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Editorial: In the fight against Islamic State

Published:Monday | November 16, 2015 | 12:00 AM

The world is right to be revolted by last Friday's coordinated terror attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people and injured more than 350. It was, indeed, an attack on civilisation, the protection of which this country's Government has appropriately pledged its support to the international community. For, as Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller remarked, Jamaica must stand for the universal principle "of life, liberty and peace".

In engaging in this battle, however, it is important that its narrative is appropriately framed and that those who set policies, as well as those who hold them to account, do not forget how we got here so that old miscalculations are not repeated, as is too often the case.

Clearly, the Paris attacks - for which the radical Muslim group, the so-called Islamic State, claimed responsibility - were cowardly acts. They targeted no discernible symbol of the French state, but rather ordinary people, mostly the young, enjoying themselves in a music hall, or enjoying meals in cafÈs. Groups like IS, and all they represent, ought to have no place in the world, or the power of violence to coerce people to their will.

Defeating such groups demands a broad global coalition not only of arms, but of the power of ideas and thought; or, as Western leaders so often frame it, human civilisation. But then comes the narrative to underpin this grand coalition and its accompanying symbols.

It is in this context that while we weep for France and the people who died or were maimed, we also mourn for the 43 people who, the day before, were killed by IS suicide bombers in Beirut, as well as the 250 who were injured in the same blast. They died in, if not anonymity, near obscurity.


the refugee crisis

The larger point, of course, is that civilisation is not limited by geography, culture or religion, and IS's evil does not define Islam. Nor is its perpetration of savagery limited to people of other religions or their perceived enemies in the West. For theirs is neither faith nor religion, but a dark ideology, which they seek to impose with great ruthlessness on anyone who fails to adhere.

It is, indeed, significant that the overwhelming bulk of IS's victims are in Syria and Iraq, the heartland of its presumed caliphate, where resistance to it is greatest, including the large numbers of people who seek to escape into the refugee crisis that has overwhelmed Europe.

The narrative of the coalition is, therefore, important in two respects. IS will seek to insert its insurgents in this wage of refugees, as may have been the case with the Paris attacks. This might lead to a backlash against immigrants, generally, and refugees in particular, with religious and racial overtones the terrorists will seek to exploit. So, while countries must be vigilant at their borders, it ought not, as some would wish, be at the expense of their humanity.

It is perhaps also worth remembering that the incubator for IS was the instability caused by the Iraq invasion, on the contrived evidence of Saddam's possession of weapons of mass destruction, and which also exacerbated the chaos that is now Libya after the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi.