I have waited a bit before posting any sort of reaction to the attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015. This is partially for selfish reasons; I did not want to sound overtly angered and I wanted to have all the facts in front of me before this turned into an all-out rant. This was also because I wanted to see what happened. The aftermath in crises like these can sometimes shed more like upon a situation than the actual event itself.
What happened in Paris was an atrocity. Nine militants killed 130 people. It was the deadliest attack in France since World War 2. And yet, somehow – we are still left searching for answers. Who is responsible for the attacks? Is it Daesh (Or ISIL, as they prefer to be called), who has claimed responsibility for the attacks? Probably. How large does the terror circle go? One has to only look at the lockdown in Brussels, to get a picture of how much further information we still need. How did such an attack happen without alerting the French intelligence authorities? Will this happen again? Was this an attack simply for the jihad or was it an attack meant to incite hatred towards non-radicalized Muslims? What happens next?
The most important questions out of all of the ones posed and not posed above, I believe, are the last two. What was the purpose of this attack? What happens next? The second of the one can seem rather evident. France has stepped up bombing in Syria to a massive scale, pledging to work alongside Great Britain and the United States. Social Media has exploded with #PrayforParis and France flags that can be superimposed on profile pictures. Distrust and anger towards non-radicalized Muslims has increased both in the internet and in real life. Everything seems to be going against Daesh, and yet I cannot help but think of the quote from Homer, “The blade itself incites to deeds of violence.” With all of the talent that Daesh’s strategy has shown, it doesn’t make sense to allow such a large calculation error.
The first question remains elusive. It is easy to assume that Daesh commits attacks for their stated purpose: Because infidels are in their lands, namely Iraq, Syria and the Levant. Daesh specifically called this attack against France for their anti-Muslim foreign policy. That would categorize this attack in the retaliatory category, and as such, would stop the ball there for analysis. However, we should also consider Daesh’s overall strategy. Daesh wants the world to be brought to the brink of destruction with an all-out war between Muslims and the West. Their problem: a vast majority of people who practice Islam peacefully coexist with Westerners. My first thought when presented with this evidence is that committing acts of violence against governments, such as France, will cause said governments to become draconic in their actions against Daesh and all Muslims – therefore forcing moderates to Daesh, because there is nowhere else to go.
Returning for a second to what comes next, it’s also important to notice that in the wake of these attacks, France has declared a state of emergency to last until next spring. What exactly does that mean? The government of France now has the power to: conduct house arrests under suspicion of terrorism, search premises without a warrant, search any electronic device of any French citizen under suspicion of terrorism, block all websites and social media if they are considered to be supporting terrorism, and ban organizations suspected of terrorism. Those are just the provisions that I found easily with a Google search. This securitization of France, so to speak, is understandable and probably to most Americans, it comes a little too late. To look at it from another perspective though, is to see France potentially alienating its very large Muslim population if there is discrimination in using these provisions, and we know that there most likely will be.
There have been a slew of pro-Muslim, pro-peace, pro-everything marches worldwide and that is heartening. I am glad to see French people going out and defying whatever culture of fear that Daesh wanted to sow in Parisian society. I cannot, however, ignore the potential threat that lies ahead. We still have much to watch: What will the France anti-terror laws achieve? Will they be misused or is it actually possible to wield censorship in a thoughtful way? Was this Daesh’s longer-term goal? And lastly: will this happen again someplace, whose response against Muslims will not be as tolerant as so far France’s response has been?