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Paris 11/13: Strength and Solace, Not Surprise

The horrific attacks executed by ISIS foot soldiers in Paris brings a new face of this menace to the West. This face more closely resembles al-Shabaab’s brazen attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, or the attack on India’s famed Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai carried out by Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, or the theater siege in Beslan, perpetrated by Chechens at the direction of Shamil Basayev. The Paris attacks feel different and have struck a profound chord among Western powers and the world – this chord let out a sorrowful note, one of strength and solace, but not surprise.

Whereas the tragic Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris on January 7, 2015 narrowly targeted a controversial newspaper killing 12 people and injuring 11, what was really at stake was the ideal of freedom of speech, despite all the controversies Charlie Hebdo stirred. The 11/13 attack, however, targeted a much more mundane activity, one that is essential to society and a global aspiration for all of humanity – the expectation of carrying out the activities of daily life (attending a concert, dining al fresco or attending a sporting event) in safety. The coordination and paramilitary nature were particularly harrowing, but in many ways, we should not be surprised that this has occurred in Paris, any more than we should be surprised if it occurs in any major city anywhere in the world. Terrorism thrives on symbolism. A perverse reorientation of the world in the here and now and the hereafter. Paris is as much a symbol of democracy and secularism, as it is a symbol of the struggle for Europe’s multicultural future. With 7.5% of its population of Middle Eastern or North African descent, the more visceral response of closing borders and banishing Muslims will only fan the flames of this conflict and not still heart

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