June 23, 2017
World War II hastened the breakup of colonial empires, expediting decolonization, and ushering in US hegemony. 9/11 was a seminal defining event. It created a dividing line, which can now be used to characterize events as pre-9/11 and post-9/11.
On September 1, 1939, when Hitler crossed into Poland, it ended one world and ushered in another world, with its vast repercussions. September 11, 2001 ended ease of travel. Trust fell by the wayside, replaced by insecurity, fear, paranoia, suspicion, and hate.
21st century Europe was envisioned to be a borderless world, but what to do with deeply embedded mental walls in the mind? Muslims are too deeply rooted through their historical presence in Europe’s past and, in its present, comprising a sizeable segment of Europe’s citizenry, to be bullied or expunged.
The city of Nice at the French Riviera has been a favorite watering hole of British aristocracy, for its soothing climes and its Mediterranean breezes on the south of France. It’s hard to visualize that Tunis is just over a one-hour flight from Nice, across the Mediterranean, and that in 1543, the legendary Muslim corsair, Hayreddin Barbarossa, pillaged the city. Even today, the area’s medieval castles are reminders of the fear of fending off Muslim invaders.
A twenty-minute ride from Nice is the principality of Monaco. In it, is the opulent Monte Carlo casino, made famous by James Bond movies. It’s also known for Arab potentates squandering their wealth into corrupt futility.
Alongside the French Riviera, presence of Algerian-origin and Tunisian-origin Muslims is ubiquitous and, despite the long hours of Ramazan, many there observe the fast. Their omnipresence is similar to the Turkish presence in Germany. Algerian-origin soccer legend Zidane became a national hero in France when his headers led to victory over Brazil in 1998, in the World Cup Final in Paris. Today, aficionados consider him as the greatest ever soccer player. On June 3, as manager of Real Madrid, Zidane’s team beat Juventus to retain the Champions League trophy, the first team in 27 years to do so.
Travel has turned into a torment. In the post-9/11 world, there are rigorous airport screenings, intrusive pat-downs, shoes off, belts off, painstaking scrutiny of carry-on contents, checked bags being opened.
Gratuitous insults haven’t worked and won’t work.
What is wrong with trying an alternate route? For example, making a good-faith effort of tackling Palestine and Kashmir to recede militancy and to give respect and salience to Muslims in the West.
Hatred and bigotry can infect quickly and spread fast. Witness the anti-Muslim rallies across the United States on June 10, with its incalculable damage to the American brand.
The answer to a protruding nail is not always the hammer.
General Stanley McChrystal, who was US Commander in Afghanistan, delineates this very point, as cited in the June 22, 2010 “Rolling Stone” story (recounted, too, in the 2017 movie, “War Machine”, loosely based on his character) that led to his firing by President Obama: “‘It’s insurgent math … for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies.’”
Politicians, however, profit from building walls.