After Paris attacks, what now?
The Paris attacks of Friday, November 13th, will change the worldwide war on terror. A week after Paris was struck, terrorism struck again, this time in Mali, at a hotel frequented by official delegations and people from various nationalities working in politics, high finance and business.
By choosing Fridays for their misdeeds, the terrorists undoubtedly wanted to cloak their crimes in a veil of holiness.
The world’s attention is focused on the events at Paris and St Denis trying to decipher their significance and fallout.
European political analysts have pointed out the various ways in which the events of Paris and St Denis were significant.
— First, it must be concluded that Europe is no longer safe from terrorism as it was assumed. The French mistakenly thought the Charlie Hebdo incident in January 2015 was an exception and would not occur again on French territory.
— Second, the recent changes in the Middle East following the Russian intervention in Syria have led to a more coordinated international front against the Islamic State (ISIS), which has suffered much more painful blows. ISIS decided to strike back at the coalition and started with France. It has threatened other countries in the coalition with similar attacks.
— Third, the Paris attacks revealed a serious flaw in intelligence gathering and sharing among European agencies. The assailants had been circulating freely inside the Schengen zone without close surveillance. The failure to pick up on and scrutinise their movement to Europe from Syria gave them ample time to plan the Paris operation to its finest details.
— Fourth, the terrorist strikes in France reverberated through the rest of Europe and the United States. Airports in New York and Washington were on maximum alert. In Germany, rumours of bombs in football stadiums led to the cancellation of several matches and to a public outcry against foreigners. News of serious terrorist threats in Belgium placed the country on maximum alert and EU ministers were called in for a meeting to draw new security plans to stop terrorism from invading Europe.
— Fifth, European nations are going to have to shoulder the high cost of fighting terrorism. Terrorists do not hold to classical battle techniques. They strike unexpectedly and their strikes can be quite painful, especially in energy and tourism sectors. Following the November 13th attacks, there were fears of a serious drop in the number of visitors to Paris. The French capital accounts for 60% of the country’s revenues from tourism.
Those factors have forced Europe to consider new security plans that will significantly affect them and the Arab and Muslim communities there. These new strategies will undoubtedly change Europe’s relations with the Arab world.
Some researchers and political analysts say Europe’s relation with the outside world during the coming period is going to be guided by new considerations and will have important fallout.
— First, there will be tougher measures and procedures in accepting applications for asylum and immigration all across Europe.
— Second, there will be tighter security measures inside the Schengen zone. Preparations for these measures started during the meeting of European Interior ministers in Brussels.
— Third, stripping European fighters returning from Syria of their nationality will likely soon include all Europeans.
— Fourth, the Arab and Muslim communities in Europe will go through a difficult period until they actively participate in the fight against terrorism by espousing and sharing with the rest of the European communities the values of modernity, tolerance and acceptance of the other. By doing so, they may survive the waves of Islamophobia and immigration phobia sweeping Europe. These xenophobic phenomena have lately reached US shores, where the Republican Party is seeking to delay the congressional decision on receiving Syrian immigrants and Muslims report being harassed.
— Fifth, Muslim associations in Europe will see their breathing space shrink as Europeans discover that a number of them have become ideological and financial supply sources for terrorist groups. There are calls in Europe for closing some mosques and extraditing extremist imams. There are persistent calls to look into the financing of Islamic associations in Europe, many of which espouse the Muslim Brotherhood’s version of political Islam as well as Salafist thinking. By contrast, moderate Islam has yet to make inroads in Europe. Clearly, some of these associations are going to be closed and their leaders and iconic figures kicked out of Europe.
It remains to be seen whether these measures are sufficient to bring the terrorist phenomenon in Europe under control and whether Europe’s relations with the Arab world will witness fundamental changes and, if so, in which direction.