There is no way to beat the new terrorist Jihadism with just more control, police, intelligence or wars. We can reduce its damages but not win it in the long run. The massacre at Charlie Hebdo showed it and all human beings and nations with a little of wisdom know it. Terrorism has to be cut at its root: the root of discrimination, inequality, injustice and separation. Terrorism will end when there will be no excuses for supporting economically, politically or morally fanatics, extremist or fundamentalist that appeal to any religious, ethnic or historical identity for a clash of civilizations. For this reason Europe today has to search for a new reconciliation. After 5 centuries since the Alhambra decree and the tragedy of the Holocaust the Jews are reintegrated in Europe, they feel comfortable, respected and estimated (even if anti-Semitism is always a threat).
After 5 centuries since the expulsion of Arabs in the same 1492, our Old Continent has to strive today for a reintegration of the Muslims, against the Islamophobia. A final real European reintegration between its Christian and its Muslim souls, its Anglosaxon/Indoeuropean and its Arabafrican/Middle Eastern roots, its Northern European and its Mediterranean history is what Europe needs today to win against terrorism. And the path to do so has three ramifications.
First of all the European Union has to stop blocking the entrance of Turkey in the Union, as she is doing since almost 30 years. Turkey has the right and the obligation to enter as it is the only country that can rebuild the bridge between Europe and the Middle East, broken after the end of WWI and the cannibalization of the Ottoman Empire. Turkey is the mean for the reconciliation after European colonization and imperialism.
Second Europe should think, sooner better than later, about an international dialogue to help settle the disputes of the Middle East, first of all the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but also the Syrian civil war, the Iraqi too slow post war reconstruction and the Libyan risk of a catastrophe. This can be done only if Europe understands the importance of this moment on its history, ending centuries of colonialism and wars and allowing local powers to take the lead in their own affairs. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt should sit on a table offered by the EU as impartial actor and external supporter to dialogue for a new regional settlement. Europe has to uphold to its own values of freedom, equality and fraternity, justice and democracy, also in its foreign policy, not only in its domestic issues, stopping power politics and old imperialism and starting a new era of collaboration and cooperation. It is the only way to stop the European decline, and the only path to win against the terrorism and create peace in the long run. Reactions to terrorism with more wars, as the US did after 9/11, will just represent temporary solutions and future problems.
Third Europe has to think about a new education to coexistence in a community of diversity. It is a long run of cultural investment in cohabitation and mutual respect and it is the most important of the three elements. We need to educate our children to more tolerance, respect and common sense when it comes to our motto of “United in diversity”. The attack on freedom of expression has to be condemned by all, Christians, Jews and Muslim, together. Satire always existed and will always do, in all the cultures. But dignity and respect have to prevail if we want to build a better world for our future. My freedom ends when the freedom of the other starts, this require a sense of responsibility, I cannot wanting to be free and at the same time careless: “I care” is the motto that we need to use besides than “I want”. And if we want freedom of expression this has to be really for everyone not only towards one direction (see on this the recent article of Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept (1).
The social and economic crisis that the old continent is living since a decade, together with the increasing in number of immigrants coming from Muslim countries, is opening space to populism, racism, hate speech and polarization. A humus from where young people find on two opposite political ideologies, the one of racist policies and nationalism on one side, and the one of Jihadism, the new religious terrorism, on the other, a place for a strong identity, in particular when they live in a subculture, unemployed and isolated as the young people that attacked Charlie Hebdo. For this reason, besides economic development and social empowerment, we need new processes of integration, resolution and reconciliation. It is a cultural investment for the future, with which we have to build a common house for everyone. There is no other path, no fortress is possible in the future globalized world. We don’t need polarization and “us-them” narrative. We need a real “unity in diversity”. Inshallah, God willing, primero Dios, si Dieu le veut, se Dio vuole.
Finally also Islam as a religion has to do an effort to modernize and reform, primarily clarifying once and for all the term of “jihad”. The meaning has to be defined only as “striving in the way of God”, closing forever the concept coming from the Caliphate of an external struggle, the “holy war” against the infidel, who doesn’t submit to Allah, Mohammed or Islam. It will not be easy to do it as there is not hierarchy in Islam and everyone interpret the dogma, the Qur’an, in different ways. But it is the only path Islam can take to cohabit with the rest of the world in the future, as also Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt recently said at the Al-Azhar mosque (2). Otherwise the new Jihadist terrorism will keep succeeding in proselytism around the world, with new media like “Inspire” magazine convincing young fellows that to kill non-Muslims is a duty of Muslims. As Christianity had its Reformation in the XVI century and Jews their own Enlightenment in the XIX century, also Islam will have probably its secularization process in this century. Will Europe, the Old Continent where Humanisim, Enlightenment and Democracy born, push also Islam to modernization as it did with the other two Abrahamic religions? Some scholars say that Islam will not have its own “Reformation” (3). Future will say but this could be instead exactly the role of Europe, besides integration and respect: inspiration.
Image: Mpatapo, Adinkra symbol of reconciliation, from West Africa