Grant Miner, ’15, attends Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, where he writes for the school newspaper, The Collegian. Miner was a reporter, columnist and movie reviewer for the Octagon during his four years on staff.
At 9:20 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 13, a bomb, the first of three, exploded at the Stade de France in the middle of a soccer game. The detonation kicked off a rash of violence within Paris that would result in a death toll that at the time of writing had climbed to 149.
The men who set these events in motion were Muslims – Muslims who, according to statement put out by the Islamic State group themselves, were just the “first of the storm.”
In his speech on Nov. 15, French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised that the French government would begin an immediate campaign to crack down on radical mosques. The same day this speech was made, numerous homes in Grenoble, Toulouse and Calais were raided and several arrests were made.
After the attacks, I saw a post on Reddit warning the French to not make the same mistake that the U.S. made following 9/11 – that is, the willing sacrifice of human rights in the effort to make us feel safer. At the time, it seemed to be in poor taste.
Now I’m not so sure.
An unfortunate truth of our time is that the words “terrorism” and “Islam” are hopelessly tangled up. Of course, the vast majority of Muslims would find the events of Nov. 13 not only morally abhorrent, but also antithetical to the tenets of their faith.
However, when you turn on the news and hear of yet another act of terror, the people who wind up responsible are, with an almost unwavering certainty, radical Muslims. And where is it most likely for radical Muslims to practice Islam? Radical mosques.
Thus a disturbing question presents itself. Is it okay to outlaw hate-based religious organizations? After all, the harsh treatment of radical mosques and those that frequent them, even if that treatment catches only a handful of conspirators, would be an enormous boost to the safety of the French public.
Yet, it’s a troubling prospect. What is radical? What is hate? If a mosque is revealed to have Islamic State ties, does everyone go down with it, or just the members with confirmed intentions and contacts? It’s the classic slippery slope fallacy, sure, but as we saw with the U.S.’s post-9/11 legislature, that slope becomes quite slippery, and it does it fast.
As an American, I have to put up with a lot of crazy people. For example, the people on the street corners downtown telling me that God wants me to hate a woman because she loves another woman.
I don’t know about you, but those weirdos give me an odd sense of peace. If a guy who has nothing better to do than yell at people for what they do or do not do with their various orifices is allowed to say what he wants, then I’m pretty confident I can too.
But while their bigotry is a blight on their communities and indicative of the problems we have to overcome as a nation, they’ve remained relatively peaceful. The coordinated, cold-blooded attack that occurred last weekend hasn’t happened here in a long time.
If what the Islamic State says is true, then something needs to be done – particularly in France, a country that is “at the top of their list of targets.”
I do not know what that something is. How could I? I’m not French, and I can’t pretend to know what they’re going through. Idealism and pragmatism are paths that have their merits. Sometimes what is effective isn’t right and vice versa.
But I do know one thing: sometimes, in the pursuit of safety and good old-fashioned revenge, a nation loses a part of itself, a part that, once gone, will be gone forever. The sacrifice of ideals can never be reversed. There will always be a lingering feeling that what was once sacred is now just another law.
So when a sacrifice needs to be made, do it wisely. There’s no going back.