By Hala Kindleberger
“Now my husband will not be able to join me,” said a Syrian woman who has been in France for seven months, waiting for husband to arrive from Turkey. In Germany too, they have begun slowing down the acceptance of Arab and Muslim refugees after months of providing refuge. Authorities have been shaken after the Paris attacks. They are now seriously considering whether they should allow all those refugees in, under loose security measures. What is to come? Arab and Muslim refugees are as much victims of the Paris attacks as those who were killed.
I do not believe in conspiracy theories and neither do I believe in bargaining nor bidding. I try to prevent myself from being closed-minded and seeing everything in black and white. But I cannot ignore the looks of fear in the eyes of those in the streets and shops when a Middle Eastern person walks in. Some of them quickly test the waters.
“Very bad what happened in Paris, disturbing, is not it?” they ask breathlessly, looking at the stranger, waiting for them to agree so they can feel safe.
Everybody will perceive what happened as the biggest favour for right-wing extremists in the EU, lending support to their arguments against hosting and resettling refugees. Following the attacks, it is now acceptable to talk about preventing the licensing of mosques and for Europeans to be concerned about their patrons. It is becoming acceptable to talk about closing the EU borders in the face of refugees. It is becoming acceptable to talk about Islamophobia and discuss its reasons. It is becoming acceptable to fear Muslims and their ideas against the Western lifestyle. It is becoming acceptable to stand with the GCC and its position to deny refugees’ entry into states.
The Paris attacks will remain a stain on every Muslim living in the EU. The attacks will mark the beginning of a chain of events that will begin with refugee-welcoming people reconsidering hosting them, waiting first to hear the refugees’ disapproval of the events, before they accept them. Henceforth, every Muslim and Middle Eastern person will have to proclaim their love and acceptance of democracy, freedom, and the Western lifestyle – otherwise they will be seen as threat.
Unfortunately, this is reasonable. The Paris attacks will remain in history to mark a time when Muslim communities in the EU started to prove their innocence from terrorism and terrorists.
If someone comes to believe it was not “Islamic State”, but rather individuals or anti-Muslim institutions aiming to put Muslims and Arabs in a hypothetical cage, they are not to be blamed. Nearly 20 million Muslims live in the EU; 8% of the population in France, 6.5% of the population in Germany, 6% in Belgium, Sweden, and the Netherlands, Britain and Italy respectively. Although Europol said even after the Paris attacks, only 2% of terrorist operations were conducted by Muslims, this will not prove anything. The echo of this fact on Western and Eastern media will remain weak. The fear of the unknown is always easier.
What happened in Paris is a great opportunity for political parties to distract voters away from interior problems and their lack of electoral programmes, and for leaders to pretend to be the protector of citizens from the threat of terrorism. Public security is the great scapegoat to pass unpopular laws amid these horrors. After all this, some of those living outside the EU mock Muslims and Arabs who put the French flag on their Facebook profile pictures.
This is certainly not only because they are more sympathetic to Paris than they are with Lebanon or Syria, but because this can be the first step to admitting the difficult situation they were placed in by militants in their counties, that some of them fled away to shelter in those hosting countries. From now on, all Arabs and Muslims will have to rise up one way or another to exonerate themselves from “Islamic State” or any other Middle Eastern terrorism.
Hala Kindleberger is a doctoral candidate in sociology and political science.