At the time this is being written, more than 100 people have been confirmed dead in the Paris attacks and another 70 have been wounded. The death toll is expected to rise and there are also reports of several gunmen still being at large. France, the nation that is home and sustenance to six million Muslims has been attacked in the name of Islam. Let's be clear about this: those who planned and carried out these attacks are not just murderers; they are ingrates who have indiscriminately slaughtered the innocents of a nation that took them in and gave them the opportunities their own countries had failed to provide them. Not only must the killers be punished, the trail that leads to their handlers, their financiers and their overlords must be followed to the very end -- no matter who they are or where they are.
It is also high time to rethink counter-terrorism policy. Far too long has the focus been on the nebulous constructs of "radicalization" and "ideology." This fool's errand has shaded the dictators and monarchs of the Middle East whose brutality and stifling of free speech has incubated terrorism. It takes attention away from religious demagogues, from Pakistan to Saudi Arabia, who champion anti-western sentiment and pervert religion to suit their political needs. It has allowed a glossing over of the role the 2003 invasion of Iraq played in creating the arena of chaos and the deluge of armaments that enabled the rise of ISIS. It leaves unscathed the internet cabal of ISIS recruiters that lure western Muslim youth and disseminate the atrocity exhibition of their propaganda videos.
It is an inimical endeavor to try and control the transmission of ideas while ignoring the actual criminals and enablers.
It is also time to take away any religious legitimacy from these craven misanthropes. With nary a breath of meaningful research, since September 11, 2001 the world has launched into an interminable debate over the role of religion in terrorism. Each side has become progressively more entrenched in its stance and the only ones to profit from this antagonism have been those who deal in the business of hate.
While right-wing politicians and clergy in Muslim nations utilize this debate to promote their pernicious construct of a Western world conspiring against Islam, their counterparts in the west peddle their own bigotry in the name of patriotism and faith. Ultimately, the group psychopathy that is ISIS, Al-Qaeda or Boko Haram does not care about scriptural interpretation or infallibility. It is of no consequence to them what Muslims in general believe. It is their own brand of ideology that they wish to sell -- and the more Islam or Muslims as a whole are demonized, the greater will be the anger and alienation they so effectively prey on.
Those who insist terrorists are following "true" Islam must understand that they are only undermining those within the Muslim world who are trying to fight extremism. That when they label progressive Muslims "apologists" they are doing a great disservice to those who are sacrificing the most to fight this malignancy. The terrorists must be clearly seen as an aberration and universally stripped of their perfidious claim to act in God's name and in accordance to scriptural injunctions. To anoint them with devoutness will only further their legend and their legions.
It is time to change course, to end the petty squabbles that pass for debate in the public forum. The media must cease its selective attention to narratives of hatred and schism and give equal coverage to the narratives of interfaith harmony and kindness that are just as abundant. Let us start asking ourselves and others what we stand for and stop reminding each other what we are against. Perhaps we will find, far more often than not, that we want the same things. Only in unity can those who strive for peace hold accountable those who lust for war.
Dissension and hate are the portals we offer to terrorism. We must close these doors and turn our focus to the mercenaries of self-interest who profit from our defeatist behaviors.