Monday, January 12, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Jan 13, 2015

Paris fallout Many world leaders, including Muslim and Jewish statesmen, joined President Francois Hollande in a silent march of hundreds of thousands of people in Paris on January 11 to show solidarity with the victims of the recent attacks that killed 17 people, including journalists and police personnel, and to send a message of defiance to the perpetrators. The march is being considered the largest in modern times in the French capital, reflecting the shock over the worst militant assault on a European city in nine years. For France, it raised issues of free speech, religion and security and for the wider world, the vulnerability of states to urban attacks. If security was high at the silent march, it was nothing compared with the deployment of some 10,000 troops and police on the next day to reassure people that they would be safeguarded. The fears of a similar assault in other European countries proved a self-fulfilling prophecy when German daily Hamburger Morgenpost’s office was the target of an incendiary device thrown into the building. Hamburger Morgenpost had reproduced Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons as a show of solidarity. Europe’s struggle against radicalisation of disaffected young Muslims is not being helped by the media’s defiance of the terrorists by going on reproducing material considered blasphemous by most Muslims, but of whom only a fanatical minority choose to respond to violently while the vast majority, unhappy as they may be at the provocation, choose to ignore it. The eternal dialectic between freedom (of expression) and responsibility remains unresolved therefore. The danger is of falling into the trap laid by the fanatics, who want to paint the ‘conflict’ as a war of the west against Islam. Implied in this formulation is their attempt to hijack and monopolise the mobilisation appeal of Islam for young Muslims, including those in the west, alienated and angry over what they consider blasphemous treatment of holy personages or the religion itself. There is clearly a historical and conceptual divide here, reflected increasingly in the actual gulf opening up between Muslims, including those in the west, and the rest. This is the binary the fanatics preach and desire to see emerge. It brings grist to their propaganda mill, fresh recruits in increasing numbers, and the polarisation of societies and the world into the trenches dug by the terrorists. Part of this opening up of the ground under the feet of modern society is the rise of Islamophobia, racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in many countries of Europe. Perceptive observers have been warning of the implications of racial or religious profiling on the health and peace of European societies. Although US President Barack Obama’s was a notable absence at the solidarity march in Paris, the White House plans a global security summit on the challenge of terrorism on February 18. And that is as it should be, since jihadi terrorism has burst the bounds of nation states and emerged as a global phenomenon with links backwards and forwards across borders. In Pakistan we can sympathise with the victims of terrorism in heartfelt fashion, particularly when eyes became moist and breasts choked at the reopening of the Army Public School on Monday in Peshawar for the first time since the December 16 massacre. COAS General Raheel Sharif made it a point to attend the school’s assembly, interacting with the students to boost their morale. The courage on display by students and faculty simply brings a lump into the throat. While the Army Public School Peshawar and educational institutions throughout the country tentatively open their doors again after December 16, spare a thought for the soldier beheaded in D I Khan by the Pakistani and Afghan supporters of Islamic State as seen in a video released by them. The barbarity refreshes memories of how these monsters played football with the severed heads f soldiers not so long ago. The barbarity is bad enough. Recording and releasing it on the media shows both callousness beyond description as well as the effort to terrorise through such horrible images. Pakistan and the world must quickly grasp that the terrorist monster can no longer be fought within the confines of the borders of nation states. Just as terrorism has gone global, so must the fight against it.

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