by Josh Wilson
I wrote an article a few weeks ago about how there is no chance for anyone to win outright in Syria. Since that article the tragic events in Paris have taken place and leaders from around the world alongside ordinary citizens have reacted to the news. As with all heartbreaking events, reactions have been fuelled by emotion, with the debate surrounding tricolore Facebook photo becoming a heated element of reaction to the atrocity. Many took up the option offered by Facebook to drape the French flag over their profile picture. I do have my reservations about this, mostly regarding Facebook picking and choosing which tragedies to offer this show of solidarity for. However, in a time of grief and high emotion I think this is a debate best left for another time.
Now the real debate that needs to happen is surrounding the military reaction to the attacks and the dangerous Islamophobia that has sprung up in the wake of the attacks. I think nearly everyone has one or two people on their Facebook feed who have shared an article or written an angry post since the Paris attacks, advocating closing all borders into Europe or simplifying and generalising the events in a way that makes all Muslims somehow complicit in all acts of terrorism by people who call themselves Muslims.
We have to question these views and we have to do so with an understanding that they come from a place of fear.
These posts are racist. Closing borders is a collective punishment to those trying to flee war, persecution and poverty from around the world for the acts of a few. Connecting what happened in Paris to any Muslim that isn’t a supporter of ISIS is racist. ISIS is a political and military organisation that is founded on a certain interpretation of Islam. Suggesting those not part of this organisation are somehow complicit in their actions is illogical and dangerous. These are very basic arguments, but they are very important ones. Fear is a dangerous weapon, it can lead to people going from supporting refugees just a few weeks ago to calling for completely closed borders now. We have to question these views and we have to do so with an understanding that they come from a place of fear.
The other element to the debate is the actions of our politicians. It genuinely made my heart sink when some of the first words that left François Hollande’s mouth on national television after this awful atrocity was that ‘France was at war’. It hurt because it seems so obvious that this was not a coordinated invasion by another state, it was not a targeted strike to bring down the French government. It was an indiscriminate mass shooting of civilians by a group of individuals that seem to be from mostly European states. This was not an act of war, this was a crime. That is not say it is in anyway an ordinary crime, but as with the War on Terror after 9/11, treating terrorist attacks as acts of war tends to spur further attacks and further violence. And as I pointed out a few weeks ago in another article, no one can win in Syria. It is hard to define what winning would mean, and the practicalities of it are even more complex. More bombs is simply revenge, it is not a solution.
The Paris attacks have had many ramifications and stimulated multiple debates. People are scared, and fear can breed hate. We have to challenge this hatred and understand where it comes from, but ultimately we have to stay united. We have to show solidarity with all those suffering at the hands of ISIS and those now being unfairly persecuted in reaction to their activities. This shouldn’t be through bombs, bullets and hatred. But dialogue, love and compassion. You may call me a hippy, and that might be a correct analysis, but Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, “Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”