Massachusetts Daily Collegian

What ‘national dialogue’ on terrorism?

By Julian del Prado

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Thousands of people gather during a demonstration march in Lille, France, on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in support of the victims of this week's twin attacks in Paris. Hundreds of extra troops are being deployed around Paris after three days of terror in the French capital killed 17 people and left the nation in shock. (Patrick Delecroix/Maxppp/Zuma Press/TNS)

Thousands of people gather during a demonstration march in Lille, France, on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, in support of the victims of this week’s twin attacks in Paris. Hundreds of extra troops are being deployed around Paris after three days of terror in the French capital killed 17 people and left the nation in shock. (Patrick Delecroix/Maxppp/Zuma Press/TNS)

Meaningful discussion of terrorism and its implications appears to have been replaced in the United States with a question: “are all Muslims terrorists?” This is an asinine question, which adds no value to any dialogue, and which Democrats and Republicans in the media entertain every time innocent people die because of terrorism.

While France made sure to project unity among its people against terror, gathering and marching in support of the fallen at every opportunity, citizens of the United States sat at home wringing their hands and pondering whether there is a “Muslim problem.”

Worse still, an acceptable response to generalizations about Muslims and terrorism appears to be separating Islam from terrorism entirely. The result is a complete lack of dialogue, and a lack of any demonstrable sympathy for the victims of these attacks from U.S. media.

Islam and terrorism in the modern world, at least for now, have an intertwined destiny and relationship. Radical Islamic terrorism does not comprise a small percentage of violence due to terrorism. Sunni extremists accounted for 70 percent of the fatalities caused by terrorism in 2011, according to the National Counterterrorism Center.

Furthermore, Muslims bear the brunt of terrorist attacks across the globe. From 2006-2011, Muslims comprised 82-97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities, and Muslim majority countries “bore the greatest number of attacks involving 10 or more deaths.” Terrorism done in the name of jihad is particularly violent, and particularly prevalent in the modern world. So even though it is particularly provocative phrasing when Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly call international terrorism a “Muslim problem,” the fact is that Muslims are the people who bear the real burden of international terrorism. To reduce all terrorists to the lowest common denominator (a terrorist is a terrorist and nothing more) is to sabotage any nuanced approach to combating terrorism done in the name of Islam.

As a pointless war of semantics rages on in the United States, through both televised and social media, world leaders have made a clear stand on terrorism. David Cameron, shortly after a three million strong rally for solidarity in Paris, called radical Islam a “fanatical death cult.” According to the Prime Minister of France, Manuel Valls, France is at war “against terrorism, against jihadism, against radical Islam.”

There is no solidarity in the United States regarding terrorism, despite the promises made on behalf of the American people to other nations that we would be the vanguard of counter terrorism. Next month there will be an “anti-extremist conference” held by the White House, apparently meant to discuss extremism within immigrant communities abroad. This is laughable. After eight years of being president, Barack Obama and his administration have shown a poor understanding of terrorism.

This lack of understanding has made the world less safe in very concrete ways. Libya has splintered into a hotbed of terrorist activity and civilian casualties. Obama has dropped the Syrian Civil War as a topic of discussion, even though this is the true epicenter of radical Islam and terrorist activities at the moment. This is probably due to the “red line” debacle that effectively restricted U.S. involvement in Syria indefinitely.

And yet, when millions rallied after the attack in France, nobody represented the United States in that show of solidarity. Angela Merkel, Francois Hollande, David Cameron, Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas all stood in support of the international war on terror. Barack Obama “revealed” that we would be discussing terrorism in February. The United States declared the war on terror, but it could not be bothered to stand with its allies when that war spilled into friendly territory.

The 24-hour news cycle is an easy target when discussions throughout the country become more about semantics than information. And yet social media reflects the kind of information people our age seek out. So is your feed populated by statistics on where terrorists are from and what they want? Is it a place where your friends have pondered on the social ramifications of such an attack?

My experience thus far, and the experience of my peers, has been pointless debates and observations that delay the inevitable confrontation with what it means to fight terrorism. “Maybe #jesuischarlie isn’t the best hashtag, after all some of the views of that magazine are quite offensive and I could not possibly be those people. We should all be careful not to be hasty, and understand that there are Muslims in Malaysia and Indonesia who aren’t part of international terrorism.” Derisive sound bites show how ignorant and racist your least favorite commentator is every evening. These are the thoughts that populate my feeds, and it is clear that nobody wants to talk about fighting terrorism. As a group, Americans have decided they would rather moderate the discussion, telling others what they should and should not believe about terrorism. Hopefully this is a temporary trend.

Julian del Prado is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

1 Comment

One Response to “What ‘national dialogue’ on terrorism?”

  1. Arafat on January 20th, 2015 9:32 am

    Well done Julian. You are to be congratulated for publicly taking a stand that is not PC but is logically sound.

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




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