Last night, terrorists struck in Paris, killing at least 120 people, and injuring a hundred more. The attacks seemed very professional, striking six targets including restaurants, a concert hall, and a football stadium. If you want more details, any news site will have good coverage.
This feels surreal: perhaps the most secular country in Europe suffers its worst terror attack since WWII, most likely perpetrated by Islamist extremists. And this happened so soon: it was only in January, when terrorists struck against the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In June, there was the attack in Grenoble. What is concerning is the strain on the French public and morale that these attacks are going to have.
This was the most massive attack in the European West for decades that has struck against targets of the general public. Fair enough, the targets this time were mostly inside Paris’ multicultural districts – in the center, the death toll could have been so much worse. But the move from targeting a newspaper to killing ordinary citizens selected at random, makes for a completely different situation. For sure, the effect on the feeling of security is much heavier.
What worries me is the backlash after these attacks. These attacks are making people angry and scared – and with reason. However, I’m just hoping that the response to these attacks is not going to be a war against Islam, but a war against extremism. In fact, after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Prime Minister Valls made similar comments, saying that France is at war against radical Islamism, extremism, and terrorism – but not against a religion. I also hope France will not turn to the far right parties for guidance, since their response is likely going to be a version of “close the borders, and kick out all muslims”, just with more obscure political jargon.
I think the best response the French people can do is stick to their values – keep France a secular state, keep going out to cafés, keep living their lives. Because ultimately, terrorism is just a way of inciting hatred. If hatred is created against Islam in general, even more muslims are going to feel left out, and then turn radical. That’s hardly going to be a recipe for success. Better to say: “hey, I don’t care in which god you believe in, just follow the democratic laws we have”. To be clear: the problem of Islamist extremists and terrorism is not the Islam, it’ the terrorism. No matter what you religion, killing others is a dick move.
I hope France doesn’t fight hatred with more hatred. I hope it stays true to its morals, and is the “bigger person” here. More security measures at home won’t solve the problem. Terrorism is only successful when it creates fear and hatred – we can all prove the terrorists wrong by not playing that game, by showing we’re not scared. Like, for example, by singing the national anthem when you’re being evacuated. Of course, police and state security have to try to stop all the strikes they can. But, barring a police state, that isn’t going to happen. In the end, terrorism ends only when the will of terrorists to blow themselves up ends.
So, I hope France remains France. Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Viva la France!