‘We weep but never fear’The Mediterranean town of Antalya in southern Turkey is called the resort of the gods. Here, the Group of 20 leaders met on Sunday and Monday to discuss inclusive and solid growth. But on the evening of Friday, Nov. 13, the attacks in Paris turned the Antalya summit into an emergency anti-terrorism meeting. The leaders condemned the Islamic State (ISIS) for the outrageous acts of terrorism and agreed to strengthen international cooperation to end violent radicalism.
However, no plan was decided. While they all agreed on the grand cause to crack down on ISIS, countries have different positions on specific plans.
ISIS, a Sunni extremist militant organization, was formed amid the Iraq war that began with U.S. strikes in 2003 and the ongoing Syrian civil war that has continued for five years. Using the power vacuum of war and civil war, ISIS rapidly expanded its influence. Led by a caliph who strictly executes the Islamic law of Shariah, ISIS claims to be a true Islamic nation and commits all evil deeds in the name of religion. ISIS has grown beyond a local militant group in Syria and Iraq, and has emerged as the headquarters and base camp for global terrorism.
Leading the war against ISIS, the United States focuses on airstrikes. Because of the lessons from the failures in the Iraq war, U.S. President Barack Obama is still reluctant to send ground troops.
Russia is aiding Syrian government forces under dictator Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Rather than driving out ISIS, Russia prioritizes wiping out the Syrian rebels. Turkey, a neighbor of Syria, is nervous that Kurdish rebels will gain power while fighting against ISIS. Iran, a major Shia state, wants to take advantage of the situation to expand Shia influence. Despite the outrageous terrorist attacks in Paris, the international community is struggling to pursue a united front.
ISIS is a monster born out of religious fanaticism. They are more fanatical than Al Qaeda, which committed the Sept. 11 terror attacks. Al Qaeda has a guideline of excluding Muslims, women and children as much as possible. But ISIS does not have the decency. To those intoxicated by the blind belief, suicide attacks are nothing but sacred sacrifices. ISIS also cleverly uses social media and digital devices to lure vulnerable and immature young people in the West and the Islamic world. Among the estimated 70,000 to 80,000 militants, 20,000 to 30,000 are foreign jihadists. It dominates a vast region, three times larger than the Korean Peninsula, commanding over some 10 million people.
Fanaticism springs up from the misconception that only their own religion and belief is 100 percent correct. The fanatics have no understanding that their views could be respected only when they respect other opinions. They believe that those with different religious beliefs should be ostracized or eradicated unconditionally. While the freedom of religion and conviction should be respected, fanaticism is another name for barbarism, and it should be rooted out, not tolerated.
It is the shame of civilized society that major countries around the world cannot resolve this fanatical group because of different interests. Mourning for the victims of terrorism with tricolor lighting does not make a country civilized. The Syrian civil war should be ended with political solutions, and all capacities should be concentrated to eradicate ISIS. If the chance is missed, the next targets could be Washington, London, Berlin and Moscow. Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo are no exceptions.
Parisians said, “We weep but never fear.” They are right. Fearing terrorism is submitting to terrorists. The French people should wipe their tears and return to life as normal. They should go to concerts and stadiums, drink coffee and wine at cafes and restaurants, and love their families and friends. They should enjoy joie de vivre. It is the way to defeat terrorism. They should not allow terrorism to affect the way of life in France.
Listening to hate speech against foreigners, especially Muslims, ostracizing the refugees and limiting their own liberty would be submitting to terrorism. It is what ISIS really wants. As a prolonged economic slump continues, the French values of tolerance and solidarity have somewhat paled. If the terror attacks in Paris can make France more French, the deaths of 132 innocent citizens might not be in vain.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 17, Page 35
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Bae Myung-bok