THE BLOG

Paris and Beirut Don't Need Our Prayers - They Need Action

18/11/2015 12:25 GMT | Updated 17/11/2016 10:12 GMT

More than any previous terrorist attack, the events in Paris last Friday evening felt like the first to truly become a social media event. Following Facebook's Safety Check feature(https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10101699265809491), which allowed people in the French capital to let friends and loved ones in France and all over the world know that they were safe, the hashtag #PrayforParis, emerged as an expression of empathy with the victims. Facebook users then began putting the blue white and red of the French flag over their Facebook profile pictures. This resulted in a backlash, as many correctly highlighted the lack of attention that recent terrorist attacks in Beirut and Baghdad had received compared to Paris. The hashtags #PrayforBeirut, #PrayforBaghdad and even #Prayfortheworld (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/focus/11/15/15/prayfortheworld-prayers-for-peace-pour-in-on-social-media)started being used in protest.

Condemning the blind spots of social media users in the West is one thing, but this soon descended into an outright attack on France, with some even accusing the French of bringing these attacks on themselves because of their carrying out of air strikes on Isis in Syria, and describing the French flag itself as racist because of its associations with France's colonial past(https://attheinlandsea.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/take-that-fucking-french-flag-down/). France - and Britain for that matter - have histories which are deeply problematic; steeped in racism, the exploitation of other nations around the world, and the subordination of their industrial proletariats at home. Displaying the flag of a country in mourning may be as empty a gesture as #Praying for Beirut, but it doesn't make you a racist.

What must be remembered about last Friday is that Muslims are the primary victim of Isis. They face the brunt of Isis' brutality in the Middle East, and they will face increased discrimination and suspicion by those in the West who use any opportunity to stir up racial tensions. The Daily Mail was the first to leap upon the suggestion that at least one of the Paris killers migrated across Europe in October during the migration of the past few months. This apparent justification of the right-wing narrative of "marauding hoards" of terrorists coming across the continent has always been the intended consequence of such acts. They seek to turn non-Muslim populations against their Muslim neighbours, fuelling community unrest, and ultimately create a new army of Isis recruits.

In the 1930s, the world was faced with a violent, racist ideology called fascism. It took different forms wherever it was found, whether that was in Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy or Franco's Spain. Today, fascism is spread not just through the resurgent far right in Europe, but through Islamic extremism, as personified by Isis. It spreads among the disenfranchised and the disillusioned. Isis are cultural fascists; destroying priceless artefacts at sites in Palmyra and elsewhere which do not fit their strict doctrinal version of Islam. They are social fascists; seeking to control the public sphere through terror, subjecting women to unspeakable punishments if they flout their imposed social norms. They are ethno-religious fascists, in their persecution of various sects that they view as heretical. They are also a movement which seeks to export terror to Europe, to Africa, to America, to other parts of the Middle-East.

The fact that the attacks in Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and in Kenya last April do not receive equal coverage, and that is truly shameful, but as with any event, it is vital we examine the broader picture, to see how such events are interlinked. To argue that these attacks are linked is not to assume that there is an evil villain living in a hollowed-out volcano orchestrating all of these events. However, they come from the same ideology, one which is interpreted differently in various parts of the world, but which comes from a similar trio of aims: the enforcement of religious and sectarian hegemony, the controlling of the behaviours of a population, through the use of extreme violence, and the desire to spread its power across the world.

In the wake of Paris, there will be a ramping up of security in Paris and elsewhere. David Cameron is already advising the French secret services on how to replicate Britain's success in crushing civil liberties. However, more sweeping surveillance measures and longer queues at airports will not prevent a repeat of last Friday. Today, the world is more interconnected than ever, and Britain raising the drawbridge will not solve anything. This is a time to defend civil liberties. This is a time to look out for each other. This is a time to reject the intolerance that the likes of Isis seek to promote. We need to work harder than ever to stay united, draw our communities together, leave no man, woman or child behind to become a potential recruit for extremism. So don't pray for Paris or Beirut. Fight against extremism, wherever it is found.