Respond to ISIS with love not fear

In the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, a video of a Parisian father and son quickly rose to popularity. While being interviewed by a reporter from Le Petit Journal, the father and son agreed that although the attackers had guns, the French had flowers.

The little boy reasoned that the flowers were there to protect them.

Of course the problems surrounding ISIS are much more nuanced and deep-rooted than the simplicity of flowers. Still the sentiment of his statement rings true.

Terrorists want to cause terror. They don’t just want this terror to merely last during the immediate aftermath of an attack, they want it to seep into societies and govern people’s actions in the years to come.

Responding in flowers and the love they represent is just the opposite of that. ISIS relies on the fearful response of their attackees, and going against this sends a powerful message.

In more concrete terms for America, this means treating Muslim-Americans without judgement or by equating them with ISIS. This also means not turning our back on the Syrian refugees simply out of fear. Finally, this means continuing to work toward building upon our principles of justice and equality so that no one will be as susceptible to online radicalization.

The importance of not associating all Muslims with ISIS extends far beyond morals. ISIS wants there to be an anti-Islamic backlash as a result of their attacks. If that occurs, it is easier for them to recruit Muslims who feel disenfranchised in their own country. This gives power to the ISIS claims of religious persecution. By not alienating segments of our population, we can stand united against their actions.

According to Paul Hanson, professor of history at California Lutheran University the power of terrorism lies in the response we have to it.

“Anyone that uses terrorism as a tool is really looking to provoke,” Hanson said. “Any particular act of terrorism can’t accomplish any political objective or even a military objective to any degree. What it’s meant to do is to provoke somebody into policies and reactions that will further their cause. Anti-Islamic sentiment can help them in recruiting.”

In this way, misunderstanding and prejudice of Islam further the Islamic State’s objectives.

“Ways in which the ordinary practice of Islam and especially the ways in which Muslim Americans are fully integrated into American life are no different than the rest of us in almost all respects,” Hanson said. “If you can see that as the main focus here of Islam instead of ISIS, than that can help prevent some of the backlash. They’re trying to provoke a widespread anti-Muslim sentiment and the extent to which we step into that is really counterproductive. It’s improving to some degree at the grassroots level but it still doesn’t seem to be a part of our national dialogue and perhaps we have some opinionated media and politicians to blame for this.”

Instead of focusing on the alleged dangers of Syrian refugees, we should focus on the threats that appear online. Because the screening process for the Syrian refugees lucky enough to come to the United States is so intensive, the likelihood of a problem is greatly diminished.

“If you think about this for a second, the terrorists who pulled off the attacks in Paris were, with perhaps one exception, all French or Belgian born. So we’re saying we’re going to scrutinize these people but if you have a European passport you have no difficulty getting in,” Hanson said.  “Of course this doesn’t make sense but it’s something simplistic people feel like they have to do in terms of tarring a particular group with that. Actually, it’s probably safer to have Syrian refugees than ordinary people that are coming in because they have to be scrutinized for over two years.”

While the threat of Syrian refugees is not as great as some may worry, the threat of people being exposed and approached by ISIS through the internet is. According to a New York Times article by Eric Schmitt, the “Islamic State has sharply increased its appeal to Westerners through Twitter, Facebook and other social media.”

ISIS preys on people who feel disconnected with their country and community.  In this way, by building up our American ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and living in connection with our neighbors, we lessen the appeal and validity of ISIS tactics.

“I would think for the most part that happy people don’t enlist in these kinds of causes,” Hanson said.

There is no doubt that the problems surrounding ISIS are daunting and complex. ISIS is a product of hundreds of years of tension and interconnected pieces. There is no easy way to eradicate the Islamic State and create a coalition of nations willing to combat proved to be challenging.

Although I may not know how to untangle the intricacies of the Middle East, I do know this:  a response of love in the place of fear is a powerful thing. By doing this, we can lessen the terror in terrorism.

Alexandra Randall
Staff Writer
Published December 9th, 2015