On the evening of Nov. 13, a series of coordinated terror attacks in Paris shook France and the rest of the western world when radical proponents of ISIS took the lives of over 130 innocent civilians and injured hundreds more.
A day earlier, ISIS claimed affiliation of two suicide bombers who took the lives of 43 civilians in a suburb of Beirut, becoming the worst terrorist attack in Beirut since the end of the Lebanese civil war.
In turn, the Paris attacks had become France’s largest loss of civilian life since the end of WWII.
But do these two incidents that happened a day apart have anything in common? If you look at it broadly, you can assume that both countries took the humanitarian route and accepted Syrian refugees.
So is there a reason why Paris received more international noise than Beirut?
Because ISIS took responsibility of both attacks.
But before anything else, let’s make one thing clear: these refugees are not terrorists.
In fact, terrorism doesn’t have deep roots in Syria. Salafi Islam – the denomination of Islam that acts as the stimulus behind al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and ISIS– hasn’t been in Syria for long.
Thomas Pierret, an expert on Islam in Syria at the University of Edinburgh told the National Post that this is in part because of Bashar al-Assad’s oppressive regime that didn’t tolerate opposition. Pierret goes on to say that with ISIL fighting an ongoing war in the Middle East, it needs every fighter it can get, making the case unlikely for extremists to cross into Europe.
Essentially, the only reason the refugees are in these new countries is because they are running from the exact same thing – war.
More than half of the registered refugees in the Middle East and North Africa are under 18 years old, according to the UN Refugee Agency. That is roughly 2.1 million people. On top of that, 77 per cent of these refugees are women and children.
These same refugees are also fairly well-educated. Assad had made public schools available throughout Syria and presided over a number of reforms to the education system. The outcome? Pre-war Syria had an 86 per cent literacy rate with 96 per cent of youth aged 15 to 24 able to read and write, as found on UNICEF’s Syrian Arab Republic database of education.
But it makes sense why people are scared.
People need something to blame and someone surrounding them in order to gain control over the uncontrollable. The victims of the incidents in France are innocent people living in a continent where racism is so deeply entrenched into society, culture and anti-religious sentiments that it becomes easy to blame some guy with a beard who came on a boat.
This concept is really just dehumanizing refugees and people from the Middle East because that’s just where they happened to live.
The reaction of the world to mostly mourn for Paris shows that Paris doesn’t deserve terror. But we guess it’s okay in the Middle East since there is a cognitive dissonance.
In fact, the Washington Post brought out a poll from Jan. 20, 1939 where Americans were asked whether they would oppose or accept 10,000 refugee children from Germany –most of them Jewish – to be taken care of American homes. 61 per cent of the poll takers were against bringing them in. These refugees have since become a staple of American life and have not been associated with domestic terror attacks since they arrived.
Still, for people that hold these sort of views, the only way to control a situation that doesn’t make sense is to further their xenophobia and rid and exterminate the perceived threat.
We should remember that a few bad apples shouldn’t ruin the batch.
In the case for Syrian refugees and all refugees in general: no one wants to leave their home, they just have to.