The events in Paris this week bring back memories of all the terrorist incidents we have lived through for many years. Why? Why kill innocent people for some cause they have nothing to do with, or they are only making fun of political situations?
Terrorism works. The goal of terror is to put a spotlight on a cause, to get people emotionally involved in an issue they would not usually care about. They become passionate and affiliate themselves with the side of the conflict they agree with. The middle ground, where truth usually resides, becomes obscured as fear and rage take over.
Most people are reasonable and just want to live and let live, whether Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Protestant, Catholic, black, brown, white, wealthy, middle, or working class. Terrorism divides people into opposite camps, where people view others as suspicious and dangerous. The others must be controlled, removed, or eliminated. There is no longer any room for dialog.
This depiction is somewhat extreme. We have seen decades of terror and hate end in Ireland as the two sides finally stopped the killing mostly out of sheer exhaustion and the work of excellent negotiators. An example of where terror achieved its end was in 1950s Algeria, when years of bombings, repression, and hate in Algeria and France ended with Algerian independence.
The Battle of Algiers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Battle_of_Algiers a movie about that struggle, illustrates how terror works. It has become either a textbook of terrorism or a lesson for those who wish to end the process of fear and hate. Algeria was a French colony with a large population of relatively wealthy French amid a large population of mostly poor Muslim Arabs who resented French rule.
An Arab liberation movement began a campaign of terror, bombing public places where French people gathered. The French army responded with a policy of repression. People were arrested and tortured, curfews imposed, matters escalated and the bombings began in France, especially Paris. The polarization, radicalization, and repression escalated as well, finally ending when the French government under DeGaulle granted independence to Algeria.
The parallels with Israel and Palestine are obvious. The situation there is so divided that many view any peaceable resolution as unlikely, at least in the short run. In Europe, the parallel is with Muslims living in a secular culture that are marginalized and discriminated against, just as the Catholic minority was in Northern Ireland.
The reasons for terror are not only religion. Religion often becomes the justification for acts of terror, but race, class, ethnicity, and alienation are often the underlying reasons. What is needed is tolerance, dialog, and human connection.
Keep calm and carry on.