Another attack, another public outcry. Je suis Paris, je suis Bruxelles – ‘I will not budge in defence of my democratic values’. The media makes it known that this is exactly what’s at stake, and that the police do everything they can to track those Muslim extremists down.
But the fear is being spread that there will still be quite a few Muslims around who want to spoil the show for ‘the civilised world’, for example when it comes to hosting the European Football Championships in France this summer. Unthinkable scenarios including a soccer tournament held under unfair conditions unfold in front of the inner eyes of European men. And at the prospect of new television footage of yet another misanthropic attack with casualties to emerge in the not too distant future, the wider public opinion is likely to push every Muslim alive even further into the terrorist corner.
What very few people dare to admit is that we have nobody but ourselves to blame for fostering social exclusion.
To people living in Europe, American values of modern democracy have been around more or less ever since the established social systems last buried their ugly colonial faces after World War II. People happily embraced what we now call democratic values, which basically embodies the American idea of freedom and democracy. Life has mostly been sweet candy and peppermint chewing gum ever since, but most European nations have given those ideas a somewhat more caring spin. When Hillary Clinton said ‘We are not Denmark’, she meant that Americans would never want to embrace the idea of paying higher taxes for the common good. The very threat of free public health service, free education and paying out benefits to the unemployed or anyone involuntarily ending up in a disadvantaged position is too much to take for at least one in two Americans. As far as European values are concerned, these have been hit at the very core, experiencing an assault at what it means to embrace a good and candid lifestyle.
And to those living in the United States, it is quite tempting to entertain a more simplified view on the matter. It seems possible to forbid any Muslim to enter the country, consolidate a wall to one of the two neighbours or identify a ‘villain state’ in the Middle East to wage war on while protecting economic interests at the same time, akin to the way two wars on Iraq and another one on Afghanistan were initiated by the US. But apart from the Twin Tower attack and the Boston Marathon assault, most domestic attacks in the USA tend to be carried out by white Americans, mostly teenagers with free access to guns on the rampage. And as long as a president from the Democrat Party faces Republican opposition in the US Senate to curtail people’s rights to buy guns at Wallmart, homemade terrorist incidents that see about as many dead as the Brussels attack at a time are bound to occur more often than extremists’ suicide bombings in Europe.
On both sides of the pond, we are facing our own homemade terrorism.
It is an obvious problem that those feeling ostracised by society turn into suicidal assassins, compelled to commit atrocities of an inhuman dimension as the ultimate revenge on those who they regard as superior, those who have it all and are seemingly in control. ‘Why do they do it? How can you become so desperate?’, questions we ask ourselves that have one answer alone: They do not feel integrated. And as long as we really strive to prevent any atrocities of a similar (and also less violent) kind from reoccurring over and over again, the need for swift and effective measures to facilitate sustainable integration has become mandatory.
Consider the different fates of these two 29-year-old chaps with a migratory background. Sami Khedira, born in Germany to Tunisian parents is a football player and captain of the German national team; Ibrahim El Bakraoui, born in Belgium to Moroccan parents, a lost soul who was involved in the Brussels bombings. The Abdeslam brothers responsible for conducting the Paris attacks were Belgium-born French nationals, also with a Moroccan background, and the Kouachi brothers responsible for the Charlie Hebdo assault were born in Paris to Algerian parents. The difference between the German football player and the Belgium terrorists is an obvious one. While Khedira grew up in the German city of Stuttgart in which descendants of foreign countries live in the same neighbourhoods as Germans, the ghettoisation of ethnic minorities in Belgium and France certainly does not hold any advantages for anybody, be it those living in underprivileged circumstances or society as a whole.
5 men behind the Brussels attacks, image rights linternaute
Poverty is definitely not a reason either seeing that none of the attackers were as destitute as some of their cousins’ countries.
Some had jobs, some lived on social welfare, all of them were to some degree involved in organised crime or simple drug trafficking (and consumption), and – similar to the Hamburg-based pilots who hijacked those planes that struck the Twin Towers – were most likely instigated or incited by a radical imam. The real problem is that those growing up in the bad part of town will never be offered the same chances as their fellow citizens, and this is precisely what it means to be underprivileged. In contrast to the simplification disseminated by the media, an imam carries out a similar position to that of a priest in Christian religion. It is mostly a small minority of Salafist imams pursuing a fundamentalist approach to Islam (perpetually emulating the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers al-salaf al-salih, the ‘pious forefathers’) that managed to whisper ideas of segregational hatred into the ears of ordinary social rejects.
Map showing the relative proportion of Christianity (red) and Islam (green) in each country, wiki images (2006)
If I was a Catholic priest, I would prepare a sermon for my congregation around the lines of ‘Brothers and sisters, let us all prevent the War of the Worlds. There are over two billion Christians and close to two billion Muslims in this world, so we must greet these heretics with our arms wide open. We are all the same, after all.’ But since I’m not a priest and I don’t even believe in the existence of any supernatural power, I see the issue European societies face separate from any religious approach. We’re not all the same as long as circumstances determine the underprivileged shadow existence of some segments of society. And it is not our responsibility to condemn minorities but to choose political representatives poised to acknowledge a long overdue mission.