The latest attack will lead to a greater backlash and greater levels of Islamophobia. But it is not Muslims who are the problem but the foreign policies that have helped create terrorism
No one can have anything but the profoundest condemnation for the attacks on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. It is reported that 12 people are dead, shot in a commando style attack, and that at least nine of them are journalists.
The magazine has recently published a cartoon of the Islamic state leader, and has a record of publishing anti-Islamic satire. The gunmen are assumed to be in some way connected with Islamic State (ISIS).
There can be no justification for the attack. It should be possible to satirise or to criticise ideas without this being something that can result in death or injury. There must, however, be a response to it that does not lead either to an increase in future terrorist attacks or in a rise in attacks on Muslims.
Neither outcome, unfortunately, is likely if responses so far and in the past are anything to go by.
The one effective response to such attacks would be to change foreign policy, which has helped to create precisely the terrorism that it now abhors. ISIS has grown in Iraq and Syria as a consequence of the failed wars there. The instability created in Iraq as a result of western intervention, the backing of a sectarian and oppressive government by the occupiers, and the current air strikes which are helping to win support for ISIS, have all contributed to the strengthening of this organisation. ISIS has received weapons and money from the Saudis and Qataris, has grabbed weapons provided by the west for other anti Assad groups, and has received material support from Turkey.
These are precisely the western allies - Turkey also being a Nato member - who sign up for the ‘war on terror’ but practice something different. The interventions they supported have greatly increased instability, for example in Libya where the British and French led bombing in 2011 continues to result in bitter civil war and conflict.
The prediction made by, among others, former head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller that the war on Iraq would lead to a much greater threat of terrorism has unfortunately proved to be the case.
In recent years France, under presidents Sarkozy and Hollande, has played an increasing role in these interventions.
That the wars are all blamed on Muslims ignores the fact that the Libyan groups and ISIS are of course in large part fighting other Muslims. The refugees coming out of Syria, left on crewless boats to sink or swim in the Mediterranean, are also Muslims.
The consequences of the wars, with hundreds of thousands dead and many more refugees, have incensed people around the world. The large marjorities in western countries who have opposed these interventions have been ignored by their warmongering governments.
Muslims have also faced a growing level of racism and prejudice, see in the rise of far right parties, the restrictions on Muslim dress, the infringements of civil liberties, and the branding of all Muslims as somehow extremists or proto terrorists.
In France, there is a very strong far right party in the shape of the Front National, and the country has legislated some of the worst restrictions on Muslims - for example over wearing the hijab. In Germany, the anti Islamic Pergida demonstrations have linked Muslims to crime. Levels of racism in Britain have grown, focussed both on immigrants and on Muslims.
The latest attack will lead to a greater backlash and greater levels of Islamophobia. But it is not Muslims who are the problem but the foreign policies that have helped create terrorism. That is what needs to change.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
More articles from this author
- Palestine: a movement reborn - weekly briefing
- Labour: how to make a drama out of a crisis - weekly briefing
- The perpetual failure of Keir Starmer – weekly briefing
- Privatisation is the engine of cronyism and corruption – weekly briefing
- The price we pay for the prince – weekly briefing
- The Individual and Collective in Women's Liberation - video
- Police bill: the protestors aren’t for turning – weekly briefing