The Islamist attacks in France and Austria aim to divide European societies. The jihadists want to destroy the gray area of coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe.
The attack in Vienna proves again: It was always a pious wish that IS, the so-called Islamic State, was defeated with the recapture of its caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Even if US President Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized in his election campaign that the victory over IS came from his own hands. ISIS was always more than a territory, it is an ideology and its supporters follow strategies that are also available online.
One of these strategies for Europe was described in the professionally produced IS online magazine “Dabiq”. A manifesto published there in 2015 described a dynamic the militant Islamists wanted to use for themselves: With every Islamist attack in Europe, the anti-Islamic mood is growing there. The consequence, according to the manifesto, would be polarization and “the elimination of the gray zone”.
This so-called “gray zone” was used to describe the coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims in Europe, a situation that is evil for the IS. With the exclusion of Muslims in the West, they all could be driven more easily into the arms of the militant Islamists and their ideology and would therefore be easy to recruit.
The attack in Vienna fits exactly into the concept. IS wants to unleash a vicious circle in which its bill could work even without a caliphate. After each of his attacks in Europe, their strategists hope that the Muslims living there will be marginalized.
The best IS scenario would then be follow-up attacks by radical right-wing, self-proclaimed crusaders, for example on mosques, where the Muslims then would be further cornered, in order to make them more susceptible to IS ideology.
Incidentally, the manifesto of the IS strategy in Europe may even have an Austrian connection. Middle East expert Petra Ramsauer points out that one of the main propagandists, who may have helped to write the manifesto, comes from Vienna. Mohamed Mahmoud, born 1985 in Vienna, became a leading member of the “Global Islamic Media Front” (GIMF) in 2006. In 2007, he, also known as Abu Usama al-Gharib, was arrested in Vienna when buying components for an explosive belt.
In addition, the GIMF had distributed a video, in which attacks on targets in Austria and Germany were presented. Mohamed Mahmoud served four years in prison, during which he is said to have written about the “gray area” on the IS manifesto.
After his release he moved to Berlin and later to Solingen in order to join IS in Syria. In March 2013 he appeared in an internet video in which he burned his Austrian passport and announced further attacks. In 2018 he was killed in an anti-IS coalition air strike in Syria.