Monday, November 16, 2015

Paris 2015

          There’s a lot that could be said, and is being said, about what happened in Paris last Friday.  It’s sort of difficult to wrap my head around, and in many respects I don’t feel like I have that much to add.  A few thoughts, however.

          Given my audience, I know I don’t have to say this but I will if only so one more person does: the point of terrorism is to cause political and societal change.  If we start second-guessing ourselves, or treating Muslim-Canadians differently, that’s exactly what Islamic extremists want. Increased xenophobia towards Muslims only serves to justify the idea that Islam can’t coexist with the West, which is idiotic, but also risks being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

          I’m also disheartened to see François Hollande reacting in essentially the same way the United States did post-9-11: by asking for expanded police powers and declaring war on terrorism.

          The bigger point that stands out for me is the problem of home-grown terrorism.  François Hollande immediately blamed ISIS for the attacks, and ISIS took credit.  And maybe some of the attackers did come from Syria or Iraq.  But at least some of them were European citizens, born and raised in Europe. 

          While those people may have been officially linked to ISIS, there’s a qualitative difference between people who come from another country to attack somewhere, and people who attack their own country.  It would almost be easier if the terrorists were all from abroad, because then the problem becomes border security, which is relatively simple (relatively being the key word here).

          With home-grown terrorism inspired by international extremist movements, it’s a much thornier problem.  Ultimately, a major part of the solution has to be de-radicalization. 

          The idea of someone who hates the principles of Canada (or France, or whichever Western country you want to choose) so much that they are quite willing to kill innocent bystanders, is insane.  I just can’t understand it.  It’s contrary to the basic principles of what it means to be a human taught by… well, just about every culture or religion. 

          But the difficulty of confronting it doesn’t justify not doing it: people willing to subscribe to these kinds of murderous ideas are real and need to be dealt with.  And to return to the issue of a war on terrorism, terrorism is an “ism”, which means it’s a set of beliefs.  You can’t kill beliefs by bombing them.  But you might be able to change them by changing the minds of individuals.       
Edit:  And here's Brad Wall saying we shouldn't let in Syrian refugees.  This is exactly the knee-jerk reaction we need to avoid.  It would be like the Canadian government in the mid-19th century having refused Irish immigrants fleeing post-famine Ireland because they were worried about the risk of Fenians among them.  We're better than that.  

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