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Should We Reform Others Or Ourselves?

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 23/03/2016 François Burgat

This time it's in Brussels, after Paris, London, Madrid and many other cities beyond Europe, that a new round of victims challenge us: "What did you do to protect us?" Their legitimate calls take me back 21 years to the aftermath of the Saint-Michel Metro attacks in Paris, on July 25, 1995. Under the title "The Recipe For A Bomber," I wrote the the following for the Libération.

We must ruthlessly hunt down the bombers. Our police and justice authorities have been doing so with determination, and we thought, for a time, that the network responsible for these crimes had been dismantled. But to prevent new networks from popping up and rendering obsolete the success of our police officers, we must now urgently get to work dismantling a new foe: not just those who make the bombs, but the conditions that create those who place them.

I concluded on a sentence that seems just as relevant today as it did then: "In Paris or Algiers [and today in Brussels or elsewhere] that investigation leads nowhere but to the les banlieues -- the suburbs."
We can't just follow our guts and denounce the barbarity of the other. We must demand of our brains that we acknowledge a little bit of our own barbarity in order to emerge from the deadly impasse that faces us.

The best and most urgent way for us to express our sympathy for the victims is the same today as it was then: to arrest and punish the bombers. Those who will once again carry out this mission deserve our respect and our heartfelt encouragement. But the importance and centrality of this task should not make us ignore the other crisis we face, one that is even more urgent. Despite the years we have spent talking about it, this crisis has remained a low priority for our decision makers. If we do not want the efforts of those who seek to protect us to fail, we must stop the powerful machine that creates the bombers themselves. Depriving criminals of their nationality? And why not inflict a more severe sentence of depriving them of any progeny! But how to do it ?
Should we reform others or reform ourselves?
We have been talking too much, for too long, and we have gone astray. Our leaders all follow the same path: from The Paris Institute of Political Studies to The French Academy, from Parliament to Matignon, they follow the same advice and the same markers (jihad, Salafi Shari'a, etc.) of one culture and one religion ... the Other! In a situation where our guts have a dangerous propensity to take control of our brains, the French Ministry of Research had the happy idea of ​​mobilizing its officials and creating new research posts in the discipline of Islamic studies! And this error, which was both flagrant and widely shared, went completely unnoticed. Believing that knowledge of Islam is the key to help us to understand and overcome a world of dysfunction carries an exceptionally perverse bias: it prevents us from even thinking about, and facing the responsibility of, the majority of our society, i.e. non-Muslims.
In the political fabric of each of our European nations, like those in the Middle East, non-Muslims have come out on the right side of domination. The day we decide to accept our the explosions of hostility that hit us for what they are, that is to say, to acknowledge our inability to establish a mutually satisfying relationship with the (Muslim) world of the Other, we must acknowledge that we are deeply involved in this great dysfunction. And if we go to the end of our capacity for reasoning, we will be convinced that if the victims of Brussels require that we reform the world that left them to die, we must at least partly reform ourselves.
To stop the machine that makes the bombers, we must must accept that whether it is in molenbeek or Rakka, in Mosul or in Saint Denis, it is the same machinery that is in full swing. And that instead of factories, our suburbs near and far are also the recipients of our "bombs" of all kinds. The forces that create the bombers are not found in the suburbs. They can be found first in the spheres of government that make decisions based on elections, not on reason. They are in each of us when we let grow the rifts that tear us apart. And they are in the places where our bombs have caused untold deaths in the last two decades.
We can't just follow our guts and denounce the barbarity of the other. We must demand of our brains that we acknowledge a little bit of our own barbarity in order to emerge from the deadly impasse that faces us.
This post first appeared on HuffPost France. It has been translated into English and edited for clarity.

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