My heart remains rooted in Europe since this is where I have resided most of my life. Paris at night is famed for its mesmerising beauty and vibrant nightlife - a city with a pulse like New York or London. When I learnt of the Friday night massacre on 13th November of ordinary people, tourists and Parisians alike, I was shaken. The streets of Paris are stained with blood, the city bravely carries on but the citizens are asking themselves, 'When will the next attack be?' The Charlie Hebdo massacre led to a lot of soul searching with a million French citizens taking to the street in the aftermath in a showing of unity in the face of adversity. That attack was specific, the Jewish store an obvious target, the motivation behind it was comprehensible even if was reprehensible, but this recent massacre, which Islamic State (IS) has taken responsibility for, was a deliberate attack on the ordinary masses. There have been other similar such terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Madrid and London - cities recover - but this is the second Paris has endured after ten months - is Paris then at war?
What did the tree make of the Charlie Hebdo massacre? (pen and ink on postcard, 2015)
Psychologically it feels that way. The seven Paris suicide bombers demonstrated a sinister and clinical determination to die and kill for their beliefs. Death is no deterrent when the reward is martyrdom.
IS doesn't seem like they can be obliterated any time soon even as Russia, the UK and US bomb the hell out of them in Syria, as they tried to bomb the hell out of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden is dead, so is Jihadi John but IS and Al Qaeda carry on regardless because terrorist organisations are secretive with sprawling networks that spread beyond geographical borders with clandestine cells that could be operating in the bedroom of a next door neighbour. With the power of social media at their fingertips and vast resources at their disposal and a seemingly endless supply of recruits willing to blow themselves up for their cause the power of IS is on the rise not the wane.
The nature of the threat posed by IS is real and could be a protracted one that spans years if not decades, because their objective is to wreak havoc, instil fear, and tear societies apart - it only takes one crazed gunman to do that not an organised army of 1000s.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s the one conflict that I remember is the Arab/Israeli conflict that was on the news daily. Have the suicide bombings stopped, is there any sign of real or lasting peace after all these years? Rather the situation remains as intractable and complex as ever.
We have heard and seen countless stories of terrorist organisations the world over and now rather than this being the scene of some obscure market in Iraq it has come to Paris. Where will the next one be? London, Brussels... And what can the ordinary citizen do to counter a new fear that grips a nation and its people and tries to rock our faith in humanity. IS carried out the attack on folk just enjoying their Friday night, the best thing we call all do is carry on living and enjoying and expressing ourselves freely.
The implications though for the nature of society and the governments that rule us are profound. Instinctively the emphasis for all European governments, especially those who have taken in huge influxes of refugees will be one of ranking up heavy security, surveillance and checks. Already taking place in France this will become ubiquitous and mandatory practise in other cities.
Although I pose no threat to anyone, I have already felt the change in our society post 9/11 as someone of Asian origin who carries the name Islam. I would say that I have been stopped and questioned more times than is normal or necessary because with my name carries association, even though my surname is as common as Smith. Post 9/11 I recall interviewing Bangladeshi kids living in the Brick Lane area speaking of feeling discriminated against, stopped and searched and questioned if they were wearing a hoodie or carrying a ruck sack on the tube. In 2015 women wearing burkas, Jewish men donning traditional robes, asylum seekers and refugees feel under renewed scrutiny and are more vulnerable to attack, abuse and suspicion as we are seeing the rise of far right groups across Europe in Norway, Sweden, Germany, France and the UK. The massacre in Paris provides more fuel for extremist causes, instigating suspicion and distrust within communities. This recent massacre could be cited as tangible proof that major European cities are under threat so there is a need to clamp down on certain groups irrespective of whether or not they are innocent which will require a certain type of leadership style to enforce it.
What are the implications for the complex, heterogeneous nature of communities in Europe, especially the Muslim communities, many of whom already feel on the periphery and ghettoised, will there be further scapegoating, more Islamaphobic related incidents as tenuous relations within communities become more fractured and mutual distrust becomes more cemented?
I would like to think that Western European governments are fully aware of IS's intentions and that they remain calm, determined and united in their common goal to face an enemy that is unparalleled - an enemy with the primary aim to destroy and kill the innocent in the name of a cause that the vast majority of people do not share - the creation of an Islamic caliphate cross the globe.
IS is just another form of fascism, just as Nazism posed a threat to our universal freedoms so does IS. We must stand defiant, not just in Paris, but also in every European city and not succumb to fear, paranoia or hatred and carry on in the belief that IS can and never will win this fight.
It is a fight for all of us who value this precious and fragile thing called freedom.Suggest a correction