Paris attacks: Echoes of terrors to come

November 22, 2015

Global terror reached Paris with a vengeance on November 13, 2015, when a group in Syria directed French people in Belgium to commit attacks in France. Paris and its intelligence officers and agencies were clearly taken off guard. Why, one might ask in hindsight, given that between October 3, 2015, and November 13, 2015, ISIS has claimed responsibility for the killing of 425 people, were the French so ill prepared? The January 2015 attacks at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket massacres, which left 17 dead, were in fact the harbinger of things to come.

Let us condemn these barbaric acts in no uncertain terms, and express our deep condolences to the French people. But also let us step back and look at its tremendous negative impacts. Secular France has always had a complicated relationship with its Muslim community, which are amongst the largest Muslim minorities in any European countries, but now it has nudged toward manifest distrust and open enmity. Far right movements and the anti-immigrant National Front Party are likely to exploit this situation to close the country’s border. This is likely to further stigmatize Muslims and aggravate the already state of Islamophobia throughout the Europe, despite the courageous and dignified call by French President François Hollande for still agreeing to accept Syrian refugees and refraining from the detaining of Muslims.
Many experts remind us that American Muslims are much less attracted to Dae’sh and its ideology than European Muslims seem to be. European Muslims are poorer, underprivileged, and marginalized. These crises should compel us to dig deeper for the reasons and motivations behind these attacks without perhaps rationalizing such heinous crimes against humanity. Surrounded by privation and destitution, as well as living in a continent with open borders that would allow for a cache of arms and machines guns, and the likes of AK-47s to move freely, these underprivileged youth search for both a religious justification and a bankrupt ideology that sees secular infidels as primary foe and knows no demarcation for the loss of civilian lives.
As callous as their perverted young minds are, attacking Muslim minorities and discriminating against them is unlikely to provide long-term solace—much less a solution. To make matters worse, some politicians in the West are taking their frustration on the incoming refugees. But vilifying refugees is far from the solution, as it represents the worst kind of demagoguery in the middle of presidential elections in the United States. Confusing refugees with terrorists is both morally and politically disgraceful. Legally, it also raises many questions regarding the international community’s obligations to protect civilians fleeing war and persecution. Accepting only “Christian Refugees,” as reflected in the voices frequently heard on airwaves and social media, is not only immoral but just an egregious violation of universal humane standards.
In both policy and practice, such measures are likely to drive young Muslims toward joining Dae’sh, further reinforcing the commonly-held view propagated by such terrorist groups that the West and Islam are on a civilizational collision course, a tired and weary misapplication of a highly questionable thinking. Instead, the West and the rest of the world should contemplate a myriad of alternatives. Defeating Dae’sh must be prioritized over removing Syria’s Assad for the time being, at least. Diplomatic initiates and harnessing the rule of law in order to cooperate and defeat Dae’sh should be given serious consideration. Engaging all the key players (inside and outside of the region) is a necessary track that needs to be pursued vigorously.
The solution lies in promoting good governance, global justice, equal educational, and employment opportunities for all, and surely a better integration of Muslim minorities into European society. Absent these solutions, Europe will remain the prime targets of such horrendous attacks and the international community will hear the echoes of likely battles in coming years. But isn’t it time to take a different look by effectively tackling the futile Salafist and other extremist ideological narratives that have fed terrorism of an unprecedented magnitude in France since the Second World War?

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Mahmood Monshipouri teaches Middle Eastern Politics at San Francisco State University and University of California, Berkeley.
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