Wednesday 16 October 2019

Brendan O'Connor: Parisian terror attack assaults our freedoms

'We will not submit'

French fire brigade members aid an injured individual near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris
French fire brigade members aid an injured individual near the Bataclan concert hall following fatal shootings in Paris
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Shots ring out, young people run in terror, there are bodies strewn on the ground.

People hang off window ledges by their finger tips, some young people drag bodies along the street, leaving thick trails of blood smeared behind.

Watch the footage that Daniel Psenny, a journalist with Le Monde took from his apartment window, high up in the laneway behind the Bataclan theatre. It is all you need to see to bring the Paris atrocities home.

It could be the Olympia, the Ambassador, any venue around Ireland. A night out at a gig that has turned into a nightmare, where the injured and dying tweeted and texted from inside as they watched other concertgoers being picked off coldly by largely unspeaking jihadis.

In a sense, it is easy for us to say that we will not go to the Canaries for winter sun now. It is easy to decide to avoid Tunisia, Turkey and Sharm al Sheikh. It is easy too to say we need more security at airports.

But are we now to avoid going to gigs also? Are we now to avoid going to football matches? Are we now to avoid gathering with our families and friends in cafes? Do we need more security, not just in our airports but in our schools, on the streets? At restaurants? In parks?

Because make no mistake, there are those who will not rest until every aspect of our everyday lives is poisoned by terrorism. "As long as you keep bombing, you will not live in peace. You will fear even travelling to the market," Isil says.

And there are those who agree to an extent with that sentiment; who argue that it is our fault, that we should appease Isil and that that will make them stop.

The Left has been quick to say that America and the forces of Western imperialism and militarism created this situation. We should look for reasons, people like Mick Wallace say, and look to ourselves for those reasons. And while many disagreed with his timing, Wallace is right. We should look for reasons.

Already, many have been posited - France's involvement in fighting Muslim extremism; France's tradition of secularism; youth unemployment among France's Muslim population, the biggest Muslim population in Europe.

So if we are going to blame ourselves, how should we begin the appeasement? Will it be enough that we disengage completely from conflicts in Muslim areas? Or do we need to roll back on secularism?

Do we need to embrace Sharia law? The nearly 100 mainly young people slaughtered at the Eagles of Death Metal concert at the Bataclan were guilty too, apparently.

They were chosen as targets because they were idolators in a party of perversity. So do we need to ban rock 'n' roll as well? Even the jokey ironic kind that the Eagles of Death Metal play? (Did those Isil clowns even realise that the Eagles of Death Metal are more a parody of perversity than a party of perversity?)

And what were those who sat in cafes in the 10th and 11th guilty of? Drinking wine? That the women were not appropriately dressed or that men and women were mixing freely? Was it just that they were gathering to have fun? Why did the prophet demand that they be killed, in the minds of Isil?

You can look for reasons, but can you reason with these people?

And how they must laugh, if laughter is allowed, as the Left in the West goes into an orgy of blaming ourselves, ourselves who are all, to some extent, the victims of this.

Since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, when there were also mutterings that those people brought it on themselves by being foolish and irresponsible and mocking the prophet, France has become used to living under what one commentator called the 'new normal'.

The new normal in France involves armed police guarding anything that they feel might be offensive to radical Muslim sensibilities. So newspaper offices, Jewish schools are all potential fair game. Many artists, writers and intellectuals are now under 24-hour protection - anything that might perhaps be associated with enlightenment, free speech, with free thinking, with free expression.

Presumably these writers and intellectuals are as offensive to the medieval minds of Isil as idolators at a party of perversity.

So what is the new normal after Friday? Do we now need armed guards protecting any western activity? Because to these people, we are all idolators in some way. We are all, by virtue of what we believe and how we lead our lives, engaged in a party of perversity. What steps do the Left believe we need to take to appease them now? What will be enough?

The strange thing about all this is that while we are the ones hurting now, the real hurt in the long term will be on Isil's own people, the people they purport to fight for.

When they bombed the beaches of Tunisia, they decimated the futures of their brothers and sisters there. When they blow up planes at Sharm el-Sheikh, they destroy livelihoods there. Now Poland has been the first country to say that in the light of the attacks on Friday, it will not be taking Syrian refugees. The events of Friday will benefit the far Right in France and make life even more difficult for French Muslims.

For our part, the West has a proud record of not allowing atrocities like this to ruin our lives. Indeed, it often seems to make us more determinedly free. New York recovered, London recovered, and Paris will recover. And the Western way of life will continue, in all its offensiveness and perversity.

Islam literally means submitting.

We will not submit.

We will not compromise how we live our lives out of fear of these people. But every time an incident like this occurs, it makes life more and more difficult for Muslims everywhere.

Of course, it shouldn't make people look at Muslims differently, but the truth is that it does. And it is also true that the kind of network needed to pull off what happened in Paris on Friday cannot operate totally in secret and totally without some support from communities.

We Irish, of all people, know this, with our history of safe houses and sneaking regarders.

It's true that we have a part to play in finding political solutions to the problem in the Muslim world.

But part of the answer lies too in Muslims standing up and declaring that this is not in their name, and in fighting radicalism in their own communities, whether that be through informing police or leadership in communities.

The men who did this sprang from Muslim communities in France, as do a huge amount of those fighting with Isil. These communities, and Muslim communities in all Western countries, need to become cold houses for radicalism.

Or they will find very quickly that, rightly or wrongly, westerners will decide that Muslims have no place in free 21st-century democracies.

Sunday Independent

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