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Paris Attacks: Islamic State’s Bottomless Abyss of Horror and Terror
November 14, 2015, 8:45 am

With the mad bloodbath from dispersed shootings and explosions Paris ends 2015 far worse than how it started it in January with the Charlie Hebdo terrorist killings of 12 of the satirical magazine’s staff, and another, a few days later, that targeted a Jewish grocery.

The Paris 13-14 November terrorist attacks synchronized to maximize fear and casualties in three different districts 1, 10, and 11 will go down in history as amongst the worst ever to be staged on French soil. The death toll is certain to surpass 200 as some of the injured are reported to be serious.

It remains to be seen whether the latest terror attacks provide a kind of ‘game changer’ in the EU’s foreign policy, if not the world’s, towards the Islamic State (IS) in the Arab region, especially in Iraq and Syria. The attacks are likely to mobilize the French towards zero tolerance of Muslim extremists, violent and non-violent. These attacks targeted symbols of a “free” life-style that are inherently cosmopolitan, urbane and cultured: sport stadium, theatre/music hall, and restaurants.

Vendetta against whom?

The Islamic State has not invented terrorism and human history is punctuated by unforgettable atrocities that resulted in unspeakable tragedy. What is really terrorising about IS’s modus operandi is that no obvious political influence seems to be behind its senseless and cold-blooded acts of terror. It is violence for the sake of violence that is likely to produce more hatred of the group and possible antipathy against Muslims.

It is not, for instance, clear at all why France is the target of a second attack in as many months. One would wager, and even sympathize, that the French are paying the price of high tolerance of migrants, including no less than five million Muslims. If the attackers are returnees from Syria and Iraq, the extent to which language fluency and native knowledge of the country and French cities make such attacks possible is yet to be analyzed and studied systematically.

A posters reading "Pray for Paris" and flowers are placed at Union Square by mourners for Paris attacks in New York, the United States, Nov. 14, 2015 [Xinhua]

A posters reading “Pray for Paris” and flowers are placed at Union Square by mourners for Paris attacks in New York, the United States, Nov. 14, 2015 [Xinhua]

What is certain is that the thesis of a vendetta against the West is not entirely plausible. Only a few days ago IS declared responsibility of its attack against targets deep inside Beirut’s Shia Southern suburb. Like in the Paris attack, the casualties were civilians. What the IS kingpins behind these more frequently ‘staged’ terror attacks are after cannot be claimed to be clear.

Pol Pot (Cambodian dictator whose Khmer Rouge regime started in 1975 and was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 1.7 million people) had some kind of warped and bigoted political agenda. Idi Amin’s (former dictator in Uganda) thirst for power goes some way towards explaining his unspeakable horror against his people.

If IS may be seeking to settle a vendetta, it cannot be explained through any specific discipline of the social sciences. Nor is the target of its vendetta clear any longer. Yesterday Beirut, Today Paris, in-between, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Tunis, and tomorrow who knows! Yazidis, Muslims, Christians and Jews, secular and religious, are all targets.

In quantitative terms, the latest Paris attacks are more or less as deadly as Timothy McVeigh massive truck bomb of the Oklahoma Federal Building in April 19, 1995. The difference is that IS seems to be fond of an execution of terror that disperses horror across various locations at the same time. It is not just numbers that guide the Islamic State. Rather, it seems to be a kind of ‘psychology of torture’: gripping and immobilizing victims with total fear.

IS: Seeking unspeakable horror?

No one knows for certain the exact tally of the dead from IS’s interventions and warring in Iraq, Syria and Libya. However, IS’s terror is mimicking its infamous ‘sister-organization’, Al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda is behind masterminding the 9/11 attacks that killed close to 3000 people in the US, and more than 200 in the combined 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

No Muslim should put up with this growing ‘barbarity’, hatred and emerging insensitivity to death and mayhem. The utopia driving its acts of terror is not clear at all and only slightly reminds one of the Khmer Rouge whose genocide in Cambodia in the mid-1970s was systematic.

IS’s utopia of a Caliphate is helter-skelter. The empire builders of Islam never exacted unspeakable horror on their enemies, in war and in peace. Its acts are marked by hatred and could never build a nation or a state. The Paris killings are no different from the 2002 Bali terrorist bombing that killed 200 innocent people. It is the murder of the innocent – to add to its record of rape, amongst other inhuman imponderables that define IS.

President François Hollande’s words that his country “is a nation that knows how to defend itself, how to mobilize its forces and once again, knows how to overcome the terrorists” ring true in the ears of many citizens of our world. He will have unfettered sympathy and support in the pursuit of justice against the culprits and IS.

Islam and Muslims in all of this

It will not be the last time that Muslims, especially living in the West, will wake up to such tragic events. It places so many burdens on them to defend Islam and Muslims. Islam commands them to be moral, loyal, law-abiding to their homelands where they live, work, pay tax, and educate their kids. This is what matters in times like this. French Muslims should root for France as loyal citizens. They are not responsible for the acts of lunacy committed in the name of Islam.

Nor is Islam to blame for IS or its lunacy. Perhaps today the whole world is paying the price of a huge mistake that should have not happened: the illegal Iraq war of 2003 that many among our intelligentsia, leaders and even sections of the public supported.

It is no longer adequate, if at all, to speak about Islam as a religion of the ‘other’.

Islam has been inhabiting Europe since 8th century, and North America since the 16th century when black African slaves were brought to that continent. Islam is a founding religion of the ‘West’ as much as Christianity and Judaism. One thing worth remembering is that Jews for the most part were persecuted and ghettoized in Europe but not in Muslim countries.

This partly dispels the myth of a Judaeo-Christian heritage in terms of social history. Scholar Richard Bulliet wrote a book several years ago entitled the case for Islamo-Christian civilization. The world cannot seal Islam in an airtight container and then say this is what Islam embodies to the exclusion of other traditions.

To do so is to ignore many meeting points, positive encounters, and processes of continuous dialogue with ‘otherness’, past and present, and processes of mutual inclusion. Neither Islam nor the other world faiths can afford to dwell on narratives of mutual exclusion to explain acts of barbarity such as in Paris yesterday.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the publisher's editorial policy.

One Response to Paris Attacks: Islamic State’s Bottomless Abyss of Horror and Terror

  1. williamlawlor Reply

    November 23, 2015 at 4:46 pm

    Why is there no mention of France’s war policies in the ME,especially Syria. France has acvtively engaged in attacks against Syria. Also when speaking of Pol Pot’s killing fields, not a word on the illegal and merciless bombing of Cambodia by the U.S..It has been acknowledged by historians that the bombing Directly led to the chaos that enabled Pol Pot to seize power. The neocons are leading America to sow war for resource theft.

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