Monday, November 16, 2015

Catch-22, Paris Style

It seems that migrants streaming in from Islamic nations into the European Union include a small fraction of jihadists with terror and destabilization on their minds. Authorities have little doubt that, however few, there are dangerous people crossing, seeking to wreak havoc, reinforce already-existing sleeper cells and accelerate jihadist recruitment. They are also agents provocateurs, hoping that French and Belgian authorities, bolstered by popular cries against the migrants and indigenous Muslims, will crack down heavily on both groups. Indeed, suspects are being interrogated, rounded up, and Europeans are looking at the slightly darker-skinned immigrants, even their own second and third generation Islamic citizens, with less-than-friendly stares. Hate crimes are simmering; discrimination is rising fast.
The heavier the authorities crack down, the more blatant the discrimination, the greater the jihadists’ ability to recruit new fighters, new folks ready to take up arms against the relevant European oppressors, and new volunteers ready to train as marksmen and suicide bombers ready to take their revenge against those attempting to crush them. And those folks are already there. It has been particularly difficult for second generation Muslim young males, born in the Islamic ghettos of several European capitals, lacking the skills to mount mainstream careers, discriminated by reason of their color, religion and even their names.
They face the greatest motivator for angry violent reaction for Muslims everywhere: humiliation. Lacking hope in their European home country, and having their own most basic identity crises, these young men (and a few women) are drawn to a violent cause that will indeed give them meaning and direction, albeit a horrific journey into murderous terrorism.
Certainly no stranger to ultra-violence, from the beheadings of Robespierre to the Nazi occupation, France faced repeated terrorist turmoil in the last half of the 20th century. “The independence struggle of former colony Algeria led to what had been called the worst terrorist attack in modern French history, with the bombing in 1961 of a Strasbourg-Paris train by the Organisation de l'armee secrete — a far right paramilitary organisation dedicated to maintaining French rule in northern Africa.
“The 1970s saw a series of bombing and shooting attacks, mainly in Paris, linked to crises in the Middle East… They continued into the 1980s, including a deadly bombing of Orly Airport by the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia in which eight people died… Islamist-linked attacks began in earnest in that decade, with five bombings attributed to the Lebanese Shi'ite Muslim militant group Hezbollah… In the 1990s, Algerian insurgents the Armed Islamic Group were responsible for an Air France hijacking and two bombings on Paris trains.” ABC (Australia), November 13th.
But these days, Paris has become the focal point for ISIS’ wrath.  The goading of their sacred icons – Mohammad himself – by the Parisian satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, has been a particularly humiliating and insulting thorn in their side. ISIS has made it clear that, among Western nations, France is a priority target for them. The January attack on Charlie Hebdo was a cold and unexpected reality. And while the attack on Friday the 13th of November was hardly expected, this time was different.
“[The] came just 10 months after the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the attack on a kosher grocery store, and seemed to many people here to be deliberately targeted at their way of life and their young people in particular, provoking fear and new concern about France’s ability to manage the gulf between Muslims and non-Muslims here.
On Jan. 7, on the night of the killings at the editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo, thousands of Parisians spontaneously came out on the streets, bearing candles. Following the shooting later at the kosher grocery store, which resulted in more deaths, that mood of defiance and resilience grew until Jan. 11, when millions of people joined an official march of unity and solidarity in Paris.
“This time, most people agree, the mood is different; the ‘spirit of January 11th,’ so often cited by politicians, seems a distant memory. The city on Saturday was somber and subdued as people absorbed the news…
“This time… it seemed to be young people who were targeted, a fact that resonates with a generation that has no memory of past events. One retired couple said their children were more shocked than they were. ‘We remember the terrorist attacks in the 1990s,” said Fran├žoise, who was afraid to give her last name. ‘Our children don’t have any recollection of that.’” New York Times, November 14th. Venues were closed. Events were cancelled. Restaurants and stores closed. Police advised citizens to delay larger gatherings.
“Paris, with a population of 2.2 million inside the city limits, can feel very small at a time like this. Many young people have been to concerts like the one that was targeted at the Bataclan [concert venue] on Friday night. The neighborhood where the attacks took place is typically packed on weekends. That familiarity only brings the events closer to home.
“Mr. [Tony] Balet [a 57-year-old Parisian stylist] has a 24-year-old friend who was at the Bataclan concert, and emerged safe but ‘traumatized,’ he said. Another friend of his watched horrified from her window as people were gunned down in her street. Down the road, a woman at a minimarket said a friend of her son’s had been wounded in the attacks, and was now between life and death at a nearby hospital.
“‘Parisians are not very talkative,’ said Maxim Ferron, the 30-year-old manager of Love Organic, a trendy tea shop in the 9th arrondissement. ‘They keep things, their thoughts to themselves. But this time, the shock is greater: Charlie Hebdo was a target, a symbol. Yesterday, the victims weren’t journalists, or famous. They were civilians.’
“People talk about the need to show solidarity but they worry that the scale of the massacre will only divide society even further… Some people of immigrant background, who declined to give their names, worry that people will conflate France’s large Muslim population with radical Islam.” NY Times.
If it were fear that ISIS wanted to instill in the hearts and minds of Parisians… and Europeans in general… they have been wildly successful. ISIS is simply hoping that the French will overreact as they have predicted, making the recruiting and terrorism effort just that much easier. In the malevolent eyes of ISIS, nothing would please them more than Western bias, discrimination and misplaced violent action that can be cast as the West fighting a “War against Islam.” Recruits from around the world would gather to defend their faith… everywhere. Somewhere between prudence and humanity, there is balance.
Here in the United States, contrary to the U.S. Constitution and the 1980 Refugee Act, governors from Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Texas have fulfilled ISIS’ fondest dreams by refusing to take in any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees earmarked for the United States. I suspect that ISIS can and will use these decisions to support their position that the United States and her allies have declared war on Islam. That should result in another body of recruits, possibly as many as 10,000, to ISIS, insanely angry young men and women who will believe that they now must die in the defense of their faith. ISIS has released a video asserting that they will not just continue their attack on France and Paris, but that other major cities in the West – specifically including Washington, D.C. – are next on their hit list.
These governors are only making things worse, much much worse. We need to engage migrants and appropriate ethnic and religious locals, asking them to help find the worst of the worst. Without that engagement, the situation gets truly even more horrific. Catch-22. It cannot be us against them.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is so much easier to disrupt than to defend and build.

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