23 Nov My weekend in terror
Now we Belgians think that we are heroes by posting cats on Twitter to support police counterterrorism actions and not revealing movements on the ground, I feel it is time to get some perspective.
Yes, I also posted pussycats. Yes, it was fun and a welcome change of tone from the fear discourse.
Paris suicide bomber Bilal Hadfi’s last Facebook picture was taken where I live. An open air swimming pool where hundreds of families with children go. That was my near-terrorism experience of the weekend.
Last weekend, I read a lot about Daesh or IS. Because I wanted to understand how people like Bilal’s recruiters think and how they see the world. From the history of Islam over the Wahabbis and the caliphate to testimonies of women who have fled Raqqa. I guess that makes a sound base for communication opinions.
Turns out that ‘terrorists‘ is not a label that fits Daesh fighters. They believe to play an important part in the end game, a heroic battle against the infidels that will nearly destroy them but the caliphate will come out victorious with the help of God. The Wahabbis believe that every Muslim should serve the caliphate or he/she is not a real Muslim and cannot go to paradise.
Now put an image next to that of young Muslims’ social position in the West. They face racism and are underprivileged when it comes to education and jobs. I may be a little short here but they can feel useless, unimportant and not being fully part of society. A society that may have other, often neo-liberal values: if you are not making it, it’s your own fault, lazy.
I do support the counterterrorism actions, to prevent human suffering. But please politicians, know your history lessons and do not change our open and free society. We have enough rules and laws already. (Donald Trump should be prosecuted based on his statements, by the way.)
Now back to the attraction of the caliphate. Why do young people leave for Syria? Simply put: identity and importance (economic, social). Being part of a new world order – remember Rome, the popes, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, … – and being rewarded for their contributions.
Instead, we have given them consumerism while they are economically underprivileged and neo-liberalism to say it’s their own fault. They feel trapped.
The salafist preachers offer them a way out of that trap. Of course another trap that may get them killed and causes suffering for their close ones too.
Now, how do we set this right?
I’m afraid there is no shortcut. Sorry, multicultural optimists, this is a side effect of a failed approach over the last 30-40 years. We knew in the 80ies, social workers warned us but were dismissed. We choose to ignore facts that don’t fit with our worldview. Too bad. Too late. Now what?
The solution has to come from within Islam. The word Islam means peace. There’s a start.
It won’t come from a military intervention. That would cause a long and atrocious war with counterstrikes in the West and Russia.
I’m also afraid that Islam will need to fight their religious wars, like Europe did in the 16th-17th centuries, followed by an enlightenment and a separation of church and state. Not easy, look at the Republicans in the US. Sarah Palin also thinks God wants her to run for president and hunt.
Let’s not forget that we had the Cold War and terrorism in the 1970ies and 80ies. A conflict of worldviews too. Perestroika and Glasnost ended that largely. History repeats. Over and over again.
Frankly I don’t know enough about the different Islamic movements to suggest a spark or a path. But it will take decades.
In the mean time, I hope that we can stop human suffering for all people involved.
And yes, if that means posting cats on Twitter, I’ll do that.