Sunday, November 22, 2015

"isis" wants you to hate all muslims


thenation |  Fourteen years ago, immediately after the Al Qaeda terror attacks in the United States on September 11, the French daily Le Monde published a headline that perfectly expressed the sentiments of grief, shock, and solidarity that so many around the world felt at the time: Nous sommes tous Américains
 (We are all Americans). In the wake of the Islamic State’s terror attacks on Paris, many of those same feelings flooded the world media, this time for the City of Light (a wave soon followed by rueful acknowledgment that earlier ISIS atrocities, from Beirut to Baghdad and Aden to Ankara, had elicited far less sympathy in the Global North). Adding to the shock this time was the horrifying realization that these terrorists, in targeting random civilians at a sports event, concert, cafes, and restaurants, were attacking not simply a city or a country but the very idea of pleasure, diversity, conviviality—an assault on so much of what makes life worth living.

But just as in the United States in the weeks after 9/11, all too many politicians and pundits on both sides of the Atlantic cried out for war and vengeance, demanded draconian new policing and surveillance powers, and insisted on an end to accepting more refugees. French President François Hollande, vowing that “France will be pitiless against the barbarians” of ISIS, went so far as to invoke Article 42.7 of the European Union treaty, which stipulates that all EU nations are obliged to come to the aid of a fellow member who is the “victim of armed aggression.”

Republicans and other critics in the United States used the tragedy to attack the Obama administration’s Syria policy, without offering coherent alternatives. Perhaps most despicable was the backlash against those fleeing the civil war, with more than two dozen Republican governors announcing that their states would no longer accept Syrian refugees. Several GOP presidential candidates, echoing the neoconservative pundits, seemed to be in a competition to see who could be the most Islamophobic. There’s plenty to criticize regarding President Obama’s Syria policy, but in his press conference in Turkey, the president was scathing, and admirable, on this point: “When I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted…that’s shameful. That’s not American…. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.”

The Islamophobia is racist, of course, but it also plays right into the hands of ISIS, as does the war fever. The terror group has been quite clear that its strategy is to eliminate what it calls the “grayzone” where Muslims and non-Muslims live in harmony. It aims to provoke Western governments into clamping down on their own Muslim populations, the better to drive them into ISIS’s arms. In its magazine Dabiq, ISIS applauded George W. Bush’s post-9/11 language: “Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.’ I.e. either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.” Les extrêmes se touchent.