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After Paris You’re Meant to Hate Refugees

True to form, the reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks has fallen hardest on Muslims and refugees rather than the handful of psychopathic nihilists who perpetrated them. Without even waiting for anyone to claim responsibility, François Hollande closed the borders, laying blame at the feet of refugees in pitiful capitulation to the far right.

As in every such incident the powerful take advantage of the crisis produced by the violent atrocity not to address the causes so that it might not happen again, but to scaremonger and scapegoat; France has 6 million Muslims; if one tenth of one percent of these were jihadists, that percentage would amount to a hard core of 6,000. If France has that many jihadists, they are exceptionally lazy. If not, terrorism is not a specifically Muslim problem.

In any event, Islamic State have since claimed responsibility for the attack anyway, making it unclear what closing the border is going to achieve other than to continue the race to the bottom in the name of avoiding having to address the reasons why groups such as ISIS exist at all in the first place. Naturally feeding Terror Scare panic also creates a pretext for draconian power grabs.

The palpable fear, allowed to fester as a result of political expedience, is driving people into the arms of political strongmen and tyrants; over half of respondents surveyed by one of France’s conservative dailies said they would be willing to revert to nondemocratic means to remain safe. This is what the terrorists want. It is what Osama Bin Laden wanted, which is why out of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan he was the only clear winner.

Islamic State, like Bin Laden, has nothing to lose and everything to gain from France delivering itself into the arms of a Marine le Pen. If western democracies will debase themselves with authoritarianism and fascism rather than look themselves honestly in the mirror and acknowledge our leading role in the creation of the conditions that produced Islamic State, what better advertisement going for terrorism. The terrorists will not need to destroy western democracies; we will do it ourselves.

This attack in particular also serves another vital purpose. By stirring up the inevitable xenophobia against refugees, the ISIS terrorists responsible for the latest outrage have also said to those fleeing the caliphate they are trying to establish, this is what happens when you get out of line. As European politicians and their willing dupes on the right run their haughty lines about Western values and the Paris terrorist attacks being evidence of the dangers of unchecked immigration, they neglect to visualize how their reactionary attitudes might be exploited by people whose skin colour, despite what they might imagine to the contrary, has no bearing on their capacity for cunning.

If there’s anything characteristic of religious fundamentalism, if not of organised religion in general, it’s that it preys on despair, though this particularly true of fundamentalism and extremism. This is as true in the West as it is in the East. Assuming the French border stays closed, or assuming the attacks lead to the election of Marine le Pen and the fascist National Front in a manner reminiscent of the election through democratic channels of Adolf Hitler, this fact begs the question as to what will happen to all of those not only unable to flee the oppression of Islamic State, but who will know henceforth that they have been abandoned. How much motivation then will they have to resist the overtures of fundamentalism when hope of a better life is dead?

Not much. Sanctimonious moralising about our way of life and painting of entire sections of the population with a broad brush might make us feel good in the short term, and it might even serve our political and social agendas in the medium. Just as the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan lead to unintended consequences in the formation of Islamic State, however, so too will another round of arrogant, self-serving self-pity on the part of affluent Westerners precipitate more of the same.

As in every other instance in which history repeats, we refuse to reflect on our own role in things at our peril, especially when we allow ourselves to be driven into the arms of tyrants and fascists, whether a Marine le Pen or a Tony Abbott or any others of their ilk. As Ronald Wright once pointed out, ‘each time history repeats itself, the price goes up;’ as the world pressure cooker gets hotter and hotter, the greater the possibility becomes that the price of our pride will be whatever remains of political democracy, at the very least.

Ben Debney is a PhD candidate in history at Western Sydney University, Bankstown. He is the author of The Oldest Trick in the Book: Panic-Driven Scapegoating in History and Recurring Patterns of Persecution (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).    

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