At time of wrting there are 130 fatalities, and more than 300 directly injured, resulting from a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. There are no words to express the revulsion I feel for the acts and the perpetrators, and the sympathy I feel for the dead, injured and their families and friends.
Social and formal media are full of understandable outrage, but other sorts of extremists are given encouragement to vent bilious hatred by some of the, farankly, exploitative, media coverage.
Comentators whose memory (or knowledge) is scant, cast the blame for the rise of ISIL on the second Iraq war. This is simplistic and, frankly, both convenient and disingenuous. The roots of middle-east instability go further back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries when Britain, France, Germany, Italy and other European ‘superpowers’ were carving up feudal and tribal territories and adding them to their colonial empires; to this you can add the forced creation of a Jewish state in Palestine, and the partition of India into Muslim and non-Muslim states. French and Italian colonial ambition in North Africa added yet more causes of injustice. All in all we, in the so-called West, built the bonfires, added the petrol, and with proxy governments, rulers and despots, threw on the matches. In the aftermath of the bloody atrocities it is impossible to expect people to have a balanced appreciation of the events and their context: they are out for blood and revenge. In the immediate aftermath of 13/11 it is too much to expect France to acknowledge that their own actions have contributed to the creation of conditions out of which this rapacious beast has appeared, or that when it suits them they are not above terrorism: thirty years ago France carried bombed the Greenpeace flagship, Rainbow Warrior, in Aukland harbour – a murderous act for which it has never even apologised. RIP Fernando Pereira.
To counter Islamophobia in the UK, Muslim communities must be unequivocal in their condemnation of those who have misappropriated their religion in the name of ‘true’ Islam. France has already “decared war” on the supposed organisation behind the attacks, ISIL, and the rest of the world is already lining up alongside, ready to give another twist to the spiral of violence. Dropping bombs, however “smart”, from 20,000 feet will inevitably kill more innocents. Violence breeds more violence. Injustice creates more injustice. In our own country we have already suffered terror attacks planned and executed by British born, educated, and resident perpetrators. Is bombing Syria going to reduce or increase the threat from such as these? In a multi-cultural society it would be a tragedy if tolerance, diversity, social cohesion and democracy itself were also victims to add to the body count. Yes we need to be resolute, but also calm, measured, proportionate and, above all intelligent, in our response.