Sunday, October 10, 2004

bomb blast: Paris goes back in time

I remember the security measures in Paris in the 1980s and 1990s. I remember the armed guards roaming Charles de Gaulle Airport (known simply as "Roissy" to the French), and the loud safety announcements at Gare de Lyon telling us never to leave our bags unattended, or they'd be confiscated and blown apart. I remember hearing about the train station bombings. I remember seeing that garbage cans had been sealed tight, and lockers were no longer available. I've watched the same procedures instituted in Washington, DC in recent years, and in Seoul (rather inconsistently) since not long ago.

Now there's been another blast in Paris, this time injuring nine people and targeting the Indonesian Embassy. Bienvenue au passé, la France. Welcome back to the past.

While I haven't been a fan of the notion that we can "democratize" the Middle East, I also have to acknowledge something conservatives have been saying from the beginning: if countries like France think their appeasement of extreme Islam makes them somehow immune to further terrorism, they're dreaming (Spain, take note!). Ten to one this wasn't a bombing perpetrated by angry French Jews, who have a right to be angry given the rising number of antisemitic assaults and the continued defacement of Jewish cemeteries.

Folks, France has a Muslim problem. It can't be dealt with by issuing mindless governmental diktats about chadors and other forms of religious expression. The only answer is the continued promotion of secularism (yes, it's a French value, too), and a heavy dose of American-style assimilationism. Six million largely unassimilated Muslims spell trouble for France, a country known for its obsession with its own identity. This is one of those times I think it's in every Frenchman's interest to preach-- aggressively-- the earthly delights of la belle France to any Muslim who'll listen. Hit the kids while they're young and impressionable. And don't let a racist like Jean-Marie Le Pen determine how to handle the problem.

The answer to the Muslim problem isn't expulsion, nor is it 1930s-style quarantine and ghettoization (there's enough of that happening in la banlieue as it is). The answer is three things: secularism, secularism, and more secularism. Sorry, conservatives, but secularism can't be inculcated through violence. It requires creativity, dedication, and patience. In other words, time. And yes, it requires a bit of cunning, too; I don't pretend to espouse a noble agenda. I consider the dissemination of secularism to be the only plausible answer to Muslim extremism; we're fighting a defensive action. We can't forget this is a war of the mind. You can't destroy a poisonous idea by killing its adherents, especially when the potential adherents number over a billion.

And sorry, lefties, but cultural relativism isn't the answer, either, because you'll be the only ones practicing it, right up until you're steamrollered. Consider deeply the irony of defending a culture that openly wants its women to remain second-class. There's nothing wrong in rediscovering classical liberalism and declaring that, yes, some practices and value systems are wrong and have no place in the twenty-first century. There's no small hypocrisy in criticizing the current president for his simplistic religiosity while giving a pass to the simplistic religiosity that fuels terrorism.

ADDENDUM: Here's an interesting page about 1995 patterns of global terrorism. I hope my Korean peeps are paying attention. If the Nomad's recent post is any indication, they are.


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