[lg policy] Careful words are needed over Brussels attacks

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Mar 26 14:47:25 UTC 2016

 [image: Careful words are needed over Brussels attacks]
Passengers evacuate Zaventem Airport in Brussels on Tuesday. Dirk Waem / EPA
Careful words are needed over Brussels attacks

   - [image: ‘Us and them’ will only add fuel to the fire]
   and them’ will only add fuel to the fire

A day after the Brussels attacks and already there are serious questions
for the European authorities to answer. Of the three known attackers, all
had links to the Paris attacks four months ago.

Two were on the run, and yet still managed to plan and execute this attack,
while a third had his DNA found in hideouts used by the Paris attackers –
but he was not identified by police until the day before the Brussels
attacks. It is beginning to appear as if a series of missed opportunities
and intelligence oversights led to this latest tragedy.

What European politicians and police do next matters profoundly. Divisive
talk of “us" and “them" serves no-one, and only exacerbates the very
problem that we are all seeking to solve.

When European politicians talk of a “war", they are using the same rhetoric
that ISIL does. That is dangerous, and will only push more Europeans to
travel to Raqqa. Already, Belgians make up the largest number of European
citizens there, by population.

When they accuse the community in Molenbeek of somehow “knowing" something,
they are making an offensive assertion. These were men on the run, hiding
their identities – why do politicians imagine their next door neighbours
would somehow know the truth?

So there are serious dangers: careful language, policy and policing are
needed to make the situation less dangerous.

More broadly, there is the danger that public opinion will continue to turn
against the migrants fleeing Syria. This is incredibly dangerous, for two
reasons. The first is that this is precisely what ISIL is hoping for. By
selling the narrative that Europe is fundamentally Islamophobic, it hopes
to gain more recruits and more sympathisers.

But the other danger is that where public opinion goes, politicians follow.
And if there is Syria fatigue, the impulse will be to leave Syria
festering, to allow ISIL its space to plot attacks and train recruits. If
that happens, then another attack is all but inevitable. Inaction today
will bring dire tragedy later.


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