Terrorism, by its nature, is the intention to terrorise. We've now had a little bit of time to breathe from the Paris and Beirut attacks, but the message all across social media remains the same. Enough to make me want to remove myself completely from social media.
"We need to kill these sand niggers!" or "We need to go to war, bomb them all to the dark age!" or maybe "Shut the borders and kill every refugee that comes to us. They're all terrorists anyway!"
Violence against all Muslims, no matter their nationality, is once again widespread. I remember this from my childhood. I remember hearing this same message after New York, I remember this message after Madrid, I remember this message after London. Muslims once more are reduced to cowering and hiding in the face of a western blitz to toss them aside as if they were not also human beings.
Dehumanizing your enemy is the easiest and most assured way to rile up your citizens to war. By dehumanizing the enemy, you allow yourself leeway to the extent where you may bomb a kindergarten or perhaps a hospital without consequence. Yet dehumanization of the enemy has been ingrained in western media for so long that it has spilled over as an overarching bigotry against all Muslims, and even non-Muslims Middle-Eastern people. By dehumanizing them, we are willingly introducing an approval for citizens to violate the basic human rights of refugees and immigrants simply based on the colour of their skin. After all, "Islam is a religion of war" and "not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims", so who truly knows where the enemy lies.
Here's the hard truth to swallow for our short-sighted cultural memory. Terrorism is not somehow beholden to Islam. Yes, extremists in the Middle-East claim to follow the Qu'ran and claim to wage religious war against particularly the western nations. Yes, they are in many cases terrorists and in many cases their guerilla tactics are emblazoned as terrorism. But they are not the only terrorists on this planet. Buddhist terrorists are rampaging throughout Asia as I write this blog post. White Christians shoot up camps in Norway, schools in the USA, rampage with a sword through a school building in Finland wearing a gas mask. Are these not terrorists as well? The IRA were unabashed terrorists, they did not somehow just stop fighting in Ireland and sell off their trademark to the Middle-East. That is simply not how things work.
A terrorist is anyone who seeks to terrorise, or who uses violence in pursuit of political aims. Terrorism - according to the Oxford English Dictionary - is "unofficial or unauthorized use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims."
And what do terrorists want from us? Do they want to trample us all into the dirt beneath their boots or drown us in our own blood? Maybe. But perhaps more aptly, they want us to be afraid, to be angry, to cause an oppositional force that will enable them to achieve their own goals. How many Al-Qaeda and ISIS recruits have turned to these extremists because one of their close family members died as a result of a drone strike, or perhaps an old-fashioned aerial bombing campaign? Children in the Middle-East are afraid of the sky because of how much firepower the western coalition has rained down upon them throughout the last decade and a half. Some children do not remember a time when they did not have to look up at the sky to make sure they can cross the street without being blown "back to the dark ages".
Brash and ruthless action on the part of individuals and governments will end up fuelling a fire we are meant to be putting out. By shouting at refugees from Syria, who are escaping ISIS, we are doing no good in the world, instead only reaffirming the words of the terrorists who are painting us as the enemy.
Much like with western populist political movements rising up from the mud, the only way to defeat them is by detaching ourselves from an immediate knee-jerk emotional reaction. By being realistic about unfolding events, and by being realistic about any and all goals we may put forth in the aftermath, we will be able to formulate a deliberate response to terrorism. By not allowing ourselves be governed by fear, by not allowing those prejudice-tinted lenses to cover our eyes, by not allowing ourselves to dig our heels in and cover our ears with comforting words of hatred, we will foil the goal of the terrorists.
Love your fellow human, refuse space for anger and fear, show the terrorists who would cripple us with emotions that we will not be manipulated by them. Prove resilient, prove open, prove welcoming. The refugees will soon become our allies in this, like non-radical Muslims have always been. Prove the terrorists wrong.