World Leaders Must Defend Liberal Ideas from Terrorism
by Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the European Jewish Congress
Reflecting on the terrible events in Paris over the weekend, it is hard to feel anything other than pain and grief. The Jewish community, a frequent target of the same murderous ideology, stands shoulder to shoulder with the French people as they pick up the pieces, bury their dead, nurse the sick back to health and unite as one after these intolerable events.
Our pain and grief, however, must not distract from the fact that the warning sirens have rung several times in recent years. I wish I could say I was surprised by the horrific outrage to take place in Paris on Friday night, but regrettably I am not. Shocked maybe, but definitely not surprised. As the leader of Europe’s Jews, I have witnessed how we have been a target on the front line of Islamic radicalism, there is therefore little that would surprise me about the lengths the Islamic radicals will go to destroy our values.
World leaders together with the UN, EU and all International organisations must come together to acknowledge the nature of the problem. They must put political correctness aside and recognise that it is the same murderous Islamic radical ideology that has been targeting Jews across Europe in the past five years. The same ideology is behind attacks across the Middle East, Russia, China, Asia and Latin America, and is responsible for the outrage in Paris, and whatever Da’esh is planning next. We are facing a global threat.
The warning signs have been visible and steadily increasing to all those willing and able to open their eyes to see the writing on the wall.
When Islamic gunmen murdered seven people in Toulouse, France, in 2012, including three children at a Jewish school, the world looked on appalled but nothing changed. When Islamic gunmen murdered four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels in 2004, the world looked on appalled but nothing changed. When Islamic gunmen murdered four in a Jewish store in Paris in January, the world looked on appalled but nothing changed. These events were sadly just the tip of the iceberg. They were the high profile incidents that generated headlines. What is acknowledged even less is the constant cycle of violence, intimidation and hatred that the Jews (not to mention all the other victims of terror) in many cities in Europe, particularly Paris, have been suffering at the hands of Islamic radicals.
France, according to data from Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive, has seen an 84 per cent rise in anti-Semitic violent incidents since the Hyper Cache attacks in January. According to research published earlier this year by the Kantor Centre at Tel Aviv University, attacks on Jews in Europe are at a post World War II high, with the UK seeing the highest jump in violent assaults. The vast majority of the perpetrators in all these incidents being Islamic radicals.
It is common for the attacks on Jews in Europe to be played down and to be viewed as a uniquely Jewish problem with little relevance to wider society. What the world is missing, however, is that, as has been said many times before, the attacks may start with the Jews but they never end with the Jews. Our values in the Jewish community, values of respect for human life, human dignity, diversity and equality are in common with Western liberal values, and are an outrage to the Islamic radicals.
For far too long the leaders of the big nations of the world have failed to identify adequately the threat we face. Hiding behind political correctness and clinging to an obsession with multiculturalism has not made our society safer and better integrated. We have to prevent a cult of hatred and intolerance from festering and fermenting in the heart of Europe, in the streets of Paris, London, Berlin and every major city on the continent.
It is about time world leaders face up to the challenge. These are not madmen, irrational, disenfranchised criminals. They are not no-hopers trying to escape a life of poverty and lashing out at society. They are not misguided youths outraged by Western foreign policy. They are Islamic radicals, following devoutly their radical view of a religion and creed that they believe in with all their heart and soul. They are rationally, logically and systemically acting out their world view to rid the planet of the infidels and bring about the restoration of the Islamic caliphate.
The same radicalism and murderous ideology that targets Jews worldwide, is now blindly attacking citizens from all backgrounds on the streets of Europe. They are two sides to the same coin. They must be identified as such if we are to plan a coherent strategy to win this war, as a war this undoubtedly is.
Wittgenstein wrote that “the limits of my language are the limits of my world”, meaning that what we can’t say we can’t imagine, and so what we can’t imagine we can’t understand. Language is not meaningless, it is a critical component of how we approach problems and find solutions. We need to demand that our leaders show moral courage, and come out clearly and strongly to name the threat we face, that of Islamic radicalism.
Once the threat we face has been properly articulated, our leaders then need a unified and global solution delivering both short term and long term measures. The immediate security threats must of course be urgently tackled and so we do need a strategy to address the situation in Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. But such a strategy will just be band-aid if the deep roots from which Islamic radicalism flourish are not also addressed at source. We therefore need local solutions that cover legislation, education and community integration, as well as a global security strategy. A common argument is that we already have plenty of tough anti-extremism laws, but the question is - are the laws we have indeed effective? I believe that we need to take much tougher stance against those who preach hatred, whether in the Mosque, community centre or online, and we need to give the authorities the necessary tools to fight this war of ideas as well as this war of bullets and bombs.
Our leaders need to spend less time discussing Grexits and Brexits, and more time honestly articulating the threat we face and focussing on developing solutions that will keep our citizens safe, and ensure that the Western liberal ideas that we all hold so dear are allowed to survive.