Editors Note: This story was adapted from an article that originally appeared on the website IBNLive.
by Ayushman Jawal
There is an iconic and chilling scene in “The Dark Knight” where the Joker tells Batman about his faith in mankind — faith that principles and values go out the window when the pressure is on. “Their morals and code? It’s a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble,” he says. “They are only as good as the world allows them to be. When the chips are down, these civilized people will eat each other.”
Those words ring in my mind when I think of Paris, and the fear and confusion that have gripped citizens all across Europe. Similar to the Joker, ISIS is trying to challenge and denigrate the world’s faith in the motto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity — the secularist faith. As homegrown Islamic jihadists are largely responsible for these acts of terror, right-wing political factions across Europe seem to be proving the Joker’s point by denouncing the ethos of multiculturalism that is a hallmark of culture in western Europe, France especially.
The attacks on Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish market earlier in the year and the recent horrors in Paris are designed, in part, to pit people against one another. Look no further than the growing debate in Europe and the United States over whether to accept more of the millions of refugees that have flowed out of Syria into other countries.
The leaders of France’s Front National, Britain’s UK Independence Party, Poland’s Law and Justice and Hungary’s Fidesz party all have said that the refugees pose a significant security risk to Europe, while in the backdrop they espouse how ‘Islamisation’ is threatening European values. This is clearly what ISIS wants: Create suspicion and worry about Muslims living in or entering the West in hopes of alienating and radicalizing some of them.
This is the time for the governments to aggressively defend the secularist faith of their constitutions to counter the narrative of the right, which is being baited by terror groups.
The French government’s decision to re-open schools and universities across Paris, and a national appeal for unity and political cooperation, is a message to ISIS that it will not be cowed. It’s an encouraging – and courageous – message to the rest of the world as well.
At the same time, the European governments can no longer tiptoe around the menace of homegrown terror. They cannot fear talking about Islamic extremism for the sake of political correctness. The fallout of that attitude has been that the extreme right is controlling the whole argument, and their narratives are emboldened by ISIS and other terror groups.
De-legitimizing the right’s control over the terror debate and defending the secularist faith is a tough job, but Europe and its tradition of multiculturalism are up to the challenge. This is the time where everyone from a prime minister to a local community leader needs to buck up a traumatized citizenry to hold on to the ideals that make them free and fearless.
To that end, it’s worth recalling the words of legendary CBS newscaster Edward Murrow when he was battling and exposing the fear tactics of the infamous anti-communist Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s: “We will not walk in fear one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak and to defend.”
Ayushman Jamwal is a senior editor for CNN/IBN (Indian Broadcasting Network), headquartered in a suburbs near of New Delhi. He is a well known blogger and commentator on Indian politics, international relations and social issues.