A mat­ter of soul search­ing

The world must get ready for more fear and panic fol­low­ing the Paris at­tacks.

Southasia - - INTERNATIONAL - By Dr. Moo­nis Ah­mar

Novem­ber 13, 2015 will be re­mem­bered in Europe for a long time be­cause of deadly at­tacks launched at sev­eral points in Paris killing around 130 peo­ple. The may­hem in Paris re­minded peo­ple of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Madrid and Lon­don in 2004 and 2005 which killed and in­jured hun­dreds of peo­ple.

When the Is­lamic State (IS) claimed the Paris at­tacks, all of Europe and the West vowed to track down the killers and the plan­ners be­hind the at­tacks. Syria, where IS groups are in­volved in large-scale vi­o­lence and mas­sacre, all in the name of Is­lam, in­vited French bomb­ing of IS hide­outs. In fact, as re­ported on Novem­ber 16, 2015 by the New York Times “the Is­lamic State has claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the cat­a­strophic at­tacks in the French cap­i­tal, call­ing them the first of the storm and mock­ing France as a cap­i­tal of pros­ti­tu­tion and ob­scen­ity.” IS went fur­ther in its re­spon­si­bil­ity of launch­ing at­tacks in France by stat­ing that, “Let France and those who walk in the path know that they will re­main on the top of the list of tar­gets of the Is­lamic State.”

France re­tal­i­ated by vow­ing to avenge the mas­sacre of in­no­cent peo­ple car­ried out by IS by liq­ui­dat­ing its com­mand and con­trol sys­tem pri­mar­ily lo­cated in Syria and elim­i­nat­ing it from the scene with the help of its al­lies. Re­cently the Ger­man par­lia­ment Bun­destag ap­proved Ber­lin join­ing ac­tion against IS, a step taken to sup­port the French ap­peal for join­ing war against the IS.

As France is try­ing to set­tle down and re­store nor­malcy, other Euro­pean coun­tries are try­ing to fig­ure out a firm pol­icy to pre­vent such at­tacks in fu­ture. At stake is the fu­ture of the Schen­gen Visa regime which for the last two decades has es­tab­lished free move­ment of peo­ple in Europe. The Novem­ber 21 is­sue of The Econ­o­mist stated that, “the as­sault on Paris by

the Is­lamic State (IS) on Novem­ber 13 was an at­tack on life’s in­no­cent plea­sures. The ter­ror­ists shot any­one who strayed into them. The deadly grasp of IS now reaches out from its base in Syria and Iraq. A day be­fore the Paris, sui­cide bombers killed 43 peo­ple in Le­banon. 224 died when a bomb de­stroyed a Rus­sian air­craft fly­ing over Egypt.” Back to back ter­ror­ist at­tacks in dif­fer­ent parts of the world seem to have launched an­other spell of ter­ror­ism un­leashed by the so­called Is­lamic groups.

The Paris at­tacks will have far reach­ing im­pli­ca­tions as far as Europe and the Middle East are con­cerned. There will be four ma­jor ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the Novem­ber 13 car­nage in Paris.

First, Europe will have to do enough soul search­ing and will need to pay the price of pre­vent­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks on its soil by cur­tail­ing the free move­ment of peo­ple, goods, ser­vices and cap­i­tal. Since the for­ma­tion of the Euro­pean Union ( EU) in Novem­ber 1993 and trans­for­ma­tion of the vi­sion of Euro­pean from the At­lantic to the Urals and United States of Europe sharedh by Charles de Gaulle, Kurt Ade­naur and Mikhail Gor­bachev into a re­al­ity,e it is for the first time that the EU will have to en­force travel re­stric­tions by im­pos­ing bor­der con­trols. It is not only be­cause of the Paris ter­ror­ist at­tacks that the EU may re­vise its Schen­gen Visa regime but the in­flux o of hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees fr from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and North African coun­tries to Europe via Greece has also con­trib­uted to the re­defin­ing of a bor­der­less Europe. Se­cond, the sp spillover ef­fect of Paris ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Mus­lims liv­ing in Europe will also be sub­stan­tial, par­tic­u­larly in France, Ger­many, Bri­tain, the Nether­lands and Bel­gium where there is a large con­cen­tra­tion of Mus­lims. Mosques and religious schools where pa­tron­iza­tion of ex­trem­ism and in­doc­tri­na­tion of Is­lamic mil­i­tancy is sus­pected will be the tar­gets of po­lice and se­cu­rity agen­cies of th­ese coun­tries. The lives of Mus­lims liv­ing in other parts of Europe will also be dis­turbed be­cause of racist and xeno­pho­bic groups get­ting fur­ther space in the af­ter­math of the Paris ter­ror­ist at­tacks. If in­tol­er­ance, ex­trem­ism and mil­i­tancy per­me­ates to Euro­pean cul­ture, it will have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on the whole world be­cause democ­racy, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and free­dom which have been con­sid­ered as the hall­marks of Western civ­i­liza­tion will be se­ri­ously ques­tioned.

