The Louvre Attack and Trump’s Temporary, Partial Travel Stay

On Friday, an Egyptian Muslim named Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy appeared at the Louvre wearing, or carrying, two backpacks. This apparently caused him to be stopped by police officers, whom he attacked with a machete, yelling “Allahu Akbar!” They shot him.

Current information is that al-Hamahmy is 28 years old and comes from the Nile delta region. His father says he is completely normal and claims to be shocked. Al-Hamahmy moved at some point to the United Arab Emirates, presumably to find work; the Emirates are home to many guest workers from Egypt. He traveled from UAE to Paris on a tourist visa, arriving on January 26.

Al-Hamahmy rented an apartment for one week and bought two machetes at a gun store. (I didn’t know they had gun stores in Paris.) Preliminary investigation has revealed “no record of political activism, criminal activity or membership in any militant group.” However, al-Hamahmy has a Twitter account on which he posted, shortly before his Louvre attack:

No negotiation, no compromise, no letting up, certainly no climb down, relentless war.

The Louvre attack is one of a long and growing list of similar terrorist attacks that explain why the Trump administration’s concern about travel to the U.S. by people from Islamic countries is legitimate. It would be stupid, frankly, to deny that a certain number of people are likely to travel here, just as Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy traveled to France, in order to carry out terrorist attacks.

Of course, even if it were a permanent ban rather than a temporary stay, the Trump order wouldn’t have helped in this case, since neither Egypt nor the Emirates is on the list of affected countries. That suggests that the Trump order doesn’t go far enough. Moreover, Abdullah Reda Refaie al-Hamahmy has no doubt been more thoroughly investigated, following his crime, than any random applicant for a travel visa could be. And yet there apparently were no signs of radical activity or affiliation. This illustrates the difficulty–perhaps futility–of even “extreme” vetting as a security measure.

The effectiveness of Trump’s order as an anti-terror measure is debatable, but in my opinion, the need for improved security with respect to travelers, immigrants and refugees from Islamic countries is not.

So far, the Europeans are taking this issue much more seriously than we are. I have just returned from two weeks in Italy. In Rome, both police and military units are everywhere. Their presence on the streets, and particularly at all noteworthy monuments, is visible and striking. We were told that this has all happened within the last year, as a result of terrorist attacks in France and elsewhere. There is nothing like this sort of armed police/military presence anywhere in the U.S.

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