Archive for the 'Islamist terrorism' Category

The Wrong Reactions to the Slaughter in Paris

After the horror of Paris on Friday night some very mistaken ideas have been going around on social media and the public prints. An attempt to rebut a few of them:

  1. “The French are refusing are refusing to call the problem by its real name, and that name is Islamist extremism”. Valls and Hollande have been referring to “jihadism” for some considerable time. Hollande did so in his speech yesterday. Valls refuses to let the word Islamophobia pass his lips except to say the idea is nonsense. It’s pretty clear to what one is referring when one talks of jihadism, no? What would be the added value of saying that Islam is the problem?  None, as far as I can see and  doing so would bring with it the risk of alienating law-abiding Muslims in France to  no good purpose.  I am a cultural Roman Catholic –  indeed despite my atheism I don’t consider myself less Roman Catholic than any cardinal or bishop – and when I hear criticisms of Catholicism from non-Catholics they often cause me to bristle, even when I agree with their content. Quite irrational,  I know, but hey, humans. I imagine a similar effect being produced on law-abiding French Muslims when lectured at by diverse members of other faiths, agnostics and atheists on the ways in which their religion sucks. The only people who can solve the problems of Islam are Muslims themselves.
  2. “The French have no guts for a fight, they don’t really want to get stuck in to the problem”. First, allow me to quote something I said a few days ago here: “Just a quick reminder for the “France is all mouth and no trousers” types; were it not for the actions of the present government of France Mali would now be an Islamist state and there would likely have been a flood of non-Muslim Malians seeking refuge in neighbouring states. And, furthermore, it has thousands of troops deployed overseas, mainly in Francophone Africa, holding states together that would otherwise be tempting targets for Islamists. Also, its Air Force was poised to strike the Syrian regime in retaliation for its use of chemical weapons when clever clogs in the White House thought better of it at the last minute.” Secondly, what are the obvious and indeed qausi-magical measures that the French should be taking that would deal with the Islamist terrorism and that their lack of moral fiber prevents them from taking? Since Friday they have suspended the rights to free speech and free assembly and given the security forces the right to carry out warrantless searches. Hollande yesterday also announced the suspension of cuts in the size of the armed forces, more money for intelligence services and more recruitment for the cops and judiciary. These may or may not be the right measures but they do suggest that the situation is being taken with an appropriate level of seriousness.
  3. “France should follow Israel’s example, Israel knows how to deal with terrorism”. This is perhaps the dumbest criticism of all. Israel did indeed manage to crush the Second Intifada but there are one or two relevant differences. Palestinian residents of the West Bank are not Israeli citizens and don’t enjoy the protection of its laws (yes I know, they can eventually appeal to Israel’s courts against the actions of the IDF but it’s not the same as having the inalienable rights of citizens). Furthermore France doesn’t have the option of building a security fence around problematic residential areas. And in any case even in Israel terrorism continues to be a grave, ongoing problem that costs lives. Don’t get me started on the supposed special insight into the “Arab mind” possessed by Israelis.  A variant of this criticism is  that “Unit XYX of the Israeli military/police would have dealt with the situation in Paris on Friday night so much better than the French”. Well maybe but there’s really no way of knowing. I’m sure there’s things the French could learn from the Israelis on a technical level but the opposite is likely true as well and there’s no clever answer to four heavily armed suicide teams on the loose in your capital city on a Friday night. And Israel’s history isn’t exactly free of security force cock ups when dealing with terrorism. So good for Israel but let’s be realistic; assuming that what works for Israel will work everywhere else, well that’s just balls.

I’m growing increasingly convinced by the idea that European civilization may not be mentally  well equipped to deal with the rise of militant Islamism but to the extent that’s true there’s not much the present government of France can do about it.  Its efforts to fight terrorism deserve our support, our critical support for sure, but the bottom line has to be support.


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