A Cliched Debate on Terror

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The fallout of the Paris attacks is playing out across the Europe and America.  French president Francois Hollande has already declared war on ISIS. Hollande also has declared the state of emergency in the country. The law gives the government to clamp curfew, ban public gatherings, and tighten border controls. It also gives police the power to search houses without warrant, bar assembly of people and forbid protests, something we are very familiar with in Kashmir. In one stroke, the murderous attacks in Paris have drastically impacted the psyche of one of the world’s most free country, forcing it to alter its way of life.

Other European countries are also mulling stricter forms of control to protect themselves against an anticipated terror attack. The public mood is becoming more and more anti-Islam. The political right is gaining renewed traction and there is now greater chariness about accepting refugees from Syria. This has raised concerns about Europe’s significant Muslim population. Muslims in Europe too have become deeply conscious about their identity. In a touching incident that reflects this anxious state of affairs, a Muslim man stood blindfolded in the centre of Paris asking mourners to embrace him as they gathered to commemorate the 129 victims killed in a series of terror attacks across the capital. 

But this is unlikely to change the broader darker mood towards Islam. France has witnessed many mosque desecrations over the weekend. Social sites have witnessed outpouring of vitriol against Muslims and Islam.  Muslims participating in mourning gatherings have been heckled. And in media the debate has once again returned with full force to the “Islamist terror”. The commentators are drawing a seamless connection between Islam and the terrorism. A cycle of discourse that has played out unchanged since 9/11 is going round and round again, almost word for word, argument for argument.

ISIS is now one more diabolical representation of Islam, succeeding Al Qaeda. There is little questioning as to who created this monster, in the first place. By intervening violently in the Muslim countries just because the ruler or a regime wasn’t to their liking, western powers have ravaged state after state and destroyed the order. This has left anarchy in its wake with an assortment of militias and the apocalyptic groups like ISIS holding the sway. In Syria just because west wanted an end to Bashar-al-Assad’s rule, it armed the rebels to the teeth, little caring which ideology they espoused. The aim was to replicate a similar strategy in Libya where US and Europe joined forces to get rid of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, who met a brutal end himself by being publicly lynched by the rebel gunmen.  Libya is now in chaos ruled by militias.  In Syria they couldn’t remove Assad but they have helped organize ISIS, a nihilistically violent ideological group, which has now broken free of their control. ISIS is now on its own, having seized vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria to carve out a statelet it calls caliphate. 

While west goes about its new drawn fight against terrorism, there is a need to introspect and examine the causes of Muslim violence.  An objective analysis of the history of the past twenty five points blame squarely towards US and its European allies. Invasions of the other countries on the pretext of dislodging a disagreeable ruler or a regime and framed in a grand moral narrative have only ended up destroying the lives of the ordinary people. And as a result of these wars, there are now four deeply dysfunctional states – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya. And their dysfunction has in turn crippled the Muslim world. Now while US and Europe seek to safeguard themselves against the blowback from their heinous sins in Islamic world and launch another joint war,  they should also acknowledge their role in creating the large part of the mess in the first place.

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