From Paris, the wind brings the scent of blood again. The sound of machine guns, and bombs going off. Images of massacre. Bodies of people who went out to have a good time, and ended up losing their lives.
The city is locked down as police and army struggle to hunt down the rest of the killers.
Locked down. Behind closed doors. In fear. Not allowed to move around, and unwilling, anyway.
Next to a terrorist’s body, they say they found a Syrian passport that was registered in Greece.
No revenge will give back the lives that were lost last night. Yet, in the wake of the tragedy, countless fingers lifted up and pointed at refugees and those who are helping them. Many fingers lifted up to point at Muslims. Many fingers were lifted up to point at the freedom to move and to talk.
How forgetful we are. We forget that most refugees flee from the exact same terrorism – just that it happens every day where they are running from. We forget that the overwhelming majority of the victims of Islamist terrorism are in fact Muslims – oh wait, most of it isn’t happening in a European capital, so why bother?
Facebook might not be an accurate gauge of public sentiment – but there’s a frightening mass of voices that accuse refugees and that demand a stop to liberties such as the freedom of movement or the freedom of the press.
To you out there, who demand law and order, I have two things to say tonight. For one, no matter how much freedom you take away, how well you lock down your countries and cities, you won’t have perfect safety. On the contrary: the more freedom you take away, the more you lock down everyone’s lives, it will make you the chief threat to the safety of your own citizens.
For two, this is exactly what the terrorists want: fear and the loss of freedom. They know what we forget: that individual freedom is a central value of Europe, and when that is lost, Europe is lost. The moment you demand an end to liberties, the moment you abolish free movement and free talk – you become an ally of the Islamic State or whoever turns out to have perpetrated the latest massacre in Paris.
Don’t get me wrong: European governments are right to defend their citizens. They are right to hunt down the terrorists, and they are right to stop them at Europe’s border, or inside Europe if they got in. But they must show compassion and respect towards everyone else. Wait – so they must be able to tell apart a genuine refugee from an undercover terrorist? I’m sorry, but this is quite obviously every government’s homework.
There is hope, though. Hours, maybe minutes after the first news of the attacks arrived, Parisiens started up the #PorteOuverte campaign, offering shelter to those who cannot or dare not go home amidst the chaos and the lockdown that followed it. The French police and army might be able to find the rest of the terrorists soon – but the open doors were the ones that won a decisive victory over terrorism that night. That the intended victims refuse to stop respecting the life of another – that’s a terrorist’s worst nightmare.
Let’s keep this up, all of us.