No perfect answers after Paris attacks

Although those who resist a blank cheque approach to migration are often dismissed as insensitive, on the other hand an open door policy is in itself reckless and definitely not compassionate either

(File photo) A minute of silence was observed for the Paris attack victims at Castille square (Photo: Ray Attard)
(File photo) A minute of silence was observed for the Paris attack victims at Castille square (Photo: Ray Attard)

Trying to find perfect answers to the terrorist attack in Paris just days ago is as hard a task as trying to seek easy answers to Europe’s migration crisis.

Even prior to the traumatic Paris events it was already evident that the continent had been gripped by bitter divisions. On one hand we can understand a Europe that cannot afford an unsustainable open door policy while on the other hand there are those who are fleeing for their lives from terror and war.

Which begs the question: Are these people fleeing from terrorism and war the same that are subjecting Europe to terror and war when this could be potentially their new home?

We must get real and realise that the threat and enemy are often within. I personally find more danger in an ISIS-trained French national who returns to his own home with ease after such a stint than a migrant who sets out to seek new pastures for his basic survival needs.

Although those who resist a blank cheque approach to migration are often dismissed as insensitive, on the other hand an open door policy is in itself reckless and definitely not compassionate either.

As sustainable development guru Jeffrey Sachs commented recently: Gradual migration might be important and may replenish our societies but wide open doors are unfeasible and unmanageable.

We need to look harder at the underclass within our own societies. Is it acceptable that Europe’s aid budgets are being gobbled up in caring for refugees on European soil, when that could easily be used to build stable economic futures in the source countries?

We need to prioritise and realise that while a knee jerk reaction will not get us anywhere and a long term plan and vision are needed, Europe (and the US too) must finance the investments needed for a viable life in the fragile regions of Africa, the Middle East and Asia unless we would like to see mass migration mushroom further rather than be contained.

I am in agreement with those who also argue that even a serious agreement on climate change can help make a big difference. Offering a strong buffer against future mass migration.

Without a rapid end to the Syrian war, an end to Western-led wars of regime change and more cooperation in the UN Security Council, together with long term investments in sustainable development, we are risking far worse than having to keep up with the status quo.

I cannot but agree more that the flood of refugees will abate to a manageable level only when people, particularly in poor and unstable regions, see a safer future for themselves and their children in their home countries.

The post-Charlie Hebdo incidents did not take the shape of attacks on highly guarded embassies, tourist spots, luxury shops or landmark museums, but instead saw them strike at the heart of the other side of Paris – the one of diversity and of the modest bourgeois.

They came at a time when a new normality was settling in.

The irony of it all is that the most bitter attacks are taking place in the cradle of Enlightenment and the birthplace of secularism and the separation between the State and the Church. The beacon of freedom of thought and powerful satire.

It might be a reaction against a France that fights Islamists actively across the world – as in the case of Mali. But then this symptom is also evident in another form – the rising of anti-Semitism. Is this just extremist Islam that makes a perversion of Islam proper or is it also the price of communitarianism?

With France long perceived as the secular seat of Europe, many are asking if the anti radicalisation campaigns have managed or failed to prevent the young and disaffected from turning to Isis in a country with a strong secular tradition.

Some claim that France has lost more people to militant Islam than any other European country. It is bad to see your nationals leave your country to train with the jihadis. But it is even worse to see them come back as jihadis, re-integrating themselves in their own country after having spent time in Isis territory.

What needs to be probed is what actually triggers them to go there to train in the first place. Is it just resentment at being disaffected from a disadvantaged community that often rightly or wrongly feels discriminated against in such key sectors as education and or employment?

Some claim that even the Burqa factor could have its own impact and backlash.

No matter which scenarios will prove to be the most likely about what happened in Paris, none of them is dismissing that which includes local actors, be they entirely alone or not.

I was touched by the wise words of the French Ambassador to Malta, who hurriedly brought together the French in Malta in a spontaneous act of solidarity in the presence of our President of the Republic just hours after the Paris terror killings. Rather than adopting an eye for an eye approach, she hit out against racism and xenophobia and made it clear that reacting with the same force used by terrorists would be literally playing into their own hands.

On the other hand a show of strength is needed. And although some misunderstood some of our comments – mine included – that the worst thing we can show on such occasions is fear, I strongly believe that were we to show fear in the light of such traumatic threats and experiences we would be sending terrorism the reassurance that triggered its actions – primarily that they have succeeded in achieving their goal of instilling fear amongst the same society they set out to hit at.

The recent attack was no doubt an attack on the soul of European values and society. We need to measure our responses in the most calibrated of manners, particularly since we live in a violent traumatic post-9/11 era when it is anyone’s guess who could be hit next. 

Hurricanes are not easily avoided. But we must be prepared for the worst with courage and resilience.

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