By CHARLES MWEWA
Politicians and diplomats warn us of the invidious acts of terrorists. Sometimes, we ignore because, almost all the time, when it happens, it is so far away in Afghanistan or Iraq or Kuwaiti or Syria, not at home. But we forget that wherever terrorism happens, that is home – when it is in Kandahar or in Paris. Home is everywhere people are, and though these may not be our relatives or close friends, they are our own flesh and blood. And when Paris, France is hit, like what happened on Friday, November 13, 2015, our “home” was hit. By Saturday, November 14, at least 129 people were killed and 352 wounded, 99 critically.
There is no right motive for killing innocent people. There is no justification for collateral damage, either. Terrorism is an affront to civilization and should have no place in the community of nations.
There are five reasons why terrorism is wrong, morally and politically:
First, it is wrong because it inflicts serious harm to the physical bodies of people. 352 people were wounded in the Paris attacks. These people are now lying somewhere in a hospital in excruciating pains. It is not bounty, it is wrong. Sometimes when we hear of a terrorist attack, we only appreciate when the number of fatalities is mentioned. And sometimes we count numbers as though we are selecting attires for special events. People who survive terrorist attacks suffer just the same and these people deserve our attention and care.
Second, it is wrong because it is in violation of human rights. Terrorism is torture. It is even worse than torture because is a work of cowardice and is unexpected. Terrorism undermines people’s human rights and is an affront to good conscience. People have a right to live until they die from causes that can be described as natural or accidental. But terrorists plan to kill people with whim and caprice. The deaths of Valentin Ribet; Caroline Prénat; Nick Alexander; Nohemi Gonzalez; Guillaume B. Decherf; Djamila Houd; Mathieu Hoche; Alberto González Garrido; Kheireddine Sahbi; Elif Doğan, to mention but 10 in the Paris attacks is unwarranted and a crime against their Creator God. No one should say that God planned for them to die this way; it was the decision of the terrorists.
Third, it is wrong because it undermines trust and disrupts social order. I will illustrate this with a case of Canada. In the campaigns to the October 19, 2015 federal elections, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau promised to bring 25,000 Syrian refugees into Canada. Immediately he was sworn in as Canada’s 23rd Prime Minister on November 4, 2015, Mr. Trudeau announced that the promise would be honoured by the end of 2015. But after the Paris attacks there is now a debate whether Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) is capable of processing over 500 refugee claims per week before the end of the year without letting in terrorists with the genuine refuge seekers. And this debate is germane from both sides of the isle. But we can all appreciate that without the terrorist attacks in Paris, trust and social order would have been preserved. It is important that Canada honours its pledge to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees, but it is equally important that the process takes due precautions that some terrorists do not use this opportunity to enter into Canada and inflict Paris-like attacks.
Fourth, it is wrong because it generates conflicts within liberal, democratic societies. No matter the intentions, peace is a much desired state of life. With it, all dreams and aspirations are realized. Without it, chaos, disorder and loss reign supreme. Without peace there is war. Terrorism takes the pluses of a people and multiplies them by zero. The achievements of liberal society have taken humanity over 70 years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the subsequent creation of the United Nations Organizations on October 24, 1945. Terrorism threatens all that. And this was the case in Canada with the passing of the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. There was a debate as to whether such an Act was necessary because it gave Canadian law enforcement and national security agencies more tools to keep pace with evolving threats, and to better protect Canadians. Others argued that it was too intrusive into the privacy of Canadians. Both sides had points, and in the wake of the Paris attacks, perhaps, and in retrospect, Canada did well proactively to strengthen its local terrorism laws. Moreover, the motivation for the Act was local, with the deadly Parliament Hill attack that killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo on October 22, 2014 following another attack on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent by another Islamic extremist just two days prior. These two events prove that terrorism has taken on a vicious twist – attacking at the very heart of decision-making. The same can be said about the Paris attacks. One suicide bomber was only seconds away from French President François Hollande who was watching a soccer match between France and Germany.
And, in addition, terrorism erodes nations’ capacities for self-government. A world ruled by terror is anathema to all real and normal interests. It breeds fear and doubt; and that is what all terror organizations want to realize. And in Canada another debate is brewing whether to pull out the fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing mission against ISIS in Iraq as promised by the Liberals. Or to immediately reverse the decision as suggested by the interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose on November 14, 2015. Either decision will have implications; it is vital to how Canada engages in, and actually, prevents terrorism at “home”.
It is ironic that ISIS or similar-situated terror groups desire to destroy civilizations and claim they want freedom. Terror and freedom are mutually exclusive. Any achievements of terror must be preserved by more and heightened terror. There is no end to terrorism once it is injected into the psych of a people. To destroy terrorism, unfortunately, you have to destroy the instrument of terror, which are usually terrorist leaders and their followers. Reformation of terrorists is not guaranteed, either. You cannot negotiate with terrorists because by design they are not wired to negotiate but only to destroy. Most instruments of terror have been brainwashed to believe in a lie. For example, and this mostly applies to suicide bombers, they are deceived into believing that blowing themselves up is homage to God. This is far from the truth whether it is under Christian martyrdom or Islamic extremism. Terrorists are more likely to end up immediately in Hell because their acts are motivated by hate and revenge. There is no win-win situation with terrorism; it is a zero-sum proposition.
Fifth, it is wrong because it causes much sorrow through premature killings of innocent people. Whether it is 9/11, or the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya or the recent crashing of Metrojet Flight 9268 in northern Sinai on October 31, 2015 where 224 people perished or the Friday, the 13th attack on Paris where 129 people were killed, or any other terrorist attack anywhere on the planet, the innocent victims did not deserve to die. Moreover, terrorism leaves behind grieving families robbed of their parents, children and loved ones. This is very wrong.
Modern terrorism requires modern methods of prevention. Both the Paris attack in France and the Parliament attacks in Canada demonstrate that the battle-zone is no longer far away in the Middle East. The battle field is “home”. ISIS, for example, is not just a foreign national who came to seek asylum; ISIS could be your very next door neighbour. ISIS can come into your country as a friend, a tourist, a diplomat, a businessman or as a refugee. ISIS now uses the same social media governments are using to influence and shape policy. Local laws have to be strengthened to meet this threat while doing so without sacrificing the human and privacy rights of the residents or citizens. As indicated above, terrorism by its design destroys trust – no one can be trusted – and because of this, the Act could be justified. As for France which has been attacked twice within the same year, terrorism cannot be taken for granted any more. World leaders at the 2015 G-20 Antalya summit in Turkey cannot prevaricate over this issue; it must be right, left and centre.
Charles Mwewa is Head of the Justice Faculty at CDI College, Toronto, Canada and author of the legal thriller, A Spy in Hell.