In the aftermath of the terrible terrorist attacks that hit Paris, many people are expressing solidarity by putting a tricolour filter on their Facebook or Twitter profile pictures to support Paris and the French people. Je suis Paris, is what they are saying as they tell the people of France they are not alone.
It’s about humans showing empathy to fellow humans and identifying their pain in times of crisis. And that’s a positive emotion. That’s good.
But I won’t be doing that. And it’s not because I don’t care about innocent people being murdered by Islamic terrorists. It’s not that I don’t care about lives destroyed. It’s not that I don’t care about the pain being felt by the entire nation. And it’s also not because while Israel holds rallies to support the French people, France leads campaigns to label Israeli goods and delegitimize its people. And it’s also not because while Israelis share the pain of France, the French ignore the pain of Israel.
It’s because the gestures of cute slogans and nice coloured pictures won’t help them – or any of us. Love, while admirable, will not conquer all. So whatever Je Suis you want to use; Paris, Francais, Charlie, croissant – it will ultimately make no difference.
After the terror attacks at the beginning of the year, people also showed solidarity by employing the same methods – and it has brought neither safety nor security to its people. The savage reality of ISIS and its brand of Islamic fascism is that Facebook campaigns will not stop them, and neither will signs of solidarity by the Western world.
There is a truth that we, in the western world, need to face. And that truth is that Islamic fanaticism cannot be beaten. That’s right – we can’t stop the evil that dwells in the hearts of those who want to murder and maim everything that we hold dear.
So what do we do in this world that seems to be being ripped apart?
Ultimately, the only group that can defeat Islamic terrorism is the Muslims themselves. We cannot imprint the values that are important to us onto their society. And I don’t mean the values of western countries that are more often than not lacking. I mean the values of decent people who want to live in a decent society with basic respect for all. We can encourage those, but it is not up to us to adopt them – only they can do that. As a group or society, they need to reject the extremism in their own groups. They need to isolate those who commit the endless atrocities and expunge them from their communities, the way any decent society rejects the murderers among them. The heroes of the Muslim world, and there are many, need to be the ones applauded and looked up to by their people – those like Lassana Bathily, who saved Jewish customers at a kosher supermarket under attack in January. And also the Muslim security guard, Zouheir, who stopped a suicide bomber entering the soccer stadium and preventing hundreds of more casualties. And also countries like Azerbaijan, whose tolerance towards all cultures and religions is an example for all Muslims to follow.
But the problem is that, instead of the self-reflection so badly needed, we have statements from the Grand Mufti of Australia who says that “These recent incidents highlight the fact that current strategies to deal with the threat of terrorism are not working. It is therefore imperative that all causative effects, such as racism, Islamophobia, curtailing freedoms through security measures, duplicitous foreign policies and military intervention must be completely and comprehensively addressed.” In other words, the leader of the Muslims in Australia is blaming everything and everyone else but the fanaticism in his own community.
Now, while we cannot defeat Islamic fanaticism, the Islamic State itself, as an entity, can be defeated. But the only way to defeat it is to truly unite. And that would mean that accepting that terrorism is terrorism, wherever it is – and that means including those attacks on Israeli civilians that are not reported in any Western media. It would mean that world organizations like the UN, condemn the incitement of people like Abbas and treat him as a pariah rather than honour him with awards as the mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo did recently when she bestowed on him the Grand Vermeil Medal, the city’s highest honour, for Abbas’s work on ‘peace’.
If the world truly want to defeat Islamic State, it would mean the countries of the world, including the Islamic ones, leading a sustained air campaign, including a ground campaign to wipe out all their institutions. France, by dropping 20 bombs on an Islamic State stronghold, will make zero difference. And the Jordanian king, in his Top Gun outfit, will also make zero difference. Great for television newsbytes, but pointless in its objectives.
Both scenarios are highly unlikely to occur. In the Islamic world, the moderate voices will need to rise above the extremist ones – and so far the moderate voices have been extremely quiet.
And unless the rest of the world is prepared to sustain possibly heavy casualties in a potentially long campaign to uproot the Islamic State, that will also not happen.
So ultimately, it is a sad reality of life that these type of terrorist actions will continue. Societies will have to decide how best to protect themselves through stronger border security, better investment in intelligence, and at times taking decisions that will send the liberals into an absolute frenzy, such as limiting the rights of people to preach death to others under the guise of free speech. It would also mean that instead of being obsessed about trying to isolate Israel, they would recognize them as one of the core leaders in the fight against this terrorism.
In the end, we have to accept that liberty is not free. And the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.