Blackmailing Muslim criminals to inform on prospective terrorists is the principal activity of European counter-terrorism agencies, as I noted in 2015. Every Muslim in Europe knows this.
The terrorists, though, have succeeded in turning the police agents sent to spy on them and forcing them to commit suicide attacks to expiate their sins. This has become depressingly familiar; as Ryan Gallagher reported recently, perpetrators already known to the authorities committed ten of the highest-profile attacks between 2013 and 2015.
The terrorists, in other words, are adding insult to injury. By deploying police snitches as suicide attackers, terrorists assert their moral superiority and power over western governments.
This fits with this observation of recent terrorism:
As authorities investigate the motives for a mass killing claimed by Islamic State in Nice late Thursday, analysts say the case appears to highlight a shift in the profile of those launching attacks in the name of hardline Islamist groups.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who killed at least 84 people by driving a truck through crowds in the French town, was not a pious, educated man in the mould of Mohamed Atta, one of the hijackers behind the 9-11 attacks in the United States in 2001.
Rather, neighbors and family describe him as a troubled man who lived apart from his wife and three children and drank alcohol, something forbidden by Islam.
"It seems that he was radicalized very quickly," said French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
That poses a big problem for authorities, who have put much of their focus on tackling hardline Islamist ideology by seeking to spread counter-arguments in schools and mosques.
Tunisia-born Bouhlel, who was shot dead by police, had several run-ins with the law, including a March 2016 conviction for hurling a wooden pallet at a driver in a road rage incident.
A continuum of criminality and terror is hardly shocking. Look at the Taliban and drug gangs in Afghanistan. Look at the Mexican cartels who at least use terrorist methods up to beheadings, even if they don't seem to have transitioned to a political component. Look at the Colombian Marxists who merged with drug gangs.
So Moslem criminals are hardly going to be unique in shifting to political violence.
Yet the idea of fighting hardline Islamist ideology is not misplaced.
Consider that a street thug like Bouhlel is tugged by the appeal of Islam which sees him as a street thug. That has to chip away at his conscience. He knows he is violating man's laws by being a criminal and Allah's laws by his actions. What do do?
Well, he can become a warrior for Islam and submerge his life of anti-Islamic crimes with a higher mission of bringing the ISIL caliphate closer. That's quite an appeal, isn't it?
So we see the truth of Samuel Johnson's observation that false
So it is not a mistake to try to undermine the appeal of hardline Islamist ideology. Would you rather have a petty criminal or a jihadi martyr?