About 12 hours ago, a coordinated terrorist attack in Paris left more than 120 people dead and many injured. At a restaurant, a concert hall (during an Eagles of Death Metal show) and near a sports stadium (during a friendly with Germany), men armed with rifles and explosives murdered civilians and took hostages, seven out of eight attackers committed suicide bombings while the eighth was shot by the police. By now, the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility, who President Hollande already identified as such. During the brutal attack, the perpetrators supposedly mentioned Syria and the French involvement in the US-led coalition against IS. A day before the attack, Bavarian police arrested a man on his way to Paris, who was transporting weapons and TNT in his car. The attack took place in the vicinity of the Charlie Hebdo offices that had seen Jihadi violence in January, France had remained on highest alert level since then. In the case of Charlie Hebdo however, it was a very targeted attack, this savage act of violence on the other hand was directed at random civilians, which has a whole different quality to it.
The public reaction was instant. While the French police were still assaulting the concert venue where the hostages were round up and murdered, people tweeted their addresses as #PorteOuverte, open door, for those seeking refuge. With the phone network collapsed, Google made international Hangout calls to France free, people started looking for their friends and relatives on Instagram-photos and people shared their location and situation online. Political leaders from all over the world (including Israel and Iran, USA and Russia, China and Japan) expressed their condolences and condemned the savage attacks.
Just as instant were discussions about refugees, Europe's relationship to Islam and the military involvement in Syria - and also what this will mean for European foreign policies. Polish foreign Minister Waszczykowski already made statements that Poland will reconsider taking in refugees at all, while German Chancellor Merkel stated she is not about to change her current policy. What everybody agrees on is that this will further polarize the debate.
So far the facts. My subjective thoughts on that:
The statements that a) the reason Syrian and Afghani refugees flee their countries is exactly because of this kind of violence and b) that it is easy for military radicals to hide in the huge number of refugees are equally true. These attacks weren't conducted by the kind of people that sit in refugee camps because they fled their country, they were conducted by the kind of people that cause millions to flee. Radical right-wingers will still abuse this terrible event as a reason for further acts of violence against foreigners. Either way, I find it hard to imagine that there won't be significant changes in terms of borders patrols and probably digital and physical surveillance.
I think I've already said that in my opinion, Islam has no place in our world. Yes, only a small fraction of Muslims are Jihadi barbarians, but that should be enough. If an ideology is capable of producing inhuman murderers, it must be abolished. Same principle applies for nazism. Even if Islam wasn't the most common reference for international terrorism and acts of shocking violence - if you believe that the things in the Koran are literally true, you and your doctrine don't belong in the 21st century.
France has again been targeted, many reports comment, because of its involvement in the military campaign against IS. One reason for the refugee crisis is the failed foreign policy in the near east (that every mayor in Germany now has to deal with), where in typical Merkel fashion the policy of inactivity first and managing the fallout later has led to the terrible violence that has become normal for that region now spreading internationally. I've already said that I regrettably see the need for significantly extended pressure on IS, including boots on the ground. That also means better international coordination, especially with Russia.
Europe can go ahead and shut down its borders, increase general surveillance on the entire population, increase police presence, check airports more closely and so on, but the only thing that will achieve is a worse life for Europeans, condemning refugees to illegality, and only address symptoms, not root causes.
If the European nations want to live in safety, they need to eradicate the reason these attacks take place. If that means fifteen years of increased intelligence, military and police involvement at the heart of these inhuman murderers, that seems more reasonable than fifty years plus of the same effort, wasted on tearing down the liberties these attacks were directed at. The entire world stands with France in these difficult days. It might be sensible to use this opportunity to find a consensus.