Terrorist attacks, everyone! Terror attacks committed by extremists in the name of extremist Islamic extremism! EXTREMIST ISLAMIC TERROR MOTHER****KING TERROR ATTACKS, EVERYONE!!! (also, don’t forget to panic).
Alright, now that we’ve gotten all that out of our system, let’s plant our two feet back on the ground and take a bird’s eye perspective on this issue. You know, the perspective that comes after you stop looking at the gruesome images of people being shot in the streets over and over again (no links here, for obvious reasons).
Here’s a few things you might want to know about terrorist attacks:
- The vast majority of terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims against other Muslims. If you thought that Europe is becoming a scary place with the recent Paris attacks, the Belgium shoot-out/arrest and previous attacks, please take a minute to look at this map. Euphemistically called the “Baghdad navigator”, it gives an overview of all terrorist attacks in Baghdad between 2003 and 2007 and all their victims. That is: all 35,557 of them! Mind you, this is not about trivializing the personal drama. When any person dies, that’s a tragedy both for the one dying as for those s/he leaves behind. What is important here is that we realize that terrorist attacks are not a way for the scary foreigners to trample the European master-race, but a world-wide phenomenon in which Muslims are far more often the victim than the perpetrator.
In case you haven’t seen the footage of the captured Jordan pilot who was burned to death in his cage, congratulations (in case you have: good luck getting that part of your memory erased).
- The biggest recent terrorist attack in Europe was committed by a white Christian. In a rambling 1518 page manifesto, Andres Breivik raged against Islam, feminism, and marxism. In order to protect Christianity and the white race, he slaughtered 77 Norwegians.
- *insert statistic about how you’re more likely to die from being attacked by an albino tiger while being struck by lightning on the way to buy a winning lottery ticket* You knew this was coming. Never has anyone given up an irrational fear by being shown a statistic. We all know that one person who took a twenty hour non-stop drive in order to avoid flying, right? Be that as it may, we cannot just how low terrorist attacks rank on the causes of death.
What I propose is the following:
- Stop looking at terrorist attacks as the disease, and start looking at them as a symptom. Terrorism is not an isolated phenomenon: it’s a result of various religious, cultural, and political factors. I fully agree with professor Göle with her saying that the recent attacks and following social unrest require us to find new ‘rules’ for living together, with a special tasks for intellectuals to look for practical solutions (link in German).
- Keep the bird’s eye perspective. As the famous cliché (often mistakingly attributed to Stalin) goes: “One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.” When we lose sight of the impact on society because we are so focused on the tragedy on a personal level, we will overreact. There is probably no more fitting example of this than the Belgium police temporarily suspending alcohol inspections on the road, for fear of police officers being an easy target because it requires them to stay in the same place for hours at a time. Considering that Belgium ranks a depressing 11th place when looked at world-wide road fatalities per 1 billion vehicle kilometers, this is a classic example of the cure being worse than the illness.
- This was a rather bleak article, wasn’t it? How about a picture of a cute kitty to end with?
[…] on board of that train and many more in the station). Rather, the point is one that I’ve made before: namely that our response to the terrorist threat can be more damaging than actual terrorist […]