I’m saddened to see you here. In my mind, the West and Europe specifically were always a symbol of hope. Hope that if other countries will do things right, they too can create a safe and prosperous environment for their citizens. Seeing the rise of terror in Europe is a blow to the hope for a better future and a blow to the idea that there are places in the world where we can feel safe at.
A lot has been said about the gap in public attention and sympathy towards terror casualties in the West versus in the developing world. Clearly all lives are equally important. However, the reality is that terror in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and yes, even Israel, is not the same as terror in Paris and Orlando. There are places in the world that are implicated by poverty, illiteracy, disparity, religious extremism and other causes that make one gradually “accept” that grim reality. Western societies on the other hand seemed to have gotten rid of this kind of fanatic religiously motivated violence and gave hope for a better future. Terror attacks against presumed safe Western societies are much more shocking as we grew to rely on them as safe havens.
Despite relatively low number of fatalities (Europe: 150 people were killed by terrorism in 2015, compared to more than 25,700 on the road) terror attacks have a tremendous negative impact on societies’ perception of safety. The “special effects”, horror and drama deliberately caused by another human being attract disproportionate attention and media coverage. The result is a severely undermined sense of personal safety enhanced by the feeling of being “under attack”. The public attention leads authorities to react and try to reestablish a sense of public safety.
However, despite authorities’ substantial efforts it has been mostly frustrating to watch Western response to the rise of terror in their territories. Political and media discussions are held from a Western liberal perspective, emphasizing values so different from that of the attackers, that any effort is doomed to be ineffective in stopping the trend of increased terror attacks. True, terror has increased worldwide, though unlike developing countries, the West has the resources to be more successful and thus citizens expect more out of their governments. The fact that Westerns have not experienced such fanatically motivated terror for a long time results in an even higher level of anxiety.
So what’s so wrong with Western discussion of terrorism? In two words — value scale.
With its colonial, ethnic, and religious supremacist history, the West is flooded with castrating guilt. It is unable to point the finger at the source of terror as it prioritizes values such as equality, privacy and above all — political correctness. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful that the West evolved out of its racist past, but being unable to pin-point the problem prevents dealing with it. A great example is Obama’s reaction to the Orlando attack. Gun control is extremely important, and I for one am a strong supporter of gun control. However, guns are only the means and these can be replaced for others as we saw in the Nice and German train attacks. Obama, in his post Orlando speech, has not mentioned Jihad, radical Islam, religion, culture or any other potential motives. In fact, he claimed “Americans were targeted because we’re a country that has learned to welcome everyone”. This is quite a ridiculous claim since many worldwide terror attacks accrued in countries much less liberal and accepting.
The liberal and politically correct culture prevents Obama from discussing the motives as any such discussion will likely include aspects of religion or cultural origin, a big ‘no-no’ in modern politically correct America. In other words, Obama prioritized the value of equality over security. While the attacker prioritized religious views over human lives and equality.
A great European example is the rejection of the Passenger Name Records proposal due to privacy concerns. The proposal suggested that airlines will be obligated to share their passenger data with EU countries in an effort to fight terrorism as well as other serious crimes. Opponents of the proposal saw it as a breach of human rights and an action that will put asylum seekers under suspicion of committing crimes. In other words, the EU chose the values of privacy and equality over security in its effort to fight against terror.
Let me be clear. I share the Western values of equality and privacy. I see comments against the Muslim population as a whole as bigotry since clearly in a population of 1.5B Muslims these extremist are a small minority. Most Muslims see ISIS as anti Muslim. That said, the vast majority of European terror attacks since 2011 are the act of fanatics who are driven by an extreme interpretation of Islam and see ISIS as fulfillment of their religious destiny. That means these folks have a systematic doctrine according to which they perform their horrible acts. These are not some random people who lost their mind due to some peculiar reason. These attackers, as well as those who incite them, have common characteristics which allow authorities to track and stop them, if they prioritize security over other values of course.
One shouldn’t degrade the severity of sporadic terror attacks. These spread fear and severely harm the sense of public safety. If Western societies won’t take severe measures to stop the increase in terror it will eventually result in the rise of right wing extremism (as we can already see). This is a fundamental danger to the future of Western society despite the limited scope of the attacks.
Dear Europe, welcome to the Middle East, hope you won’t stay here for long.