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Why I Won't #PrayForNice And Neither Should You

16/07/2016 10:18 AM IST | Updated 16/07/2016 2:13 PM IST
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Pascal Rossignol / Reuters
A man cycles past a bouquet of flowers, stuffed toys and a French flag placed in tribute to victims, two days after an attack by the driver of a heavy truck who ran into a crowd on Bastille Day killing scores and injuring as many on the Promenade des Anglais, in Nice, France, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

I am not going to #PrayforNice. We have all seen what praying for Paris and Brussels achieved. It does not help the victims nor does it prevent future incidents. It only helps us, at an individual level, feel a bit better about the incomprehensible horror and cruelty of our world, so that we can move on with our own lives.

If you really want to honour the victims and ensure this doesn't happen again, don't pray -- demand policy changes from your governments. They have the power to stop this, more power than any god you might turn to.

If you really want to honour the victims and ensure this doesn't happen again, don't pray -- demand policy changes from your governments.

Demand that they tackle the root causes of terrorism such as socio-economic inequality, chronic poverty, unemployment and neo-colonial geopolitical ambitions.

Demand a foreign policy based on human values, development assistance and international law, rather than counterproductive drone wars, regime change, funding "moderate" rebels, and alliances of convenience with terrorist sponsor-states.

Don't let the victims, like those in the past, be reduced to mere footnotes in the "War on Terror" as governments manipulate the public's fears and anxieties to unleash an enhanced surveillance state and infringe on your liberties at home, while engaging in more senseless violence and warmongering abroad that fosters even more violence and hatred in turn.

Otherwise, simply put, the terrorists win.

Sadly, just like after the Paris attacks, the response of the French President Francois Hollande to the Nice attacks has been the opposite of this mature approac, as he told the nation and the world, "We will further strengthen our actions in Iraq and in Syria... We will continue striking those who attack us on our own soil." This willful misidentification of the root causes or main actors behind terrorism in France will only serve to alienate and radicalize the next set of attackers from among Western Muslims, by playing into the ISIS narrative of the West and Islam being involved in a "clash of civilizations". This is to be combined with increased border security and a crackdown within the country, extending the state of emergency and allowing police to search and raid homes without a warrant or even judicial oversight.

Don't let the victims, like those in the past, be reduced to mere footnotes in the "War on Terror" as governments manipulate the public's fears and anxieties...

All this, despite the investigations echoes with the previous attacks in France and Belgium, where authorities and the local media were quick to blame "international terrorists" such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but the perpetrators were eventually discovered to be local criminals drawn from the city's poverty-stricken ghettoes. Not only has it come out that the perpetrator of the Nice attack was a French citizen and local petty criminal, as investigators have pointed out over the last year, every single one of the Paris gunmen held a European Union passport, as did at least two of the Brussels bombers.

European authorities and the international media find it very easy to externalize the problem by pointing the finger at outside elements, such as Middle Eastern refugees themselves fleeing ISIS terrorism in their homelands. And although the menace of radical Islamists from ISIS "invading" Europe disguised as Syrian refugees has been easily deployed as a bugbear by the press and certain politicians, the events of the past 18 months have no doubt forced their security and intelligence agencies to face the growing possibility that home-grown terrorist networks, inspired by groups abroad such as ISIS but comprising European Union nationals, have begun waging war on their own people.

[M]ost Western policy-makers appear obsessed with a primitive and discredited conceptualization of political violence, through the lens of a "clash of civilizations"...

Instead of introspecting on the roots of radicalization in their own foreign policy and socioeconomic structures, most Western policy-makers instead appear obsessed with a primitive and discredited conceptualization of political violence, through the lens of a "clash of civilizations" between Islam and the West, rather than the result of meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign nations abroad or unemployment, ghettoization, and marginalization of the poor and vulnerable at home.

Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi, speaking shortly before his visit to Brussels on the eve of the infamous attacks earlier this year, summed it up, saying:

"Every year, we spend over 100 billion dollars on securing the world from terrorism, money that should have been spent on building lives of the poor... The fight against terrorism is not a confrontation against any religion. It cannot be. It is not a conflict to be fought only through military, intelligence or diplomatic means."

Until this happens, the same cycle of violence is going to continue repeating itself, and one particular line of Francois Hollande's post-Nice speech will define the legacy of the current generation of Western leaders."Times have changed and we should learn to live with terrorism."

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