What Happened in Paris (Beirut, and Baghdad) Was Not Senseless: ISIS and The Fate of Syrian Refugees By Allison Pinski
As the tragic events of an ISIS attack on Paris over the weekend (11/14) continue to unfold, people (in particular Westerners) wonder why such “senseless” acts of violence occur, especially in the heart of Western Europe. This attack was not senseless; it was a very deliberate act to attract international attention and show that ISIS is growing.
If you haven’t heard of the terrorist organization ISIS (also referred to as ISIL or the Islamic State), here’s a quick recap. There is very little known about the group, as it came into existence (as far as global awareness knows) several years ago. The United States and other countries have had a difficult time confronting the Islamic State, as they have use tactics very different from other Islamic terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. All that is known about the group is that it acts upon Puritan Islam interpretations, it is very anti-Western, and it wants to create an Islamic state free of any other religion and culture.
ISIS has gained a global awareness for its videotaped executions (in the form of beheadings) of U.S., British, Russian, French, Spanish, and other aid workers and journalists working in the Middle East as hostages (read more here).
When looking at the Paris attacks, it is important to understand the significance of what happened. According to CNN, this has been the worst spout of violence in France since WWII (which ended in 1945, exactly 70 years ago). This the worst attack on French soil since WWII. According to the article:
In an online statement distributed by supporters Saturday, ISIS said eight militants wearing explosive belts and armed with machine guns attacked precisely selected areas in the French capital.
As a response to the attack, numerous cities around the world lit up their buildings with the colors of the French flag.
The ISIS attacks on Paris are significant for two other reasons in addition to the obvious death toll and security breach in France. First, as a result of the attacks, countries may become more weary of accepting Syrian refugees and IDPs (internally-displaced people). According to the Internally Displaced Monitoring System, there are approximately 7.6 million IDPs in Syria as of July 2015. The individuals responsible for the attack are believed to have posed as refugees from Syria (according to Politico), and may have created challenges for countries accepting refugees in the future.
According to this article (which references this press release), the Governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley, has already issued a statement claiming he will refuse to accept Syrian refugees relocating to the U.S. In Europe, there is a fear that countries will fall into the hands of extreme nationalists to spread Islamophobia and far-right policies (according to this article from Foreign Policy).
When looking at the Syrian refugee crisis, it is important to understand that the Syrian refugees and IDPs are escaping the same violence that Paris experienced. ISIS is to Islam as the KKK is to Christianity; the majority of Muslims are moderates and do not believe in the acts of violence or “Islamic beliefs” that ISIS and other Puritan groups use. Islam is different from Christianity because it does not have a central authoritative voice; it is up to individual and group interpretation. While it is very difficult to find unbiased information about Islam, you can read more about the religion here (especially looking at this article on Islam and Terrorism), and here.
There is currently a movement among Muslims to dissociate ISIS from Islam. You can check it out here on Twitter under the #ISISisNotIslam. Many Muslims are tweeting that “Islam is not terror” and “cruelty is not Islam,” denouncing ISIS for their interpretation of the Quran and practice of the religion.
Secondly, it is important to remember the other bombings which took place around the same time as Paris, but received little to no attention. Beirut, Lebanon is one of these cities. ISIS suicide bombers killed 43 people and wounded 200 others in an attack on Thursday, according to the New York Times. It is very important to show support for Beirut, as well as Paris, for they lost valuable lives at the hands of ISIS too.
According to another article from the New York Times:
Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend ‘shared values;’ Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.
In addition, Iraq suffered the third ISIS attack of the weekend. According to the New York Times, at least 26 people were killed and at least 61 were injured in two separate suicide bombings in Baghdad. The New York Times says,
“Since the emergence of Islamic State extremists, attacks in Baghdad have taken place almost daily, with roadside bombs, suicide blasts and assassinations targeting Iraqi forces and government officials, causing significant civilian casualties.” (You can read the rest of the article here).
That being said, when you remember the victims of Paris, also remember the victims of Beirut and Baghdad. No attack is any more or less important than the other, and no attack deserves more or less recognition from the global community.