In the immediate aftermath of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, France on Friday that left 120 dead and hundreds wounded, the French government took swift action to help reestablish order to the frightened nation. Jarred by the disturbing scope of the assault, officials implemented a series of emergency procedures, invoking the first mandatory curfew in the country since World War II and closing its borders.
On the surface, these actions seem fairly logical. Short-term security measures are common in the wake of such an attack — the United States grounded flights after the September 11 terrorist attacks, for example. But there is growing concern that the fear driving these moves could morph into longer-term projects, such as tightening borders and implementing antiterrorism policies that unnecessarily stigmatize immigrants, Syrian refugees, and Muslims in Europe — all in ways that could end up helping ISIS.
Some, for instance, are already positing tighter borders as an effective way of combating terrorism. Konrad Szymanski, Poland’s incoming European Affairs Minister, announced on Saturday his country will reduce the number Syrian refugees allowed in the country. Meanwhile, terrorism pundit John Schindler wrote in the Observer that the tragedy may dissolve the European Union’s open borders policy.
“The Schengen Agreement, which gave the EU open borders, was already ailing under the impact of vast numbers of refugees surging into Europe from Asia and Africa,” he said. “The Paris attacks may functionally end Schengen altogether.”
Schindler also suggested France should begin imprisoning suspected terrorists before they’ve committed a crime.
“Unless Paris is willing to contemplate harsher measures, such as the internment of potential jihadists, known Islamist radicals, we should expect more attacks,” Schindler wrote.
Unless Paris is willing to contemplate harsher measures, such as the internment of potential jihadists, known Islamist radicals, we should expect more attacks.
But experts are already pointing to the possible pitfalls of such tactics. In another Observer piece, World Policy Institute senior fellow Kavitha Rajagopalan warned against marrying immigration restrictions with security and surveillance measures, noting that invasive policing practices that profiled Muslims failed to produce results in the United States.
“In fact, not only has the so-called securitization of migration policies been ineffective, they’ve created problems we do not want: they have broken the trust between immigrant communities and their governments and contributed to a growing international humanitarian crisis of migrant deaths,” Rajagopalan wrote.
Others have highlighted the injustice of holding all Syrian refugees accountable for the actions of a few militants, one of which reportedly had a Syrian passport on his person. German Lopez at Vox noted that the kind of violence that rocked Paris on Friday is precisely what the Syrian refugees are fleeing from, and BuzzFeed pointed out on Saturday that many Syrian refugees actively fought against ISIS in their homeland.
Yet the beleaguered group might be facing a harsh backlash in Europe, where anti-immigrant fervor is increasingly tied to a sharp rise Islamophobia.
“We are really scared,” Sakher Edris, a Syrian refugee, told BuzzFeed. “French people are kind, and it’s understandable to have some backlash, but we want them to know that we are with them against terror.”
Worse, reprisals against refugees and Muslims in Europe may inadvertently play into ISIS’s own dark strategy. After Friday’s attack, several Middle East commentators began pointing to an article in one of the terrorist group’s publications calling for the “extinction of the grayzone.” The author claims that a “grayzone” has existed in the West, supposedly typified by Muslims who live happily in Europe and the United States. The article demands the eradication of this coexistence, championing a new order where the world is split into two extreme options: ISIS’s purported version of Islam and everyone else, each side pitted against one another.
“[The grayzone’s] endangerment began with the blessed operations of September 11th, as the operations manifested two camps before the world for mankind to choose between, a camp of Islam…and a camp of…the crusader coalition,” the article reads.
The author goes on to condemn other Muslims who “rushed to serve the crusaders” after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and dismisses Islamic scholars — perhaps because so many Muslim scholars have repeatedly decried ISIS as unIslamic.