Today the odious Nigel Farage tweeted, “Terrible news from Berlin but no surprise. Events like these will be the Merkel legacy.” The echo chamber of my liberal left Twitter feed screamed with indignation condemning him for trying to make political capital over such a horrible incident. I strongly dislike the pompous Farage and his consistent political opportunism, but here he has a point.
It is perfectly reasonable to question what the impact of admitting over a million Muslim refugees to a European country, and therefore the EU, will be. On the one hand it has to be seen as a wonderful act of compassion and humanitarianism that is to be rightfully applauded. So much suffering for so many people will be alleviated as a result. On the other hand this is a huge number of people who come from very different cultures to be absorbed. It will be very difficult to do comprehensive background checks or monitor new arrivals. This year has seen a wave of attacks in Germany and throughout Europe perpetrated by immigrants from countries like Syria, Pakistan and Afghanistan. There were four fatal attacks in Germany in July alone, but the most deadly one that month was in Nice.
As the former extremist and now counter extremist consultant Maajid Nawaz points out, these people all have several traits in common: they have a grievance, an ideology, an identity and recruiters. Yesterday a Turkish police officer murdered the Russian ambassador. Video that emerged after the killing shows the assassin chanting in Arabic, “Allahu Akbar, we are the ones who pledged allegiance to Muhammad for Jihad, Allahu Akbar” and then in Turkish “Don’t forget Aleppo, Don’t forget Syria, I will not leave here alive.” He was kind enough to leave no ambiguity about his motivating grievance and ideology.
We tend to immerse ourselves so often in rhetoric that reaffirms our views that people on the left will focus more on the “Don’t forget Aleppo” line, highlighting the complacency and failed actions of the West. While those on the right will point to his use of “Allahu Akbar,” to vilify Islam. Both need to be acknowledged if we are to understand how these acts of terror keep happening and how we can figure out a way of addressing them.
This is how I find myself - and I shudder to say this - sympathising with Nigel Farage. In the same way as I agreed with Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama when he called the massacres at San Bernardino and in Orlando acts of Islamic terrorism. [Here I have to point out that I find almost all of Trump’s views reprehensible. I refer you to my previous blog post.] Clinton and Obama refused to acknowledge any link to the religion. Islamism wasn’t the only reason these acts occurred but it was definitely one of them. I don’t know what the political answer will be to stopping acts like this but I do know that talking about them honestly and objectively is the only way towards a better understanding and resolution.
Angela Merkel has saved the lives of so many, as well as the floundering European project and is an enlightened voice on the world stage. Nigel Farage has done, and is, the exact opposite. In many respects she is the new leader of the free world with the mendacious Trump ready to take over in the US. In the absence of much competition she is arguably the strongest liberally progressive national leader. Her legacy will be more than these acts of terror that Germany has suffered this year, but they, and how the face of Europe changes because of them will be part of it.
Photo Credit: Facebook/Anas Modamani