Third, fol­low­ing the Paris ter­ror­ist at­tacks, one can ex­pect France and its NATO al­lies to deepen their mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against the IS in Syria. In that case, the suf­fer­ings of the peo­ple of Syria will be fur­ther aug­mented, re­sult­ing in a fresh ex­o­dus of refugees. Al­ready mil­lions of Syr­ian refugees have taken shel­ter in Turkey, Jor­dan and Le­banon and their plight will worsen in the com­ing days with fresh bomb­ings of French and al­lied pow­ers. Fol­low­ing the re­cent out­break of ten­sions be­tween Rus­sia and Turkey over the shoot­ing of a Rus­sian war plane by the Turks, prospects to es­tab­lish peace in Syria will di­min­ish fur­ther. Moscow’s al­le­ga­tion of Turkey us­ing stolen oil from Syria and Iraq by IS is like a ‘bomb­shell’ as such an al­le­ga­tion has put Ankara in an em­bar­rass­ing po­si­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, enough de­struc­tion has been caused to Syria fol­low­ing the out­break of civil war in 2011 and the emer­gence of IS. Con­flict be­tween Turkey and Rus­sia, the two ma­jor play­ers in Syria, will fur­ther de­te­ri­o­rate the sit­u­a­tion and pro­vide space to the forces of mil­i­tancy and ex­trem­ism. Fi­nally, the Paris ter­ror­ist at­tacks will un­leash phase two of the so-called war on ter­ror which was first launched fol­low­ing ter­ror­ist at­tacks on Septem­ber 11, 2001 in New York and Wash­ing­ton. The re­solve of the French Pres­i­dent to track down the at­tack­ers and their per­pe­tra­tors would mean a new phase of war on ter­ror which may cause more in­sta­bil­ity around the world. One can un­der­stand the French sen­ti­ments but by un­leash­ing an­other war in Syria un­der the re­solve to elim­i­nate IS will desta­bi­lize not only the Middle East but will also deepen the West’s mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in the re­gion.

One can take note of sev­eral con­spir­acy the­o­ries emerg­ing af­ter the col­lapse of the Soviet bloc and the end of the cold war about the pro­mo­tion of new threats to the West. Since the ide­o­log­i­cal war be­tween com­mu­nism and cap­i­tal­ism was over in 1991, the vac­uum which ex­isted in global power pol­i­tics had to be filled. Sa­muel Hunt­ing­ton’s the­ory of ‘clash of civ­i­liza­tions’ was con­sid­ered one such as­sump­tion that in the postcold war era, the vac­uum cre­ated as a re­sult of the ces­sa­tion of the threat to the Western world will be filled with the emer­gence of threats from Is­lamist forces. The for­ma­tion of Al-Qaeda and now the Is­lamic State is con­sid­ered to be part of the con­spir­acy the­ory per­ceived to be shaped by the West in or­der to jus­tify its in­ter­ven­tions in many Mus­lim coun­tries. The so­called U.S. led war on ter­ror fol­low­ing the events of 9/11, the at­tack over Afghanistan and Iraq and the vi­cious cy­cle of vi­o­lence em­a­nat­ing from the Arab Spring in Egypt, Tu­nisia, Libya and Syria, in a way pro­vided space to so-called Is­lamist forces who chal­lenge the U.S.-led Western world by car­ry­ing out lethal ter­ror­ist/sui­cide at­tacks in Europe and in the United States. As a re­sult, from Morocco to In­done­sia, the surge of Ji­hadi cul­ture threat­en­ing the Western world has pro­vided a sort of jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the West to use mil­i­tary force against the Is­lamist groups namely Al-Qaeda and now IS.

But, the Western ap­proach to deal with the rise of Is­lamic mil­i­tancy has been counter-pro­duc­tive be­cause of two main rea­sons. First, the use of ex­ces­sive force in the form of aerial bomb­ing in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan tends to cause dam­age to in­no­cent peo­ple, thus trig­ger­ing the rise of anti-Amer­i­can and anti-western sen­ti­ments. Se­cond, de­spite the use of hard power against Is­lamist groups, there is no end to ter­ror­ist at­tacks. As a re­sult, the vi­cious cy­cle of ter­ror­ism and the use of hard power con­tinue to plunge al­most the whole world in a per­pet­ual state of chaos and dis­or­der. Around thir­teen years of war on ter­ror by spend­ing tril­lions of dol­lars seem to have not yielded pos­i­tive re­sults be­cause of a flawed ap­proach and the mis­guided strat­egy of the West and its al­lies.

Europe’s soul search­ing in the back­drop of ter­ror­ist at­tacks in Paris needs to take into ac­count the gains and ben­e­fits since the for­ma­tion of the Euro­pean Union. Will EU not fall in the trap of those who want to re­verse the process of a bor­der-free Europe? By overreacting to the Paris at­tacks, the EU will cer­tainly dam­age the gains which it ac­com­plished since 1993 and will be back to square one. What is re­quired is a wise and pru­dent ap­proach on the part of France and the other EU mem­bers while deal­ing with ter­ror­ist threats by strength­en­ing the in­tel­li­gence net­work and deny­ing visas to those who have sus­pi­cious cre­den­tials and want to use their en­try to the EU for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of their no­to­ri­ous plans to cre­ate fear and panic by launch­ing an­other phase of ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Most im­por­tantly, a political set­tle­ment of the Syr­ian con­flict must be reached soon as a bul­wark against the forces of mil­i­tancy and ex­trem­ism. The writer is Mer­i­to­ri­ous Pro­fes­sor and Dean Fac­ulty of So­cial Sci­ences, Univer­sity of Karachi.

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