Sunday Comment

People hold placards which read “I am Charlie” during a vigil for the victims of Wednesday’s shooting at the offices of weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

10-01-2015DAVID MDZINARISHVILI

By Hugh Ash

THE emotions coursing through me writing this in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo atrocity and the three-day terrorisation of Paris are a meld of seething anger, deep sadness and utter revulsion.
 Not because eight of the victims in Wednesday’s craven attack on the satirical magazine’s offices were fellow journalists – in fact, I considered much of what they produced offensive – but free speech and humanity, warts and all, were the targets.
 The scum, unfit to dignify the title ‘human beings’ and perverting the faith they purported to defend, carried out the massacre with the lethal precision of Nazi stormtroopers.
 They’d clearly recce’d their killing ground well in advance, just as the callous butchers responsible for the Mumbai Massacre did in 2008, and they executed the op like seasoned special forces.
 Particularly chilling was the gruesomely slick way one snuffed out the life of a wounded cop – himself a Muslim – lying helpless on the pavement, begging to be spared.
 All bore the indelible hallmarks of al-Qaeda, particularly the assault on the kosher deli in eastern Paris, where four hostages were murdered, which was deviously synchronised to throw police into disarray.
 So let’s be straight: these frontal assaults on liberty cannot be passed off by pussyfooting politicos as yet more ‘lone-wolf’ incidents, concocted by fanatical ‘self-starters’.
 Nothing about them was haphazard or shamateur. And the arsenal of death the assassins toted, AK47s and an RPG rocket-launcher, couldn’t have be sourced from Galeries Lafayette or even local gun shops, which proliferate in a hunting-mad country.
 No, a complex supply chain, involving cells of smugglers, financiers and armourers, was needed to support these multiple barbarities and it lies somewhere in the heart of France’s five-million strong Muslim community.
 Undoubtedly, the peaceable followers of Islam will be just as gut-wrenched by the hideousness of it all as their fellow-countrymen.
 But – as demonstrated ad nauseum throughout Western democracies – the question will once again be posed: are Muslim communities doing enough in their own backyards and mosques to counters the explosion of extremism?
 Secular France has a particularly testy problem with Islam. Yet, in recent times, its liberal elite has bent backwards to excuse an uptick of attacks as merely the handiwork of nutters.
 Just before Christmas, a shopper was killed and nine wounded when a van deliberately ploughed through a crowded market in Nantes.
 A day earlier a man, shouting ‘Allahu Akba’ rammed his car into crowds in Dijon, seriously injuring 13, while in Joueles-Tours an assailant stabbed three police officers, likewise yelling in Arabic, ‘God is the great’.
 That same week three drive-by shootings in Paris targeted a synagogue, a kosher restaurant and a Jewish-owned publishing house.
 And it is a French jihadi, then newly returned from fighting in Syria, who faces trial over last May’s ambush at Brussels’ Jewish Museum, in which three people were shot dead and another critically wounded.
 Yet, immediately after the Dijon attack – which the perpetrator dedicated to the ‘children of Palestine’ – France’s interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, called on the public ‘not to draw hasty conclusions since [the car driver’s] motives have not been established.’
 And, despite admitting ‘the investigation had barely begun,’ the local public prosecutor quickly claimed, ‘This was not a terrorist act at all.’
 In fact, it took the third outrage before Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, conceded, ‘There is, as you know, a terrorist threat to France.’
 Had there been any lingering doubt, Paris’s 9/1 carnage has smashed it, because the bloodletting was all too predictable. And, in stark contrast to the apologists who rule them, people – not merely headbanging xenophobes – were already displaying greater awareness of the unpalatable reality confronting them.
 Those in the street long knew the West is locked in a guerrilla war on its own turf, waged by an enemy within, who cloak themselves in a ruthless interpretation of an eastern faith imported by waves of immigrants, seeking opportunity in better, fairer, freer societies.
 In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has serially failed to slap down the army of demonstrators, who meet each week in Dresden – and growing bands of likeminded activists elsewhere in her country – demanding tighter immigration controls.
 And Australian Premier Tony Abbott was rightly rapped for downplaying the attack on a Sydney café by a self-style sheikh that left two diners dead.
 Even though it was evident the killer, Man Haron Monis – an Iranian, who forced hostages to hold up to the window a black flag, emblazoned with a jihadi slogan – was driven by religious fervour, Abbott insisted, ‘This event was an act of politically-motivated violence.’
 Politically motivated? What? Like the Irish ultra-nationalists of the IRA or the Basque separatists of ETA were inspired by radical Catholicism to commit mayhem?
 At least in Canada there is no mood for whitewashing Islamic extremism.
 After incidents involving Muslim converts killing two soldiers, Canada’s leader, Stephen Harper, didn’t mince words: ‘I have been saying we live in dangerous world and terrorism has been with us for a long time,’ he said.
 So what can be done to stem the rising tide of ultra-Islamic ferocity?
 For a start we can stop bellyaching that our security establishment scanning emails is a snoopers’ charter, because this is a key bulwark against those out to destroy our society.
 And, as the head of MI5 pleaded last week, invest more resources in vigilance to minimise opportunities for the merchants of death to claim further victims.
 Governments also need to force internet platforms, like Twitter, to take down suspect sites. If they don’t, hit them with astronomical fines.
 The international community, meanwhile, must enforce its money-laundering pacts with real vigour, choking off cash – mainly from Middle Eastern sympathisers – that’s the lifeblood of jihadism.
 A further measure is more scrupulous border checks and denying the right of return to those who join the jihad cause abroad, rendering them stateless.
 Finally, to aid community solidarity, mainstream Muslims – often so quick to rage – should take it upon themselves to stage ‘Not in our name’ marches.
 That gesture might, just might, isolate the fanatics and stop them providing ammunition to far-Right parties expanding across Europe, whose racist venom is only likely to make a grave situation even worse.

To read more of Hugh Ash’s comments, follow his online blog – Views From The Mallorca Pier – at hughash.wordpress.com

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