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Santiago Martínez Sánchez, Professor of department of History and coordinator of the Agrupación Universitaria por Oriente Medio Medio (AUNOM)

Fear of Brussels

Wed, 23 Mar 2016 14:07:00 +0000 Published in Expansion

Pain, tears and death. For many also anger. But surprise does not accompany these attacks in Brussels, the capital of a Europe united by its acronyms and its fear. There is no surprise in Europe. There is fear. To the reaction of the markets; to the refugee who arrives; to the porous borders of fences that are jumped over or stuck in the skin; to the rampant populism in more and more European societies; to the ghettos where the police do not enter; to the failed integration of a issue neither small nor large of the 22 million Muslims living in Europe; to those who go to Syria as mercenaries (Belgium is the European country that leads this black list in population percentage) or who wait here for their turn as slaughterers; to the consequences that the collapse of Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq will have for us and our interests.... to mention only a few neighboring or remote countries that have already collapsed and not to extend the list with Algeria, Egypt, Turkey, Mali or Lebanon. Fear.

And there is no effective vaccine against fear, even if governments and police call us to calm and promise to protect us. As if their word would immunize us against the idea that the jihadists are more skillful and deadly than the anti-terrorist efforts of a Europe that trembles. Fear is spreading and will spread in societies that not so long ago (ten years no more) lived self-satisfied in their welfare indexes. Today, their citizens look at each other with
while thinking about whose turn it will be next.

To undermine our confidence, to paralyze our activity. Fear was a powerful weapon of the communist and fascist totalitarianisms, which these murderers are wielding again, for any European is distressed to see the army in the streets, the state of emergency, blood and death gushing in the centenary of the Great War, the first of the European self-mutilations of the 20th century. Yes, today the enemy is alien to Europe, but it feeds on it: the terrorists of Paris and Brussels are disaffected European citizens, who hate the lifestyle of this polis and who consider us narcissistic, atomized and defenseless despite the physical walls and cybernetic controls.

Hate and fear, yes, but it is too much to assume that in 'this polis' we all think alike and are a single collective subject; and that 'they', the Muslims, are culturally and ideologically homogeneous. In fact, both the West and Islam harbor enormous nuances that should not be simplified.

The fear is paradoxical if one looks at the map coldly: in Syria, the Islamic State is retreating thanks to Russian support for the tyrant with whom all of Europe has negotiated until five years ago (I hope that remembering hard truths is not too much of a reality for our political and economic elites or for the ordinary citizen who reads me). While in Syria/Iraq the fanatics are cornered, here they generate death by the snipers who constitute their shock vanguard. In reality, they are weak even if they appear to be strong. Killing in Europe is useful and essential for them, because it distorts our view of their fragility and their failure to build a supposed paradise for good believers.

We will not come out of fear because we are hypnotized by beautiful words or comforting gestures. They are welcome, because they are necessary, but they are not enough. Paralysis can be overcome if we confront the very complex roots of religious radicalization. To be more precise, Islamic radicalism, because today people do not kill in the name of any other God but Allah: something obvious, but rare to read.

The search for an accurate diagnosis of the religious, identity, cultural, socio-economic, etc., causes of jihadist terrorism requires abandoning the simplistic accusation against the West for causing the drama of a Middle East scourged by war, devastation and instability. And it requires abandoning the mantra that Islam is a religion of peace and has nothing to do with these attacks, a postulate that is unfortunately false and whose repetition aims to disassociate the link between Islam and violence in the heads of Europeans.

Knowing the causes, avoiding stereotypes, combating Islamophobia. Muslims are the first to take to the streets to reject this violence. European societies must demand our governments to speak clearly to us, to demand the citizen partnership to Muslim minorities, to stop the double speech between values and money. In view of the European or Spanish political class , this is asking for the moon. In view of the citizen partnership of Molenbeek with Salah Abdeslam, this is a chimera.

But Europe is more than its governments and Molenbeek. More than a continent that trembles. Europe we are or should be its citizens. We must demand solutions and not simplifications. We must be prepared to die and not to kill. We must protect our society from its enemies and rethink the processes of integration of those who murder us, their relatives, neighbors, the Muslims who watch these attacks in horror and wonder in horror and with good reason why Europe yawns at the tragedies that strike so many lives in other scenarios, beyond our walls. It is we, above all, who must step up to protect the victims, who have European and Syrian and Libyan and Yemeni and Somali and Afghan surnames. If not, we will remain in fear, waiting for the cowards to slit our throats.