After the great and necessary moment of national unity of January 11th that has shown the world that the French are standing together to fight terrorism, may we not make the same mistakes as in the past.
Muslims are not the enemies of the West, although some are shamelessly exploiting this awful crime. Muslims are, like any other citizen in the world, also victims of terrorism and pay a heavy price to those who claim Islam to commit their heinous acts. From Algeria to Iraq, they suffer from seeing their religion, which condemns without any reserve the killing of innocents, serving the interests of hatred and enslavement.
In France, since the horrible attack against Charlie Hebdo, dozens of anti-Muslim acts have been committed against Mosques or families, which dramatically increased by 110% compared with last year. French Muslims fear a surge of islamophobia, which is already strong and pervades all strata of society. Alongside fighting growing and powerful anti-Semitism that provoked the death of four people, we must fight this anti-Muslim feeling and its impact on the republican ideal. Anti-Jewish and anti-Muslims acts are the two sides of the same coin and a scourge we have to eradicate.
Calls to the Muslim community have increased over the last few days, coming from politicians or other public figures – the French “intellectuals”. Some urge the French Muslims to explicitly condemn the terrorist attack, others asked them to apologize. Apart from the fact it is absurd, these reactions are also counterproductive. Absurd because there’s no one Muslim community in France but only individuals who are primarily citizens and wants to be considered, not as Muslims but as French citizens. Asking them to react as Muslims is contributing to spray the idea they are separate from the nation and strengthening divisions at a time when it is essential to gather, reconcile and move forward.
Saying that is not deny or weakening the reality of a hatred coalition that recruits all these lost souls wandering like ghosts on the embers of societies that have no longer ideals, shared and positive values, national drawing. It grows on the basis of conspiracy theories mixed with a strong willingness to do battle with all that represents the “system” or the “elites”, perceived as the instruments of their own downfall. These young people are trapped in the double vacuity of Western countries nowadays, social idleness and cultural deprivation, that leads a thin proportion of them falling into radicalization because it provides the framework that fits to their absolute isolation and hyper violent mindset. Neither Islam nor Muslims are responsible for that. As the various origins of several “Jihadists” in France proved, it could happen to anyone, in any family, in any part of the country. That is the terrible issue we have to address and tackle.
Of course, the legitimate “war” against terrorism implies some straight, severe and efficient decisions that have to be made in the short-term, to struggle against these terrorism-universities that our jails, in France like in many other Western countries, have become. But these are only technical measures, easy to take. The war against terrorism is also a war against hatred, and it needs some long-term responses to prevent these terrible gears that push a teenager living in a quiet area of France’s countryside to go to Syria and participate in that awful Jihad with Daesh/Isis – which the world has let thrived for years.
There is no cultural determinism here but lost individuals who think by adopting this ideology of hatred they will become the heroes they can’t be at home.
This coalition of hatred, which is spreading everywhere in Europe, is also the outcome of a complex mixture of social ills, cultural failures, national taboos that we failed to acknowledge before or we ignored the magnitude. There were a few warming though. The 2005 riots, when young people living in deprived areas brutally have burned thousands of cars and paralyzed the country for weeks. They were angry against the “system” they aimed at, in a mimetic and anarchic process, fighting against. Then, we did not really understand what happened. Ten years after, political inertia helping as wells as broken election promises adding grist to anti-system’s mill, Daesh/Isis appeared and is smoke and mirrors for the most radicalized.
Of course, there are a series of steps along the road that leads from self-detestation to the hatred of others: delinquency, overwhelmed jails, recruiting sergeants who are ambushed and looking for stray sheep. But the roots of terrorism are still the same and it has nothing to do with Islam: growing inequalities, poverty, crude individualism that no solidarity can only soften, lack of education and spirituality.
This is threatening France, Europe, and the whole world. In these tragic circumstances Republic needs to be strong on its values, which must be effective rather than theoretical. Freedom, of speech as well as religion, has to be absolute and not relative, for everybody and not depending on who you are. Equality must be carried out, not as a socialist mantra but a universal principle of justice that France aims to embody. Brotherhood, finally, and mostly, has to be constantly affirmed to illustrate that what gathers people is stronger than what divides.
By declaring war to Muslims, we inevitably condemn ourselves because it tramples our values, those values that make what we are as a Nation, those values terrorists want to destroy.