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Opinion

November 20, 2015

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The Paris fiasco

The series of attacks in Paris that left over 129 dead and more than 300 injured are considered to be the second largest and deadliest incident in France since World War II. It has shaken the very foundation of Europe and has prompted leaders from the international community to condemn the cowardly act.
President Obama termed it an attack on humanity and our shared universal values. The British prime minister pledged to help, while Belgium opened an investigation into the attacks. A joint statement of the EU called for a minute of silence adding that they would remember November 13 as a day of mourning. Similar pledges and condemnation came from the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
French President Francois Holland remained selective in his choice of words when he termed this ‘an act of war’. The self-styled Islamic State took credit for orchestrating the attacks and also warned France and its allies in Syria that similar attacks should be expected in the future, adding that it was just the start of the storm. The message is clear: the IS wants the allied forces to refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of the Middle East, and bombing IS hideouts.
These attacks provide evidence on two major points. First, they demonstrate the potential operational capability of the IS and second, they show the rising number of IS followers and sympathisers in Europe. Intercontinental attacks of this kind could hardly be managed without strong local logistical support, intelligence-sharing, resources and training.
Restaurants, bars, concert halls and football stadiums were targeted almost simultaneously at six different points during the attacks. This alone speaks volumes about the geographical presence of the organisation and the resources, intelligence and skills at its disposal. Furthermore, the depth of their strategy can also be seen as the attacks targeted soft spots and public places in order to maximise the

casualty count and gain as much media attention as possible.
This tragedy has also triggered heated debates on print, electronic and social media. Will this end up widening the gap between the west and the Muslim world? Has the battlefield been shifted to European territory? Are tough times ahead for the European Muslim community? It seems that the consequences will definitely be harsher for the Syrian and Iraqi refugees who had just managed to escape the ongoing conflict in their home countries.
Although President Francois Holland did not blame the refugees directly, he said the gunmen and suicide bombers executed the attacks after they were planned from outside the country. This has help support the viewpoint of the European right wing which has been against allowing refugees into the country.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was one of the most vocal members of this side. In this backdrop, the expected victory of the right-wing political forces in the upcoming local elections has multiplied the worries of French Muslims and refugees. They have already suffered great hardships and faced numerous challenges while trying to find their way to safer areas with the hope of a better tomorrow.
Reports from Europe suggest the Muslim community is under severe pressure again. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar expressed concern for the wellbeing of the Pakistani community in France, and has assured them that the Pakistan embassy in Paris is keeping an eye on the post-attack developments. Such concerns are not unfounded. Terrorist incidents in the past have resulted in problems for the Muslim community around the world.
Many question why all Muslims are labelled terrorists whenever there is any act of terrorism across the world. How could refugees be part of the Paris attack? These are people who ran away from the violence being perpetrated by the same militant network in the Middle East.
If the European leadership starts to treat the refugees as being responsible for these attacks, the already existing gap between the two sides will widen further – providing space to the IS to gain fresh recruits and earn the sympathies of those who have already developed anti-western sentiments.
The European leadership should demonstrate maturity in making any decision regarding any possible crackdown against Europe-based Muslims. They could end up serving the cause of the Islamic State, which wants to create space for itself by capitalising on the expected divide between the west and the Muslim community.
The writer is the executive director of Zcomms in Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]

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