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« Cornel West drops the Jane Austen bomb | Main | Yeah, But Can They Make Spider Silk? »

Eliminating the West's "Grayzone"

From the ever cheery Intercept:

IN A STATEMENT PUBLISHED in its online magazine, Dabiq, this February, the militant group the Islamic State warned that "Muslims in the West will soon find themselves between one of two choices." Weeks earlier, a massacre had occurred at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The attack stunned French society, while bringing to the surface already latent tensions between French Muslims and their fellow citizens.

While ISIS initially endorsed the killings on purely religious grounds, calling the murdered cartoonists blasphemers, in Dabiq the group offered another, more chilling rationale for its support.

The attack had "further [brought] division to the world," the group said, boasting that it had polarized society and "eliminated the grayzone," representing coexistence between religious groups. As a result, it said, Muslims living in the West would soon no longer be welcome in their own societies. Treated with increasing suspicion, distrust and hostility by their fellow citizens as a result of the deadly shooting, Western Muslims would soon be forced to "either apostatize ... or they [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens," the group stated, while threatening of more attacks to come.

...

It is tempting to view such violence as senseless and nihilistic. However, taking into account the Islamic State's history, it is clear that such a determination would be a mistake. By launching increasingly shocking attacks against Western targets, the Islamic State is pursuing a specific goal -- generating hostility between domestic Muslim populations and the broader societies that they live in.

Despite its dire connotations, such a strategy is achievable for the group. In fact, some group members have successfully implemented it before, in Iraq, when the Islamic State's predecessor organization, al Qaeda in Iraq, purposely provoked a sectarian civil war in that country following the 2003 U.S. invasion.

And it's working. Plenty of our governors are saying their states will refuse refugees (don't even look at Facebook comments). And France immediately upped their bombing campaign.

Following the deliberately shocking attacks in Paris, some nativist politicians in both Europe and the United States have already responded with calls to collectively punish Muslims en masse through discriminatory migration policies, restrictions on religious freedoms, and blanket surveillance by law enforcement.

Even though it's just perpetuating a vicious cycle.

While politically popular among some, such measures, effectively holding Muslims collectively to blame for the atrocities in Paris, would be self-defeating. Islamic State is deeply unpopular among Muslims. Like their non-Muslim compatriots, French Muslims recoiled with disgust at the recent atrocities in Paris. Indeed, several of them were killed in the attacks.

As such, it would be both perverse and counterproductive to lump them together with IS and blame them for the group's actions. Similarly, it would be absurd to treat refugees, many of whom are fleeing Islamic State's draconian rule in Iraq and Syria, as though they too are responsible for the crimes of the group. Doing so would grant Islamic State a propaganda coup, implicitly endorsing the group's narrative of Muslims and Westerners collectively at war with one another.

Instead, in response to an attack intended to sow xenophobia, Western countries should reaffirm unity for their own Muslim populations and honor their best values by continuing to accept refugees without religious discrimination. Simultaneously, they should also recommit to the military effort against Islamic State's enclaves in Iraq and Syria, making clear that there is contradiction to embracing Muslims at home while fighting terrorists abroad. Such an approach would show resilience in the face of violence, while fatally undermining IS's Manichean narrative of "a world divided into two camps."

I don't actually have enough faith in human beings to believe there's any chance xenophobia won't win out. Never rely on the "better self" to make an appearance. That way, you can be pleasantly surprised on the rare occasions it happens.

By min | November 18, 2015, 9:25 AM | Liberal Outrage


Comments

To supplement:

http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2015/11/we-need-re-learn-lessons-iraq-war

I think they do have a bit of a point about not wanting to accept refugees. On the one hand, most of the refugees are victims, not terrorists. OTOH, a few terrorists can do a lot of damage. It's a complicated question.