I’m not often incensed enough by the news to put my thoughts down on paper, but a number of responses to the attacks in Paris are worrisome enough for me to try. Writing enables me to crystalise my views on a given subject, but I remain painfully aware of the limitations of my own viewpoint when it comes to acts of terror such as this. The subject has too many nuances and I am not familiar enough with the history of the formation of ISIS to add more than my two cents to the argument. It is nothing short of an uninformed and ill-formed opinion penned from afar. In the wake of such atrocities suddenly everyone is an expert.
Violence on this scale is always a tragedy, but the true extent of the damage has yet to be revealed. It will come to light in the forth coming days by way of our response to the situation. The outpouring of empathy for the denizens of Paris is certainly heartwarming, but should also be extended to the victims of bombing in Beirut and Baghdad as well as the numerous other ISIS attacks to have taken place recently. In terms of lives lost the count is comparatively few in the grander scheme of things- more people are dying every day throughout the world, many as the indirect result of similar acts of terrorism. Now, I am not trying to suggest that this isn’t an awful event, only imploring people to consider that the Islamophobic backlash that is bound to occur is considerably more damaging than the explicit loss of life.
I have seen people with whom I was educated expressing views that ‘this is what happens when you let them in’ and the like on social media tonight. That kind of statement turns my stomach; our schooling was good, although the student body was not diverse enough to enable people of different faiths to intermingle. We are responding exactly as ISIS would have us, reinforcing their creed that the West is warring with Islam as a whole. We are becoming the aggressors after a different fashion, turning on innocent people, albeit less explosively. People in their panic are turning a blind eye to the fact that muslims are killing muslims en masse throughout the world.
What I find most terrifying is the insidious suggestions being bandied around that refugees are somehow at fault, when this is precisely the climate of fear under which they themselves have lived, and from which they have fled. These terrorist attacks are ramped up and their significance overstated by our media to the benefit of no European. I’ve not managed to find a figure for the sum total of people who died outside of France yesterday due to acts of terror, but I would wager the majority of terror victims this week in the world at large have been muslims. They stand to lose far more from this than we do.
We inhabit countries where the degree to which we are safe, statistically speaking, is historically unprecedented, and as such we have become complacent. We forget that satirism used to be a dangerous and subversive act, and seem astounded that cartoonists were the targets of a terrorist attack. When did we grow so forgetful and short sighted? By panicking we strengthen ISIS’s cause, driving more disgruntled people to throw their lot in which a barbaric, criminal organisation. If ISIS is the hammer, we are fast becoming the anvil. This will escalate but not in a fashion that we can control, and certainly not without extensive collateral damage but we seem only to care for casualties of our own ethnicity.
This isn’t a clear cut case
of us versus them.
Sadly we will continue to feel the repercussions in terms of population displacement, which will perhaps lead to increased violence on our own streets, for which we will surely blame everyone but ourselves. We can’t empathise with people who have been transplanted from their homelands and find themselves in a culture that is never less than begrudgingly accepting of their presence. We consider it a favour with interest, they should be grateful and stomach our distaste without complaint. This is a vicious cycle that we need to break from. That is not to say that ISIS doesn’t need to be brought to heel, but we must remember what they are: a repugnant, extremist group that is by no means representative of Islam as a whole. We are making monsters of ourselves by acting as we do, with suspicion and aggression, and I suspect the worst is yet to come. As Voltaire once said:
Nothing is so common
as to imitate one’s enemies,
and to use their weapons.