António Rolo Duarte
The number of terrorist attacks, genocide incidences and other tragedies that happen across the Middle East on a regular basis is too large to keep track of. On the other hand, that does not happen with the West. It does not happen with Europe. And it certainly does not happen with France – the land of liberty, equality and fraternity. Are we right to give more attention to this attacks than to others, or even disregard other events worldwide in order to provide full coverage of the Paris attacks? Of course we are.
At The Manchester Magazine we are not complaining about Facebook making a photo filter especially for this occasion and we are not writing about attacks in Lebanon, Afghanistan or a dozen other places I have seen mentioned in social media over the past couple of days. We are writing about Paris, we are solidary with Paris and we are in this together with Paris.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, many attempted to justify the tragedy with the newspaper’s satirical depiction of Islamic figures. It was disrespectful, they said, so by doing it the cartoonists were asking for retaliation. Well, now I would like those people to justify the attacks at the Bataclan, the Stade de France and across Parisian restaurants and streets. I would like to know what did these people do wrong. I would like to know what part of enjoying music, football or coffee offended Islam.
On Friday we saw a new kind of terrorism in Europe, one which involved little preparation, time or money but caused large amounts of damage. As Ricardo Costa, editor of Portuguese weekly Expresso explained in a brilliant article yesterday, the randomness of the event and the possibility of it easily being replicated elsewhere is the nightmare European security services had been dreading for a long time. More than 120 innocent, random people died in one of our capitals, with the number expected to grow as time goes by. Terror in its most disturbing expression, terror which seeks solely to cause death in the most cold-blooded and arbitrary way. Terror that comes from distant lands immerged in chaos. Terror in the name of an ideology we do not understand and do not want to have anything to do with.
On Friday we saw clearer than ever that our enemies might come from abroad but many of them now live concealed within our own societies. They live in the shadows. Islamic extremists have to hide, lie and scare to succeed. But we do not. We fight in broad daylight. We gather in the streets, as 600 of us did in Manchester yesterday night. We sing our values loud and clear at concerts and conferences, we talk to each other in coffee shops and restaurants, and we write all over the newspapers and magazines.
Today there is not only a distinction between us and them, there is a clear distinction between what is right and what is wrong. In the West we have a long and bloody history which has led us to protest many times. When we are dissatisfied about something, we may call for a vote on it, organize a petition, rally in the streets, or a number of other options. But we do not go around blowing people up. We are different.
So as news outlets report fighter jets moving in on Syria since Sunday and talks develop within the international community, it is good to see that our politicians are not shying away from their duties. If we need to declare state of emergency in order to prevent more deaths, then we should. If we need to close borders and ground airplanes, then we must. And if we need to call our soldiers and ask them to defend us abroad, then it is our duty to do so.
It does seem like the people of the world must, once again, choose which side they are on – our side or the terrorists' side. There is no middle ground. And believe me when I say this: we are right, they are wrong.
António Rolo Duarte is editor-in-chief of The Manchester Magazine. He is a Politics and International Relations student at The University of Manchester