On the 13th November, 130 people were murdered in Paris by terrorists linking themselves to the organisation Daesh (IS). As a direct response to those attacks, the UK government recently voted to extend airstrikes into Syria. Is the UK government’s response going to lessen the threat of terrorism? Many experts say no. In fact, it will most likely be counter-productive - there is growing evidence of a direct correlation between airstrikes and increased radicalisation.
The vote in parliament seems like a trigger response. Our parliament may believe that this is a good way to be seen to be ‘doing something’, or they may genuinely think that we can wipe out Daesh with bombs, but the truth is more frightening: the more violence we use, the stronger the terrorist organisations grow. It will take a much more considered approach to ‘wipe out’ terrorism.
It frustrates me that Western governments won’t analyse the roots of Daesh’s ideology and the reason for their increasing power and influence. Daesh, and other terrorist groups before them, base their violent ideology on a fundamentalist form of Islam called Wahabism, which is Saudi Arabia’s official religion. Saudi Arabia is an official ‘friend’ of the West, but it behaves in eerily similar ways to Daesh: beheading people (including homosexuals), denying women basic freedoms, and cutting off hands for stealing. Now it is becoming increasingly evident that Daesh is being supported with money and weapons by the Saudis, much of which originally comes from trade with Western countries like the UK.
In the midst of the war and violence in Syria and Iraq, the people suffering the most are Muslims. People are fleeing their homeland in their thousands, and more bombing will only increase the number of refugees. The suffering of the Syrian people is acute, but who is benefitting from more bombing? I believe that there will only be two beneficiaries: Daesh themselves, whose policy is to ‘divide and rule’- turning the West and Muslims against each other in order to recruit more angry extremists, and the arms traders whose shares have rocketed since the UK government’s vote.
Our government is right to be horrified at the indiscriminate violence of terrorism. But if we want the terror to stop, we desperately need to start thinking about the roots of that violence, even if our own links make us uncomfortable. Recently David Cameron implied that people who did not support bombing Syria were ‘terrorist sympathisers’, but there is a very big difference between challenging the injustices and complicity of our own government, and saying that terrorism is justified, which it never is.
The West’s reaction to the attacks on Paris does not appear to be a serious, considered attempt to make the situation better. It looks like retaliation, and we know what Jesus had to say about that:
“You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer [with violence]” (Matthew 5:38-39)*
This war will not be won with retaliation or more bombs, but the demise of terrorism will be greatly aided by stopping the flow of weapons and money to Daesh and by de-legitimising their ideology and therefore their appeal. Nothing will hurt Daesh’s recruitment drive more than if we seek justice for Muslims in places where they are persecuted, work on building good relationships between Muslims and others in Western countries, and reach out a helping hand to Muslim refugees.
Here are some things you can do:
- Reach out to your Muslim neighbours in friendship- try building positive relationships between your church and a local mosque, for example.
- Grow relationships with Muslim neighbours and show solidarity with Palestinians at the same time- hold a joint fundraiser with the local mosque in aid of a Palestinian school or in aid of a group working in Palestine for justice and peace, for example.
- Get involved with campaigning and volunteering for refugees, many of whom are Muslim.
If you find it hard to do the things above, you can still pray. Why not hold a vigil for the suffering people of Syria in your church, just as many churches held vigils for the victims in Paris? More violence will not stop the cycle of violence. Solidarity with Muslims and an understanding of the roots of terrorism will certainly help.
*See Walter Wink’s book ‘The Powers that Be’ for a very good analysis of this passage of scripture and how Jesus does indeed call us to resist evil, but to resist it non-violently.