As I write – just before this issue of the Bulletin goes to press on July 15 – the world is reeling from yet another massive terrorist attack in France.
On the night of July 14, just after the fireworks celebrating Bastille Day, France’s fête nationale, in the city of Nice on the French Riviera, a terrorist drove a truck into the assembled crowd and then jumped out and opened fire.
When the news first broke, the death toll was reported at 30. However, as the hours wore on, the number of dead kept rising. As of Bulletin press time the number is 84, but may rise even higher.
France has been particularly hard hit by the wave of Islamist terrorism that has plagued Western nations in recent years. There were the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Cacher attacks on a satirical magazine and kosher supermarket in January 2015 and then the co-ordinated terrorist attacks last November near the Stade de France during a soccer game and at the Bataclan Theatre during a rock concert.
Other major terrorist attacks on Western countries recently have included the Brussels airport bombings this past March and the massacres in San Bernadino, California, last December and in Orlando, Florida, just last month.
Of course, no one who was here in Ottawa on October 22, 2014 will ever forget the lone wolf terrorist attack at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill.
And I’ve lost track of how many breaking news stories about terrorist attacks in Israel I’ve posted at www.ottawajewishbulletin.com in the past couple of years.
Sometimes terrorism hits too close to our own lives.
My friend Jeff Hardy was an accomplished bass player who gave up his career as a professional musician, when he started a family, to work as an executive chef for an investment firm in the World Trade Center. Jeff was cooking breakfast for the financial traders and died when the hijacked planes hit on 9/11.
The brother of another friend was seriously injured as he cheered for runners near the Boston Marathon finish line three years ago when terrorists detonated a powerful and deadly pressure cooker bomb.
Islamist terrorists – whether they are part of groups like ISIS, al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others, or lone wolf wannabes – would have the world live in a some sort of strange, cruel and medieval reality.
And, for whatever currency Islamist extremists may have, it must be noted that they represent a very small fraction of Muslims. In fact, the number of Islamist terror attacks in Western democracies pales in comparison to the number of terrorist attacks in Arab and Muslim countries, where the vast majority of the victims are other Muslims.
Fighting and preventing terrorism is difficult and complex – especially for societies, like ours, which value democratic freedoms and human rights.
How far do we go in restricting freedom in order to protect freedom? How much power do we give to our security services? These are questions, which, sadly, will be on the agenda for many years to come.
Also, sadly, a world faced with terrorism increases the appeal of demagogues who seek to exploit fear and appeal to prejudice. We have seen evidence of that in Europe with the rising popularity of extreme right-wing parties and in the United States where a presidential candidate has threatened to ban Muslims from entering the country, among other measures.
Here in Canada, we seem to have rejected such demagoguery in the form of failed proposals like the charter of values proposed by the former government of Quebec and a snitch line proposed by one party in the 2015 federal election.
The solutions proposed by these demagogues will do nothing to solve the world’s problems in dealing with terrorism. If anything, they will make the situation worse as they remove our democratic freedoms and human rights.
In fact, a world without democratic freedoms and human rights is just what the terrorists want.