THE terrorist attack in Paris on November 13 has rocked the whole world. Some people have already started calling the attack the “French 9/11”. Meanwhile, Facebook users globally, including Muslims (among others, our daughter and friends), have changed their profile, temporarily using the French colours in solidarity with the innocent victims of the attack. President Obama was among the first Western leaders to condemn the attack in unambiguous terms. He considered the gruesome attack “not just on the people of France, but [also] an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Despite ISIS's claim, there's no solid evidence of ISIS involvement in the Paris Attack. However, there is nothing so surprising about a Syrian – Islamist or secular – backlash against France. France's direct involvement in bombing ISIS positions in Syria since September and its plan to bomb ISIS Headquarters at Raqqa and the French support for the US-sponsored Regime Change operation against Bashar al-Assad could be important factors behind the Paris Attack.
The US and its allies have been quite ineffective in neutralising the ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Since the US-led Coalition has been mainly interested in overthrowing the Assad regime – a common enemy of the ISIS as well – there seems to be no logical explanation behind the purported ISIS terror attack in Paris. In view of the formidable pressure by the Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah forces on ISIS strongholds in Syria, the terror outfit is least likely to provoke France by a mega terror attack in Paris. Then again, one is not sure. The ISIS could have taken a suicidal move, out of total desperation.
However, whoever was behind the attack, has successfully implicated the ISIS in it. Thanks to the online circulation of videos of brutal execution of Muslim and Western captives by ISIS terrorists, the terror outfit has outperformed al Qaeda and all other nihilist Islamist terrorist groups to emerge as the most dreadful and hated terrorist group in the world. The Paris Attack has given a loud wake up call to France and the world at large. Muslims and non-Muslims seem to have no reservations about waging an all out war against ISIS. France has already accelerated its aerial bombings on ISIS targets in Syria. It might be the only positive outcome of the attack. Unlike what followed the 9/11 attacks – the enigmatic and vague “War on Terror” – the Paris Attack has led to the French Declaration of war against the ISIS in the most unambiguous terms. Let's hope a concerted Russo-American-French attack on ISIS will soon decimate the terrorist group.
However as 9/11 has left behind unanswered questions and unresolved issues, so has the latest Paris Attack. Apparently, they were terrorist attacks by ideologically motivated people to draw global attention to their cause to establish the supremacy of Islam as an alternative order to Western capitalism. We can't convince ourselves that the desire of establishing the so-called “Islamic World Order” could at all be a motive behind the attacks. Gallup polls of global Muslims reveal that the Ummah (Global Muslim community) is least interested in an “Islamic World Order,” let alone supportive of terrorism and anarchy. We need to know who were behind 9/11 and the Paris Attack. We need to know who benefitted most from the attacks. After the American-sponsored invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the world has been further polarised between the Muslim and Western worlds. America's keeping the military option wide open has further aggravated the situation, especially in the wake of the American-sponsored selective “regime change operations” in the Muslim World.
We have reasons to be optimistic about the end of the ISIS menace within a year or so, but we also have reasons to worry about the US's persistence that “Assad must go.” We believe immediate removal of Assad from power would not resolve the ethno-national and sectarian conflicts in Syria, which like Iraq, is an artificial entity, not a nation state like France or Germany. We believe the US policy of limiting the influence of Iran in Syria and Iraq, and the US policy of destabilising Iraq and Syria to the benefit of Israel, would backfire to the detriment of regional and global peace. Due to the lack of well-entrenched liberal democratic and secular traditions and institutions in the Middle East, the people in general are vulnerable to religious extremism, and subject to mobilisation along sectarian and tribal lines.
In the backdrop of Western cover-ups, the erosion of liberal values and the non-existent “soft power approach” by America, there is nothing to celebrate about winning the “War on Terror”. The public demonisation of Islam and Muslims won't do any good to anybody. The end of the Cold War – roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Globalisation Process and the IT Revolution – paved the way for another Cold War between the West and its real and imaginary adversaries in the Muslim World and beyond, in China and Russia. In the wake of the end of the bipolar world, the so-called unipolar world created new problems between the Western and Islamic worlds. These conflicts – reflected in ethno-national, sectarian and class conflicts – are about conflicts of interests and hegemonies, not “clash of civilisations”.
The end of the Cold War did not bring the promised peace, prosperity, justice and freedom for the Muslim World. However, after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, many Muslims started thinking of staging revolutions in their own countries. The four Arab-Israeli wars since 1948, the Indian occupation of Kashmir and Western invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq embittered Muslims against Jews, Hindus and Christians. Muslims, as aggrieved victims, have been going through the following stages of: a) Denial; b) Shock; c) Grief; d) Compromise; and e) Acceptance. Nine-Eleven led to denial, American retaliation to the attacks shocked and further attacks and humiliation brought grief.
Without being cynical and disrespectful to the 129 innocent victims of the Paris Attack, one may wonder why no Western leader has ever said similar things in solidarity with the Indians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Nigerians, Somalis, Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans or Lebanese in the wake of major terror attacks in these countries. The day before the Paris Attack, ISIS suicide bombers killed 43 and severely wounded around 200 people in Beirut. And Western leaders, media and people in general were indifferent to the tragedy; Obama did not consider the Beirut massacre “an attack on all of humanity”.
I am not the only “cynic” around! Some Western writers and bloggers have raised the similar question if some deaths are worth mourning, while other deaths are insignificant. David Swanson, author of War is a Lie, and a 2015 Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, questions why “We Are All France! Though We Are Never All Lebanon or Syria or Iraq!” He is also critical of the West, which never declares “deaths in Yemen or Pakistan or Palestine to be attacks on our common humanity.” Australian blogger Chris Graham critiqued Western vulnerability to “selective grief and outrage.”
Nevertheless, as Indian blogger Karuna Ezara Parikh's poem (which has gone viral in social media) suggests, we should “say a prayer for Paris by all means but pray more, for the world that does not have a prayer.” We must pray for Beirut and Baghdad as well, and stop calling Arab refugees, who ran away from terrorists to freedom, terrorists. However, as the “selective grief and outrage” of the West is disturbing, so is its finger pointing at Syrian/Arab refugees in France for the Paris massacre. Politicising the Paris attacks, as US conservatives Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich have done, is even worse. They impute the attacks to the strict gun control laws in France. As if armed civilians have ever neutralised terrorist attacks in America!
The writer teaches security studies at Austin Peay State University. Sage has recently published his latest book, Global Jihad and America: The Hundred-Year War Beyond Iraq and Afghanistan.