ISIS horrified the world with their attacks in Paris on Nov. 13, killing 129 and sparking another cycle of prejudice and paranoia. The attacks took place throughout Paris — as well as in a northern suburb that houses the Stade de France, a national football stadium — with incredible, unpredictable coordination and precision.
Within roughly half an hour, three suicide bombers self-detonated at the Stade de France where President François Hollande and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier were watching a “friendly football” match between Germany and France. The first two suicide bombers took their own lives within five minutes of each other (in curiously uncrowded areas), leading to speculation about these bombings as some sort of message to Hollande or Germany-France relations. Before the third suicide bomber self-detonated at a McDonald’s near the stadium 33 minutes later, all of the other attacks took place in central Paris. Among the attacks were: a shooting at the rue Bichat and rue Alibert near a café called Le Carillon, killing 11, where the first whiff of Islam was heard with one assailant shouting, “Allahu akbar”; another at the rue de la Fontaine-au-Roi (just south of the rue Bichat) near Café Bonne Bière, which killed five; a suicide bombing on the boulevard Voltaire, thankfully only injuring; a drive-by, at the rue de Charonne’s La Belle Équipe restaurant that killed 18 and the horrific invasion, shooting and capture of hostages at the Eagles of Death Metal gig at the Bataclan. All of these took place within 20 minutes of each other. Fifteen minutes after the Bataclan attack, the third suicide bomber blew himself up at the Stade de France.
All of the attacks in central Paris took place in the 11th arrondissement [district], so the noise of the disparate attacks often bled into one another, giving victims a warning too horrific to heed.
The Bataclan invasion was the only one drawn out past the initial invasion; the other five attacks took place in a span of fewer than 33 minutes. The precision, coordination and nearly simultaneous execution of the attacks sent Paris into chaos, along with fear into the world with brilliant efficiency.
The situation at the Bataclan seemed to just be the punishing, terrifying climax of a nightmare acted out in real time, with shots blindly and ruthlessly fired throughout the dark concert hall as the entire audience was taken hostage for over two hours. Still, the total chaos lasted for only about three hours, contrasted with the drawn-out and messy affair of this century’s other major terrorist attacks in September 2001. ISIS is proving to be much more efficient in instilling horror into the rest of the world.
The reaction was instantaneous, hot-headed and passionate, fueled by a desire for righteousness. The political discussion only inflamed with haste and fervor, and discourse of immigration and foreign policy followed suit. The Democratic debate, coincidentally scheduled on the night just after the attacks, consisted of banal platitudes and non-answers when faced with the problem of ISIS. Conservatives were not very discreet in their elation — conservative commentator Ann Coulter even tweeted that “Donald Trump was elected president” the night of the attacks. The opinions of some were perhaps unnecessary (Rob Lowe) but they were consistently emotional and driven by profound fear.
Levelheadedness is understandably difficult in this tumultuous time, but it is vitally necessary to avoid any grave mistakes like those made after 9/11 with the Iraq War.
To start, any foreign policy made that doesn’t understand ISIS, or more importantly Islam, will fail miserably. The biggest misconception by far is that ISIS is just some ridiculous extremist group using Islam as a cover-up for its motivations. This is comforting, and it helps desperately to avoid backlash against Muslims (appreciated as someone of Muslim descent myself), but it is false.
ISIS, even more so than Al-Qaeda, follows the Qu’ran down to the last serif.
It’s a hard and difficult truth to hear for people just trying to be tolerant, and while their efforts for peace are incredibly noble, their views should be made based on facts and not a clean-swept narrative of false assumptions and projected prejudices.
Genuine psychopaths are too cynical, calculated and distrustful to band together, as has been proven many times — their brain chemistry dislikes connection and especially collective thought where they’re not the masterminds. ISIS and similar religious terrorists genuinely believe that what they’re doing is right and in the name of God.
What goes mostly unrecognized in terrorism discussions is the way the Qu’ran tends towards violence, hatred and superiority in its last surahs (verses); without going into extreme detail, anyone who heeds the Qu’ran’s advice by taking it literally would likely want to take down some idea of “evil Westerners” with violence.
Crucial to this interpretation is the idea of “Naskh” in the Qu’ran, which ISIS most definitely uses to interpret its holy book. “Naskh” translates to “abrogation” in English, which means that if there is any contradictory advice (bound to come up in the monolithic text), then a Muslim should heed the advice which comes later in the Qu’ran or their other major religious text, the Sunna. Given that the Qu’ran has progressively more violent tendencies later in the novel, ISIS simply interprets that as the truth. This naturally has dire consequences.
Obviously, the vast majority of Muslims don’t interpret the Qu’ran in this extremely direct way, and are a mostly benign populous. The propagation of this message is good, but ISIS’ fierce clinging to scripture is incredibly appealing to young religious men and women without purpose. ISIS appears righteous and noble, and this is how recruits are so easily entrapped.
ISIS thrives off of exploiting purposeless yet religious young men and women and creating a divide between westerners and Muslims; ISIS even said so themselves after Charlie Hebdo. Prejudice is their fuel; Islamophobia their drug.
When Europe recently opened its arms to refugees in the past few months, ISIS’ world view, their utterly solid belief that Westerners hate Muslims, was crushed. The Paris attacks may have been a “Hail Mary” for them to start another cycle of paranoia, fear and reactionary bluster that they can feed off of. Did the pass complete?
Thankfully, it seems that France will continue to accept Syrian refugees in a necessary show of solidarity with Muslims, much to the chagrin of a fearful French population. However, it may not be enough to outweigh the divisions being created after the attacks.
Hollande air strikes Syria just two days after the attacks. Similar attacks in Beirut and Baghdad, just hours before those in Paris, have been near-totally ignored in a classic show of subtle Imperialist superiority. There were over 128 Islamophobic attacks after Charlie Hebdo, denied and swept under the rug. They are already starting again. Now, Hollande wants a global coalition to fight another war — on terror, or for terror, we cannot know.