Thursday 29 September 2016

We must heed threats without betraying values

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

A police officer takes position after the fatal shooting in Paris yesterday. Photo: AP
A police officer takes position after the fatal shooting in Paris yesterday. Photo: AP

A year since the 'Charlie Hebdo' massacre and there was death on a Parisian street once more yesterday. In Germany, there is growing alarm about systematic and coordinated sexual attacks on women.

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Yet European democracies are not about to turn themselves into police states to suit the agendas of those who would wish to subvert the values and liberties that have been the hallmark of our civic society.

There are those who would wish it otherwise by fomenting a war of cultures on religious grounds. Others seek to use race and violent chauvinism as pretexts for inciting hatred and trampling on dignity and destabilising society.

Thankfully, there has been no backlash. There are a tiny few who would seek to exploit fear and distrust to stoke the flames of extremism. Europe has been benighted by such threats before, and will not be passive in extinguishing them.

Free and tolerant societies are the cornerstone of the continent; they are something to be proud of and abuses of these values will not be tolerated. Yesterday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the sex assaults in Germany touch on the "coexistence of cultures".

"The events there raise very serious questions that go beyond Cologne - whether there are connections, common patterns of behaviour and is there something like contempt for women among certain groups."

There must be no place for such "contempt" in any race or religion, however hard a fanatical few might strive to have it otherwise. Ms Merkel said we needed to send a clear signal to those who weren't willing to obey our legal standards. And so we must. We have seen mass terror attacks in Paris, Madrid and London. We must be alive to the threats. The terrorist will always target that which you value most; thus for the tyrant, freedom makes for a constant target.

But radical beliefs will not be allowed to force a radical break with the rights and values that Europe and the free world espouses, regardless of sex, creed or race.

Irish Independent

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