Beirut and Paris

parisI was going to write a different blog, you know?

I was going to return to Tunisia where there have been some extremely interesting (and in some odd ways quite promising) developments in the national parliament, maybe talk a little about Syria and proposals for peace, and the EU’s ideas for greater assistance and engagement with Turkey and the African continent.


Instead, once again, I’m writing about murder.

Not about ‘religious warfare’, because literally no religion anywhere ever has included in its guidance ‘you know what? There are just too many peaceful civilians out there, trying to live their lives as the rest of you do.

‘As your God, I’d really like you to shoot the place up. Really see how many of those peaceful, ordinary people, who never deliberately did any harm to anyone, you can murder. I created humanity, and that’s why – because I’d like to see as many people as possible murdered.’

On Thursday night, two suicide bombers connected to IS killed 43 people and injured 239 more in southern Beirut, Lebanon.

The first attacker rode a motorcycle, laden with explosives, into a civilian area. The second joined a group of people attempting to organise assistance to those caught in the first blast, and detonated his suicide vest among them.

The area of this massacre was targeted, according to IS statements, because it is part of the city inhabited by Shia Muslims, and it is a region in which Hizbollah, which supports Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad against IS (and for that matter, against secular rebel forces), holds a number of bases.

The following evening – indeed the night on which I now write – more than 120 people (perhaps as many as 150) were killed in Paris.

These attacks – which were committed at the Bataclan concert hall (where more than 100 people were reported dead by 1am UK time); two venues on the city’s Rue Alibert (restaurants next door to one another); one on rue de Charonne; and a suicide bomb close to the Stade de France (where France played Germany), had not, by the time I write, been claimed by IS.

The latter attack received significantly more coverage than the former.

I do not say this to play a game, or to make a point, just to help anyone reading this to remember that IS’ focus is not ‘the West’ or specific countries within it, but anyone who opposes it, in any way, anywhere. And experience teaches us that this is almost everyone; literally everywhere.

Well over 95 per cent of the people killed by IS to date were Muslims: Kurdish Muslims, Shia Muslims, Sunnis, Alawites. Literally anyone who stands against it – and in many cases people who have not publicly stated their allegiance to IS – is in danger of slaughter.

And there are some parallels to be drawn between the incidents.

Because not only was the Lebanon attack focused on the nation’s capital, in response to Hizbollah attacks on IS in Syria (France announced on Thursday that it intended to step up its attacks on IS positions in Syria), it was also launched on a nation which has welcomed an extraordinary number – 1.125m – of Syrian refugees.

France has not accepted anything like as many Syrians, (though it has – in part due to the legacy of its empire – welcomed hundreds of thousands of Francophone Africans) but the only element of the Paris attack which ‘stands out’ from the rest – the suicide bombing outside the Stade de France – offers new symbolism because the French football team’s opponents as the explosion occurred (the players stopped as the blast was heard within the ground, though the game continued) was Germany – the European state to have accepted by far the most – hundreds of thousands of – Syrian refugees through the course of this year.

Because IS is not just about taking over land: it’s about dominating people. About making human beings follow their own bizarre doctrine. And now is as good a point as any to state that what IS stands for is not Islam, or any other religion, but the systematic enslavement of huge groups of people in order to please not a God, but a small group of men. Extremely angry, and wildly deluded men, but men, just the same.

And that is what leads us to the final relevant points about these vicious, unjustifiable, horrific attacks.

First, that IS attacks Muslims and everyone else alike. In fact, far more Muslims than people of any other faith. They are not Muslims. What they do resembles Islam and its teachings in no way whatsoever.

And so, in the wake of two despicable attacks we should remember that what we are opposed to is not Islam, and not Muslims, but murder and murderers.

Second, we should remember that this is IS. It is literally all it is capable of.

It has members who are despicable – who appear to be willing to go far further than any civilised human being ever would, but when France or Lebanon launches attacks to dislodge it from the areas it has stolen, they are capable of killing thousands of people, and doing so time and time again (I simply make the point, I do not, here, make any statement on whether that is the correct thing to do).

But when IS wishes to ‘respond’, all it can do is launch individual attacks like this. Attacks which, though horrific, are of literally no threat to France, Lebanon, or any other nation at peace.

As a result, there is literally no reason for the response of the world to be anything other than this: we remember those who have been killed; the 160 or more in Lebanon and France, we arrest those responsible and we throw them in jail forever. That is what civilised people do to pathetic little murderers.

If IS did launch the Paris attacks, it is possible there was one other motive: to attempt to call African Muslims to ‘the cause’ with a statement of ‘look what you can do with a bomb and a few guns’ (they probably didn’t intend to add ‘and no brain cells…’).

But if that is the case, France will prevail. Because France’s population – refugees, immigrants and natives alike – are bound by one thing. Perhaps not exactly the ‘liberte, egalite, fraternite’ the state is supposed to be built upon – at least not quite, and not yet – but the knowledge that they are human beings, living and working together.

With them, the people of Lebanon, and the rest of the world, we stand to remember the dead of both states, and against the pathetic, tin-pot murderers, who hope that violence will be enough to divide us.

Rory O’Keeffe is an International Journalist and the Author of “The Toss of a Coin: voices from a modern crisis” available from Amazon and the  Publishers Website

The image Peace for Paris is courtesy of Artist Jean Jullien  @jean_jullien



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