatures, has resulted in angry protests and calls to boycott French products across the globe.

About 2,000 people tried to march toward the French Embassy in Islamabad but were pushed back by police firing tear gas and beating protesters with batons.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted on Sunday that Mr Macron chose "to encourage Islamophobia by attacking Islam rather than the terrorists", while protesters chanted slogans including "beheading is the only punishment for blasphemers".

In an address to the nation following the Nice attacks, Mr Macron blamed the attacks on "Islamist separatism" and "the creation of a (Muslim) counter-society" in France, which remains on the highest level of alert.

He said the growing Muslim presence was a danger to France because it held its own laws above all others.

Mr Macron said that some Muslim parents kept their children out of school, group sports and community activities as a "pretext to teach principles that do not conform to the laws of the republic".

To stop this, the president announced his plans to pass a legislative proposal that would essentially ban homeschooling for children of all ages and prevent foreign-trained imams from leading French mosques.

The goal, the president said, was "to build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment".


Originally published as 'Suffocating': Europe on a knife's edge

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