The terrorist attacks on Paris have left their scars, but this doesn’t mean we should hang our freedom in the closet for better times


Two weeks ago, 132 people were killed in Paris. Killed because they were enjoying life. I am a Parisian and I cried, I cried a lot. But now I think, I think a lot.

This article is not about the victims, however it does not mean that I do not acknowledge the enormous pain of their families. This article is about understanding and questioning.

‘It is another 09/11’

No, it is not. Why? Because the terrorists who destroyed the twin towers were not Americans. The ones who executed 132 people on the 13th of November were nearly all French or Belgian. Most of them came from the same country, the same society as their victims, in other words, they mostly came from the inside. How is it possible that some citizens feel so far from the national ideal? The terrorists of 13/11 went to a French/Belgian state school, received a French/Belgian education, enjoyed the services offered by the French/Belgian welfare state. Yet, they definitely did not feel French or Belgian. From this results a terrible conclusion: the French and Belgian Governments failed. They failed because they did not succeed in integrating the migrants they welcomed; they failed because the children of those migrants felt completely excluded from the society they lived in.

I am certainly not justifying the terrorist acts, I am simply trying to understand at which point one feels so ostracised from his own country that being engaged in a suicide mission seems like the best possible alternative. Few people are capable of killing themselves because most of us strongly believe that we have a future, that we have dreams, hopes. We dream of a better world, we hope that the best is yet to come. Today, we have to be worried that some individuals are capable of swallowing a destructive ideology because they have nothing else to hold on to. But how is it possible to convince these people that there is another way?

The role of education

I choose to put my faith in education rather than punition. Education is a means towards freedom, an open door to a bright and optimistic future. A good education will have as its main aim the goal of enabling you to think for yourself and look at different information with your own critical point of view. Yes, when it comes to education special attention needs to be given to the most radicalised mosques, districts, schools etc. But that’s not all. If you understand another’s religious foundation, then you will not feel the need to be so wary anymore.

Laïcité is a pretty word but I believe that the concept has been misunderstood. Laïcité is not pretending that religions do not exist, that they do not have an extremely strong power over individuals. We have killed in the name of religion for as long as history has existed. And this will stop only if we educate ourselves about religions, in order to understand the people we live with. If you ask someone what being a Muslim, a Christian, a Buddhist (etc.) is, half of the time you will get no answer or a vague one at best. History of religions should be taught at schools because it is a fundamental part of our culture. Learning enables you to understand, and understanding makes it easier to accept the differences.

About the état de guerre

What is exactly the état de guerre (or state of war)? This is the belief that your fundamental rights (freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of association, etc.) are less important than your security. Declaring war on an organisation like ISIS means that you can introduce the state of war at anytime, thus legally constraining the inalienable rights presupposition.

I have learned a lot in the last two weeks. Above all, I have realized that there is actually only a very small number of people who care about their freedom more than their security. And how could I possibly blame them? I have a family, I have friends, I have people I care about desperately, like everyone. And yes, I would rather see them safe in their homes than killed on the streets of Paris because they were practising their freedom of movement.

And yet, I find the possibility that the government can forget about my freedom to guarantee my security, difficult to accept. First, because the term ‘war’ needs to be redefined, it obviously does not have the same meaning as an, ‘armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a country’ (Oxford Dictionary). Indeed, ISIS is not a state (it is not recognized as one by the international community), and this war is not only a military one (though I am aware that this is subject to debate). Finally, in view of all this, why would I give up my basic rights, even if it is for my government and country, when the very aim of ISIS is for me to do just that?

It is a personal choice but ‘I would rather die standing than live on my knees’, said Charb — the director of Charlie Hebdo — who was killed last January. But he was killed standing.

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