Thu, Jan 22, 2015 - Page 9 News List

No comfort found in Charlie and the anti-Muslim media factory

By Sami Mahroum

Unfortunately, as the horrific murder of 77 people by Anders Breivik in my adopted home of Norway has demonstrated, it takes only one organization or one individual to commit an atrocity, whatever a society’s level of education and living standards.

Yet, while so-called “lone wolves” like Breivik are hard to detect, active members of terror organizations are much easier to detect and monitor.

This is where the attacks in Paris become more troublesome.

Here was a case of a catastrophic intelligence and security failure that allowed a group of four who were known to the police to be members of a globally active terrorist organization to operate with relative ease in the French capital.

Why were they on the loose? Why were they not monitored and stopped earlier? How many more such people, known to the police, are out there?

This is the discussion that is needed. Focusing the debate solely on Islam and Muslims and the prospect of religious reform, integration and coexistence is a way to camouflage failure.

Muslims are already very much part of every sphere of European life, including the security apparatus and the army. European Muslims are integrated in their societies as professionals, athletes, academics and civic leaders.

If we European Muslims are expected to identify with our citizenship and other secular identities, then our fellow Europeans should not categorize us by our religious identity. No one should presume that European Muslims must apologize or explain the actions of a terrorist organization with a cult-like religious ideology, just as no one expected Norwegians to apologize for Breivik. Al-Qaeda and its affiliates have been known to attract disenchanted individuals from among Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans alike.

If we close our eyes, we can think that the Paris attacks exposed a contradiction between Islam and freedom of expression — and between Muslims and Europeans. If we open them and start looking at cause and effect, we can avoid the abyss to which such willful blindness beckons us.

The Paris attacks targeted innocent people everywhere, and the public deserves answers from those whose job it is to prevent such incidents from happening.

Sami Mahroum is academic director of innovation and policy at INSEAD.

Copyright: Project Syndicate

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