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Paris attacks: Defend the secularist faith

Ayushman Jamwal @Jamwalthefirst

Updated: November 16, 2015, 4:31 PM IST
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Paris attacks: Defend the secularist faith
Similar to the Joker of Dark Knight, the dastardly act by ISIS in Paris is a challenge to the world's faith in the motto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
In the Dark Knight, the Joker poignantly expresses his belief to the caped crusader that human society is always prey to its base, survivalist instincts, where the notion of humanity is nothing more than a punch line. In that legendary interrogation scene he reflects on human society saying, "their morals and code, it's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They are only as good as the world allows them to be. When the chips are down, these civilized people will eat each other."

These words ring across my mind when I think of Paris, and the fear and confusion that have gripped citizens across Europe. Similar to the Joker, the dastardly act by ISIS is a challenge to the world's faith in the motto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – the secularist faith. As homegrown extremists are responsible for these acts of terror, the rise of right-wing political groups across Europe who denounce the ethos of multiculturalism seems to be the endgame of the terror group.

Months after Charlie Hebdo, ISIS is using fear to drive the citizenry from all communities in the West to the Right and further apart, to mirror its own twisted vision of ideological purity, where like medieval times your faith is your uniform on the battlefield.

The Paris attacks have also put a political lens over the refugee crisis, where hundreds of people fleeing ISIS in Iraq and Syria have found shelter in Europe. The leaders of France's Front National, Britain's UK Independence Party, Poland's Law and Justice and Hungary's Fidesz party all have said that the refugees pose a significant security risk to Europe, while in the backdrop they espouse how ‘Islamisation' has placed European values under threat. This is clearly what ISIS wants, to replicate the racial profiling and string of attacks on Muslim groups in the United States post 9/11.

Europe rests on a knife's edge, and this is the time for the governments to aggressively defend the secularist faith of their constitutions to counter the narrative of the right wing, which is being baited by terror groups. The French government's decision to re-open schools and universities across Paris, and a national appeal for unity and political cooperation, is an open defiance of ISIS and sends the right messages to people across the world. At the same time, the European governments can no longer tiptoe around the menace of homegrown terror. They cannot fear talking about Islamic extremism for the sake of political correctness. The fallout of that attitude has been that the extreme right is controlling the whole argument, and their narratives are emboldened by ISIS and other terror groups.

De-legitimising the right wing's control over the terror debate and defending the secularist faith is a tough job, but Europe is the champion of multiculturalism and its liberal leaders are up to the challenge.

This is the time where everyone from a Prime Minister to a local community leader needs to embolden a traumatized citizenry to hold on to the ideals that make them free and fearless. In these times, I remember the famous words of CBS news legend and civil rights crusader Edward Murrow appealing to the human condition when in turmoil, something I feel should resonate across the world - "We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak and to defend."
First Published: November 16, 2015, 4:31 PM IST

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