|Image from StateofMind13.|
Scenes of Paris post-attack were chaotic, with the wounded and traumatised covered in thermal blankets, ambulances, medics and emergency police at every corner. The attack was the deadliest on French soil since World War II. 129 victims have been confirmed dead.
After declaring a state of emergency and closing the nation's borders, President Francois Hollande declared the attacks an act of war, and that in response France would "lead a war which will be pitiless." Two days later, Al-Raqqah in Syria, the Syrian headquarters of Daesh (also known as IS, ISIS, and ISIL) was bombed in retaliation, in an escalation of the ongoing Opération Chammal.
As politicians put out their prepared statements expressing grief and solidarity with the French people, one particular United States presidential wannabe made the show all about him, hijacking the conversation to turn it to gun control.
More guns, more vows to end terrorists, more calls to war against Daesh and religious extremism.
It's almost as if we believe that the combined efforts of the United States, Britain, and France since 2001 have been effective at all. Almost as if we believe that the only way to stop the escalating violence and wars is to, well, fight back with more violence and wars.
Almost as if we believe that each time fighting hatred with hatred has not resulted in the creation of even more radicals and terrorists.
In many parts of Europe, xenophobia is rampant, and there is a steadily escalating atmosphere of fear. Everywhere there is an increasing guardedness of anyone who associates themselves with Islam, even though numbers tell us that the estimated 80,000 Daesh militants constitute only 0.00005% of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.
France has always had a complicated relationship with its Muslim population. Some of France's imams were already being expelled, and the backlash to the Muslim community was immediate after the November 13 attacks. These attacks will do nothing to quell rising fear and suspicion. Muslims in headscarves praying for victims at Parisian shrines find themselves the subject of insult.
Paris is only one symptom of a larger problem, the one most familiar and therefore the one we pay the most attention to. But what happened in Paris has happened - and is still happening - to so many countries and so many people who are unfortunate enough to be born and live in the wrong place.
Syrian refugees to Europe are fleeing from the very people who perpetrated the Paris attacks. To them, attacks like those in Paris are a common occurrence. Western media reports the "latest" attack in Beirut as though they have become the norm. Just another Middle Eastern attack claimed by Daesh, unnamed victims, buried in the centrefold of the World News section.
The unfortunate fact: No one pays attention until it happens to you.
On 31 October 2015, Metrojet Flight 9268 crashed in northern Sinai after departing from Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt en route to Saint Petersburg, Russia. It was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members, and the crash killed all on board. It is thought that the cause of the crash was a planted explosive device, with baggage handlers suspected of being involved. Daesh claimed responsibility.
Islamophobic sentiment in Paris will only rise in the wake of these terror attacks, which follow the January attacks to Charlie Hebdo. They are not likely to be any more welcoming to the influx of Syrian refugees, especially now that fears about Daesh militants and sleeping agents travelling into Europe alongside refugees can be confirmed.
What happens now that the Daesh fight has been brought to Western soil? A few things, to start off with: anger, solidarity, upcoming analyses, stories of narrowly escaping survivors, claims of unfair media attention, promises of more action.
And then there are these guys, who sum up all our thoughts and feelings better than the New York Times ever will.
Praise be, John Oliver. Praise be.
Just like Waleed Aly says, Daesh (or ISIL, or ISIS, whatever your chosen name is) is trying to start World War 3. What is frustrating is that it seems almost they're succeeding - there isn't simply global condemnation, but there are outright declarations of war. And indeed, war in the Middle East has been going on for a long time now.
Or does this not count because this time the enemy is not a western power?
When I asked this question on Facebook, someone responded no:
States aren't in a state of total war. In ww2 multiple states were in total war. In other words, all of its economy and production are optimised for the war effort.And while I agree that there has been no outright declaration of total war, we cannot deny that Daesh is trying to steer things that way. Frighteningly, Daesh is winning the war of fear - the suspicion of Muslims from non-Muslims, the increasing alienation of Islamic communities.
What do you think happens to people who feel alone? They go to find places where they feel understood, places they think they belong. Somehow they stumble upon Daesh, and before you know it there has been another unwitting subversive radicalisation.
It may not be anything new, but it needs to be said all the same. Hatred begets hatred.
Unless we learn to accept people for who they are, groups like Daesh will keep growing in strength, promising refuge and family and a place the misunderstood can call home. So yes, this is a war - not World War 3 perhaps, not total war, but a war of ideologies.
Samuel P. Huntington was right all along.
We can say what we want, we can display all the solidarity we want, and yet, the world will go on. Barack Obama said that people have become 'numb' to America's 'routine' gun attacks, just as the rest of us have done to terrorist attacks in the Middle East, events to which we pay little attention.
We will talk about this for a little while, put on our little mourning show, and then live life as usual. We will go about our days, have toast and orange juice at breakfast, and watch the latest episode of Breaking Bad.
Change is uncomfortable - change is hard. Changing the way we see friends and neighbours is especially difficult, if we try to shift our view from one of fear to one of love. But change is necessary, for it is the only way that we can get ourselves out of this mess of extremism and hatred.
In war, everyone has their part to play. It is the part of the military to seek and destroy Daesh strongholds and weaken their operations. It is the part of the people to tend to our own communities and avoid alienating those already weak or scared. When there is family to be had among their own communities, there is neither need nor desire to seek out radical alternatives.
The only way forward is one of acceptance, of trust and of welcome.