After Paris: Why we need to stop and think before blaming the refugee crisis for terrorism

1 December 2015 | Mirja Brand

After Paris: Why we need to stop and think before blaming the refugee crisis for terrorism

The recent terror attacks in Paris have sparked outrage, shock, and fear all over the world. This has also caused renewed racist and islamophobic attitudes among governments and the public across Europe and North America. Many political leaders rushed to announce their support in the fight against terrorism. Some quickly announced tightened security for the current refugee influx, many having their eyes on Syrian refugees. While speculations were running high, no evidence could be found that any of the Paris attackers had been of Syrian nationality and indeed, all of them were European nationals of French and Belgian origin. Nevertheless, mainstream media and the public were quick to denounce the refugee crisis for the attacks. A Syrian passport, which turned out to be fake, had been found with one of the attackers. Immediately after the attacks in Paris, refugee camps near the French port of Calais were attacked and set on fire. In the US, 31 governors have criticised the Syrian refugee program and called for its suspension for fear of terrorists. The screening process for Syrian refugees is one of the hardest ways to enter the US, and not one refugee has committed an act of domestic terrorism over a period of 14 years since 9/11. While faith and human rights groups have already condemned the governors’ responses, this attitude is not confined to the US alone.

2015 anti bombing Syria protest Keiron Marshall

Protests against the bombing of Syria in London. When a vote in Parliament decided the UK would bomb Syria after all, it took only an hour for the mission to be under way. Many wondered what the point was of a vote when the decision had already been made. Photograph: Keiron Marshall from The Sound Lounge

Although the public has also responded critically to the decision to invade Syria in anti-war protests in London and Madrid, there has been a wide-spread increase in islamophobia and a rise in anti-muslim attacks in Europe and the US. The recent vote by British parliament in favour of attacking ISIS territory in Syria on Wednesday night came despite public opposition. While politicians were debating, more anti-war protests outside of parliament brought traffic to a temporary stand-still. Just an hour after the vote, news soon came that Britain launched its first airstrike in Syria early Thursday morning. While the threat of violent terrorist attacks should not be taken lightly and we have to ensure our safety and protection, this cannot be separated from a thorough understanding of the various causes for these attacks, as well as the consequences of our decisions in how we will fight them. By bombing Syria or by closing our borders to Syrian refugees, we are acting in the same way as our so-called enemy, destabilising Syria even further and thus increasing the number of refugees who are desperately trying to leave this conflict-ridden region. Refusing help for people who are fleeing war, violence, discrimination and destruction should not be our response to these attacks. Linking refugees to terrorists is questionable and undermines the need to keep supporting them. Many are fleeing from ISIS-infested territories themselves, looking for a life free of war and violence. While ensuring our own peace and security here, it does not make sense to put the blame on vulnerable people who are fleeing the very dangers that we are set to fight. By accepting an islamophobic backlash we run risk of further increasing ignorance and hatred towards members of our society while even further widening the gap between different communities.

A Facebook response to the Paris attack by Antoine Leiris, a man who has lost his wife and the mother of his son has gone viral, as it stands out amidst the angry and often islamophobic responses. Instead of turning to anger and hatred, this man announced that “[…] responding to it with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are”, addressing ISIS. Considering such a deep loss, his statement demonstrates a high degree of open-mindedness and courage, but more importantly, it shows the need for love and a calm mind instead of hatred and blind ignorance in these difficult times ahead of us.

Research and writing – Mirja Brand

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