One day before the horrific Paris attacks, some 40 people were killed and more than 180 wounded in twin suicide attacks in a crowded suburb of Beirut. The coordinated blasts struck a Shi'ite community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential district of Borj al-Barajneh. The attacks were claimed in the name of ISIS. (Al Arabiya News, Nov. 12) Less than 24 hours later, the Parisian terror began to unfold—leaving at least 120 dead as a concert hall, sports stadium and restaurants were targeted with bombs and bullets. Eight of the attackers are dead in what appear to have been France's first suicide attacks. (BBC News, France24) In Europe and America, ugly responses are already in witness…
Before the blood was dry in Paris, a fire broke out at the migrant camp in the port of Calais, where some 6,000—mostly Syrian refugees—await passage across the channel to England. It is not yet determined if it was intentionally set, but the xenophobes certainly wasted no time in expressing their glee. An anti-migrant group known as 'The Angry of Calais' immediately posted videos of the inferno on Facebook. One video showed emergency vehicles arriving at the camp. No casualties are reported, but many tents were burned down. The camp had been the scene of clashes with police in recent days. (The Mirror, Daily Mail)
Not to be outdone, US presidential hopeful Ted Cruz explicitly called for a bombing campaign that's not afraid to kill innocent civilians. In an official statement, he said: "We must immediately recognize that our enemy is not 'violent extremism.' It is the radical Islamism that has declared jihad against the west. It will not be appeased by outreach or declarations of tolerance. It will not be deterred by targeted airstrikes with zero tolerance for civilian casualties, when the terrorists have such utter disregard for innocent life." He did not specify where these air-strikes should take place or what they should target. (ThinkProgress)
In other words, "we" should adopt the same moral standards as the "terrorists." This perfectly illustrates what the secular-left forces in the Middle East mean when they say that the region is between two poles of terrorism—that of the jihadists and that of Western imperialism. Cruz seems happily unaware of the propaganda assistance loaned to ISIS with every civilian casualty under US (or French) bombardment.
As for those who took online glee at the fire in Calais… they and the jihadists that they (ostensibly) oppose are equally exponents of a new fascism. As we've said before: We can and must oppose both political Islam and the fascistic backlash against it (whether in form of the Western security state or xenophobic thuggery), which merely fuel each other. Opposition to one is meaningless without opposition to the other.
Note the identical political logic either side of the "terrorist" and "anti-terrorist" divide. Lebanese blogger Mahmoud Ramsey recalled the last wave of terror attacks in Beirut in 2013, decrying the "de-civilianizing civilian victims of violence"—and called out the Western media as complicit. In the 2013 Beirut attacks, as in those this week, a Shi'ite district was targeted by presumed Sunni militants. Then, as now, the Western media referred to the targeted district almost uniformly as a "stronghold of Hezbollah"—as if the civilians living there were legitimate targets in the ISIS-Hezbollah war.
Of course the Beirut attacks generated but a fraction of the world media coverage won by the Paris attacks. Over September and October, probably twice the number of those killed in the Paris attacks were killed in a relentless campaign of Boko Haram terror in Nigeria—eliciting hardly any attention in the Western media. This demonstrates not only the double standard about whose lives are worth more in the media accounting, but a related misconception about the nature of jihadist violence. Paris notwithstanding, the principal concern of jihadist franchises like ISIS and the various Qaeda affiliates is the struggle within Islam against secularism and internal heresy such as Shia, and only secondarily the jihad against the West. The ongoing, practically daily terror in Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Libya, the Sinai, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan is mere background noise for the world media.
An effective citizen response to Paris must mean repudiating the objectification of victims, and seeking to build solidarity with pro-secular and progressive forces in the Muslim and Arab worlds—including in France, and where we live.