First of all, here’s something I didn’t write last night, because sometimes I am an idiot: to all those who lost friends and loved ones last night, and the day before in Beirut, and everyday in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere; to Parisians, Beirutis, the French people, the Lebanese people, and everyone else whose lives have been damaged or destroyed by violence: my thoughts are with you. I cover a lot of horrible events on this blog, because that’s what happens when you write about the Middle East, and I don’t say that kind of thing nearly often enough. But I’m saying it now.
Now, moving on.
Part of the rationale underlying attacks against Western targets, like 9/11, the 7/7/2005 attack in London, and last night’s attack in Paris is the desire to inspire a backlash against Muslims living in Western nations. Al-Qaeda and ISIS want to create an “us vs. them” dynamic in the relationship between “Islam” and “the West,” to make it impossible for Muslims to continue to live in the West, to show that Western claims to value “tolerance” and “inclusiveness” are shams. Don’t take my word for it, read what ISIS actually says on the subject:
“The Muslims in the West will quickly find themselves between one of two choices, they either apostatize and adopt the kufrī [infidel] religion propagated by Bush, Obama, Blair, Cameron, Sarkozy, and Hollande in the name of Islam so as to live amongst the kuffār [infidels] without hardship, or they perform hijrah [emigrate] to the Islamic State and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens… Muslims in the crusader countries will find themselves driven to abandon their homes for a place to live in the Khilāfah, as the crusaders increase persecution against Muslims living in Western lands so as to force them into a tolerable sect of apostasy in the name of ‘Islam’ before forcing them into blatant Christianity and democracy.”
It is also stated that, with the advent of the Caliphate, Muslims can no longer justify living in the West by claiming that the Muslim lands are ruled by apostate regimes: “Again, the announcement of the Khilāfah preceding the events in Europe further demolished the grayzone, as many Muslims living in Europe and the Americas justified their residency amongst the kuffār with the fact that the Muslims’ lands were under the rule of apostate tawāghīt [tyrannical secular rulers]. Now, with the presence of the Islamic State, the opportunity to perform hijrah from dārul-kufr [the abode of unbelief] to dārul-islām [the abode of Islam] and wage jihād against the Crusaders, the Nusayriyyah [‘Alawites], the Rāfidah [Shi’ite], and the murtadd [apostate] regimes and armies, is available to every Muslim as well as the chance to live under the shade of the Sharī’ah alone.”
The “gray zone” describes places where Muslims live in the West and embrace “Western” (from ISIS’s perspective, anyway) values. ISIS (which has now officially claimed responsibility for the Paris attacks) wants to end it, to leave nothing but black zones and white zones, Muslim zones and Western zones. They count on Westerners to help them do it. Here’s more:
Dabiq also cites recent attacks in France against Charlie Hebdo and in a kosher supermarket as undertaken in order to “further bring division to the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere.”
The magazine even approvingly quotes the war-on-terror rhetoric of former U.S. President George W. Bush: “Bush spoke the truth when he said, ‘Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists,’” a passage reads. “Meaning, either you are with the crusade or you are with Islam.”
So here’s the thing: if you don’t want ISIS to get what it wants, don’t give it to them. Don’t react to an attack like Paris by terrorizing Muslims (or people who “look like Muslims”) in your own communities. Don’t demand that your leaders engage in even more destructive, destabilizing violence in the Middle East. Don’t elect white nationalists to high office, something that’s a real danger in France. Don’t hate and shun good people because of what religion they practice or what nationality they are. Don’t reject and immiserate refugees fleeing precisely the same kinds of people as those who attacked Paris. Just don’t do those things. Don’t panic. It’s that simple. The fight to counter and ultimately defeat ISIS and other forms of radical Islam is obviously more complex than that, but as a first step, the principle “don’t be an asshole” really does make a difference.
Keep in mind that the day before Paris was attacked, Beirut was the victim of this same festering violence. So was Baghdad, which is practically an every day occurrence there nowadays. Whatever amount of pain and terror ISIS has visited upon the West, it has visited thousands of times more than that on the Middle East and the people living there, including Muslims. Don’t add to that pain and that terror. Don’t help ISIS destroy the gray zone. Don’t embrace their hateful “with us or against us” view of the world.
Don’t do their work for them. Don’t fall for their trap.
Remember that not only do you not have to get down in that muck with ISIS, but that every time you do get down in the muck with them, they win.
Hey, thanks for reading! If you come here often, and you like what I do, would you please consider contributing something (sorry, that page is a work in progress) to keeping this place running and me out of debtor’s prison? Also, while you’re out there on the internet tubes, please consider liking this blog’s Facebook page and following me on Twitter! Thank you!