IF TERRORISTS force people to change their behaviour, then they
have succeeded. If residents avoid certain areas (Birmingham not
being one, despite what Fox News viewers heard), or tourists think
twice about visiting, the terrorists have succeeded. If suspicion
of a particular ethnic or religious group is engendered, and leads
to antagonism and alienation, then the terrorists have succeeded.
In the West today, despite the assurances of politicians, including
those who attended the rally in Paris on Sunday, we must recognise
that this is the case. Suspicion of Muslims is widespread. Public
figures and buildings have been given enhanced security. Everyone
who travels, particularly by air, is subject to time-consuming
checks. Most seriously, parts of North Africa and the Middle East
are awash with refugees, driven from their homes by terrorism on a
far greater scale than that experienced here. The response by
European nations, especially the UK, has been to tighten border
controls as much as possible.
Our first statement must be qualified, therefore. Since this
partial victory has been awarded to the terrorists, in Paris and
elsewhere, people must change their behaviour in one way, at least.
The qualities of respect, tolerance, and acceptance can no longer
be assumed to happen by default, but must be pursued and promoted
actively. This does not depend on the growth of secularism, or the
coming of the Enlightenment within Islamic societies. These values
are at the core of the Abrahamic faiths, and Muslim scholars attest
to this repeatedly whenever there is an atrocity by people -
invariably non-scholars - who believe otherwise. The suggestion by
one of our correspondents (
Letters) that we instigate a week of prayer for peace
and unity with and among Muslims has much to recommend it.
This will not happen overnight. The centuries of Western
imperialism and, more recently, an uncritical support of Israel
have left a residue of suspicion and animosity among Arabic Muslims
which will be hard to dissolve. It has been suggested that the
Kouachi brothers, responsible for the Charlie Hebdo
murders, were susceptible to radicalisation because of the violent
record of French colonialists in Algeria, their country of origin.
The damage caused by history is in greater need of repair than that
caused by religion, although, of course, the two were linked.
A word about this page: we invited our cartoonists to respond to
last week's murders at Charlie Hebdo. It was not our
policy to carry representations of Muhammad before last week's
attacks, out of respect for Muslim believers, and we saw no reason
to change this in response to the Paris murders.