“So what do these terrorists hope to achieve?
Based on prior experience, they will assume that by striking now they can increase fear and anger among the British population – intensifying anti-Muslim rhetoric, justifying harsher “security” responses from the British state and shifting political support towards the right. That is good for their cause because it radicalises other disillusioned Muslim youth. In short, it brings recruits.
Islam is not exceptional in this regard. This is not a problem specifically of religion. As experts have repeatedly pointed out, disillusioned, frustrated, angry (and mainly male) youth adopt existing ideologies relevant to them and then search for the parts that can be twisted to justify their violence. The violent impulse exists and they seek an ideology to rationalise it.
Once Christianity – the religion of turning the other cheek – was used to justify pogroms and inquisitions. In the US, white supremacists – in the Ku Klux Klan, for example – used the Bible to justify spreading terror among the black population of the Deep South. White supremacists continue sporadically to use terror in the US, most notably Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
Terrorists can exploit secular ideologies too, on either the far-right or far-left. Just think of the Baader Meinhof Gang and the Symbionese Liberation Army, back in the 1970s. The latter famously made a convert of Patty Hearst, granddaughter of publishing empire magnate William Randolph Hearst (aka Citizen Kane). After she was taken hostage, she quickly adopted the group’s thinking and its violence as her own”