Letter to the Editor – Nov 14, 2015

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Paris: Terrorism and the Canadian Response
Matt DeSumma
Saturday, November 14, 2015

“Je suis Charlie Paris.”

What was once a powerful phrase used to symbolize a message of solidarity with victims of the January 7 attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo has now been transformed to denote solidarity with an entire city and nation.

On the evening of November 13, a series of organized terrorist attacks occurred in Paris, France, and its northern suburb Saint-Denis. The attacks—which were later determined to have been caused by the extremist group ISIS—consisted of mass shootings, suicide bombings and hostage taking; most notably the deadly attack at the Bataclan theatre, where 89 civilians were killed during an Eagles of Death Metal concert. At the time this article was written a total of 129 innocent people were killed, along with 352 injuries—99 of them considered critical. The attack was so severe that it caused French President François Hollande to announce a state of emergency and enforce controls on the France borders and a Paris-wide curfew.

This was the second terrorist attack in Paris of 2015.

The attacks on Paris received universal exposure, with individuals, groups and nations around the world sending messages of solidarity with the victims of the attack. While the Eiffel Tower in Paris went dark, other landmarks (such as Toronto’s CN Tower and the Sydney Opera House) lit up, sporting the blue, white and red to mimic France’s national flag. In Canada, newly-sworn in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered all possible assistance to the government of France on behalf of the nation. But in light of the positive messages of peace following this tragedy, a question for debate arises:

Should the Canadian government keep their promise of allowing Syrian refugees into the country?

If this attack tells us anything—as at least one of the perpetrators held a Syrian refugee passport (he entered Europe with a group of Syrian refugees via Greece)—it’s that we’d be putting ourselves in danger as a nation because we’d just be allowing potential terrorists to walk right into our country. You know, because Syrians are Muslim and all Muslims must be terrorists, right?

Well, not exactly. Today, roughly 23% of the world’s population is of the Islamic faith and yet, only a small handful of people were responsible for the massacres in Paris. However, the notion of Islamophobia still plagues the world. Even before ISIS took responsibility for the attacks, several Muslim religious and political leaders felt the need to publicly condemn the attacks, as they knew the blame would automatically be on them. In fact, terrorism is even condemned in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, which states, “Whoever kills an innocent person it is as if he has killed all of humanity” (Quran 5:32). ISIS and Islam are two peas from completely separate pods; ISIS embodies a perversion of Islam that draws parallels to the actions of radical Christian followers. However, members of society don’t associate the mass killings of the KKK with Christianity, so why is it the case with Muslims? Perhaps that’s just the type of society we live in: where we blame based on past prejudices and ignorance.

Truth is, terrorism has no religion or culture. The Charleston church shooting back in June (which took the lives of nine African Americans) could be considered an act of terrorism and it was committed by a white American. As a society, we should stop judging entire groups of people based on the poor choices of individuals. A Muslim individual is as much of a terrorist as an Italian individual is a member of the Mafia. So instead of treating the Islamic community with hate and fear, let’s treat them with respect and compassion, as we need not to mix the victims and the terrorists.

And those Syrian refugees? They should be allowed into Canada with open arms. Imagine having to live through this extremist torture in your own backyard. Imagine being forced to flee your home in fear of violence. That’s the case for the Syrian refugees; they aren’t trying to cause havoc, they are trying to run away from danger. In regards to the suicide bomber with the refugee passport: it’s far too early to jump to conclusions. For one, ISIS despises the fact that individuals fleeing Syria for other parts of the world, since it contradicts their message that their caliphate is a refuge. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that most Syrian refugees are ISIS supporters. What’s more, is that there needs to be more physical proof that the carrier of the passport is the same person as the actual owner of the passport; perhaps it was stolen? A final argument proclaims that the passport was planted all along. As analyst Charlie Winter tweeted, “Why would a jihadist who expressly rejects all notions of modern citizenship take his passport on a suicide mission? So it gets found”.

It is quite possible that ISIS desires to turn nations against Syrian refugees, in hopes that it will convince the Syrians that ISIS’s self-asserted caliphate is their best chance at protection. But regardless of what the truth actually is, it shouldn’t affect the promises previously set out by Prime Minister Trudeau’s Liberals. Canada has committed to accepting these refugees and the fear of possible violence is not a good enough excuse to withhold help from those who genuinely need it.

As the horror of the Paris attacks developed, residents of the city used social media to offer their assistance. This led to the development of the hashtag #PorteOuverte (open door), which called for Parisians to open their doors and offer shelter to anybody who had been cleared from the streets.

So what are you waiting for, Canada? #PorteOuverte.

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