Amid the outcry of sorrow following the horrific attacks in Paris there has been much rhetoric from the French state about what the next step will be. It is depressing that the French interior minister has spoken about his aim to enforce ‘the dissolution of mosques where hate is preached’.
Despite the repeated assertion of the French motto: Liberté, égalité, fraternité, the Liberté seems to have disappeared. We celebrate the freedom of the West in the face of ISIS but this freedom must exist for all. An ideology will not be successfully fought with censorship and banning but rather with liberal values and criticism. By banning such speech you simply deny the existence of such an evil and fail to promote the brilliance of a free, liberal, accepting West.
Considering the ease of access to hate materials online with ISIS’s penchant for media campaigns the closing of these mosques is merely symbolic. To defeat ISIS we must stick to the values that make liberal democracy so brilliant, including free speech for all. Furthermore, we must halt this decline of our society to one of censorship rather than criticism.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité. This motto dating back to the times of Napoleon has so often epitomised the values of the French. These are words that have routinely instilled hope, and in recent days, strength. Words that are individually so simple yet collectively so powerful. Words that continue to embolden France, even in her darkest days. And these are very dark days. The question now is what can be done? It is demonstrably obvious that things will not simply improve by sitting on our hands.
So far the West has failed to coherently act to defeat ISIS. Many have called for peaceful, diplomatic solutions and while these should obviously be sought, militarily action must also now be considered. Attempts to reach multinational agreements that lead to ‘boots on the ground’ may not be music to the ears of some, nor may it turn out to be the optimal course of action, but in the face of such barbarity, oppression and terrorism against all nations and peoples, moral cowardice is not the answer. The western world must be strong. For liberty. For equality. For brotherhood.
As tragedy strikes Paris, social media is teeming with swarms of bolshy, opinionated tweeters, facebookers and instagramers queuing to give their view on the events. From Tricolores on profile pictures to the hashtag #prayforparis, the support being given to the people of Par-is is overwhelming.
But this is only half of the picture. While social media is a great platform for recognition of events and giving a voice to the victims, in some cases, it’s being used for the wrong rea-sons, often to dish out racial abuse left right and centre. Since the attacks in Paris, hate crimes and racist attacks seem to have increased tenfold. One of the most shocking incidents was a man pushing a Muslim woman into a moving train in a tube station in London. What can be done about this? Most people know that not all Muslims are terrorists and that terrorism can occur in religions other than Islam, but not everyone does. Personally, I think sites like Facebook and Twitter need to clamp down on what can be said, as this is half of the problem.