The motto of the Republic of France is Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The French Revolution ushered in an era egalitarianism. Opportunity was given based on ability and effort and not the privilege of birth. The result of the bloody and gruesome French Revolution was the conception and birth of modern democracy based on egalitarianism.
The coordinated and ghastly massacre in Paris on 13th of November is an attack on liberty, equality and fraternity. These attacks were carried out by Islamic extremist which in no way represent their faith. These attacks will no doubt give way to a fresh wave of even more virulent Islamophobia. Law abiding and decent Muslims all around the world will suffer even more discrimination and marginalization as a result of these attacks. The West likes to see itself as more enlightened than that, but we really aren’t. We are just better at concealing hatred.
After the shock wears off, talking heads, pundits, politicians, social commentators, opinionists will begin to try to ‘explain’ why this happened in The City of Lights, one of the most beautiful, civil, refined and cultured places in the world. The explanation is done in the spirit to ‘understand’ what happened and to prevent the next attack.
And the explanation will go something like this: Europe and especially France has an appalling record of integrating their immigrants, especially non-white, non-Christian immigrants. Muslims, which account for 10% of their population are routinely marginalized and survive at the bottom of the economic heap. Though there are anti-defamation laws protecting anti-Semitic or hate speech against any religion, it doesn’t translate to equality and opportunity for the Muslims residing in France. What’s more, France has banned the use of the burka in public, no woman is allowed to cover her face as the French political elite has found women covering their faces oppressive and therefore doesn’t conform with the secular values of French society. This has angered many Muslims, even Muslim women, which the law sought to protect from religious oppression. And the list goes on.
But who gives a shit why? This doesn’t justify any of the violent attacks in France (and other places) carried out by Islamic extremists. This would be like Hitler trying to ‘explain’ why he felt the need to exterminate 12 million people. Does it even matter? No, not one bit. The reason(s), however, deluded, irrational, illogical, or might even have the slightest, miniscule kernel of justification, do not have a place for public discourse in the civilized world and cannot be offered as a ‘reason’ for attacking innocent people. Not ever.
It’s one thing to analyze why Muslims across continents have trouble integrating with mainstream European Christian societies and offer solutions to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome with each other, with the emphasis on immigrants must respect the culture of the host nation. But to use the ‘woe is me, I am a minority and I am picked on by bad white Christian people because I am brown and Muslim, so I hate them all and I will join ISIS and will kill them all’ is a cop out and the ramblings of the insane. You feel picked on by white people? Really? Get in line with the Africans, Mexicans, Central Americans, Chinese, other Asians, Native Americans and any other non-white group, you’ve got company.
This has come at the worst possible time, just as Europe is beginning to soften its stance on the refugee crisis and prepare to bite the bullet and offer asylum to refugees fleeing war and terrorism (the same kind of terrorism that just happened in Paris, except it happens daily where they are from). German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been eerily silent, no doubt re-assessing her largess and generosity and wondering if she’s made the biggest mistake of the century (and the century is still young). France has shut its borders, as have their neighbor Belgium, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew and will begin raids on possible terrorist hideouts, something they should have done years ago. In the days to come, more countries could be shutting their borders and the Schengen Agreement is all but annulled in writing.
And for all the outrage, sorrow and grief at the attacks in France, let’s be better world citizens and extend our prayers, grief and sorrow at the downed Russian flight over Sinai, the bombing in Beirut, which killed 40 people just the day before the attacks in Paris, and the daily terror people suffer in Iraq, Syria and other conflict zones. The ‘fraternity’ part of the French motto is the most difficult to carry out. It requires sympathy and empathy for people you don’t know or like. I know they are not in our ‘circles of sympathy’ because most of those regions are remote to us. Their religion and customs are remote to us. But they are people, they are suffering and even if we cannot help them, we can always spare a thought and a prayer and perhaps our collective thoughts and prayers can bring some relief. The fight against terrorism is global, especially the fight against ISIS and those who pledge allegiance to it. ISIS is even terrorizing their native populations, most of whom are Muslim. ISIS have killed many more Muslims than any other group of people. So for the people who do not have state protection like the French citizens do, and must deal with this terrorism on their own, let’s extend our circle of sympathy to include them.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité.