Nice and the global war on ordinary people
A terrorist massacre has once again been carried out in France, most likely by people who use religion, identity, and vaguely defined political grievances linked to the Islamic world to justify their heinous acts. As in the last attack in France, Thursday’s was brutal, indiscriminate, and killed exclusively ordinary people including many children.
This kind of homicidal mania is hard to understand, even by conventional fundamentalists. The terrorists of groups like al-Qaeda and Daesh, the most likely suspects behind the attack, have no logical demands except for everyone else to die, and for the whole world to turn against its Muslims, the very people these groups claim to represent and yet have no qualms about harming or killing them in the thousands.
In the end, this fulfills their vision for a segregated world, not that different from the vision of the far-right in the East and West, where Muslims would all live in one place under their rule, left alone by the rest of the world to live in a medieval bubble of sorts, where they can retreat back to much simpler – and primitive – times.
It is equally hard to determine the origin of this ideology, with a view to better tackle it. If one had a the ability to travel in time, perhaps eliminating Hitler could have stopped Nazism and the Second World War. But who or what must we eliminate in the jihadism scenario in order to prevent it from happening?
Jihadism is not inherent to Islam. So did it start with Wahhabism? Did it start with the colonial powers’ plundering of the Global South, the Islamic world included? Did it start with Arab autocratic regimes abetted by said powers?
In more recent times, did it start with the Arab Spring, and the way tyrants like Assad responded, allowing if not encouraging the rise of jihadism in Syria?
Impossible as it may seem, this mental exercise is important. Despite the anger, the emotions, the quick urge to blame Islam, even by secular-minded Muslims today under pressure to internalise Islamophobia, we must apply calm if not clinical logic, even in the face of tragedy and pain, in order to respond rationally.
|We are caught today in the throes of a global war on ordinary people. It spares no one, from Baghdad to Nice|
We are caught today in the throes of a global war on ordinary people. It spares no one, from Baghdad to Nice.
Its factions are too numerous to count, but it is possible to argue that on one side are ordinary people, and on the other the rest: exploitative corporations, imperialist states, terror groups, tyrants, nationalists and demagogues, colluding elites, and media outlets all too willing to toe their line even if it extends straight into the abyss.
These cynical forces all have one common goal as they play their great game: to exploit, manipulate or straight out kill ordinary people, ordinary Muslims included, to further whatever agenda or goal they have, or accrue more wealth and power. And though they may have contradictory goals, it always ends up that the actions of any one of them benefits the rest.
It will not take long for all these forces to begin exploiting the scenes of carnage from Nice. The narrative of a global civil war between Muslims and everyone else is perfect fodder for masking the real issues, from scandalous inequality, the decline of democracy and massive surveillance to man-made climate change fuelled and sustained by savage capitalism.
Some will call for revenge. Hatred will increase against ordinary Muslims, who are twice victims of terrorism. Some will allow themselves to be captured by the Islamophobic narrative, if only on the basis of emotions alone.
But the shocking loss of life in the most brutal manner must not blind us from the truth. Although international terrorism is in many ways a backlash to colonialism and a symptom of an ill-conceived and inherently unequal form of globalisation, xenophobia and isolationism are not only wrong, they are both impractical and futile – as many Brexiters are now discovering – as far as fulfilling their own goals is concerned.
Ordinary people, to do right by their dead and injured, must come together not come apart. As it is a global war on ordinary people, the response must be global solidarity and empathy, by a critical mass of people.
There is no difference between the terrorism inflicted by jihadist terrorists around the world, from the Middle East to North America via Europe; and the terrorism inflicted by Israel, the Assad regime, and the great powers in their wanton invasions and strikes.
The victims, all victims, deserve justice, but the enemy is not just the one most visible to us. Terrorism is just one ugly head of the hydra.