Free speech is hindering counter-terrorism in Europe

By Liu Zhun Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-16 0:13:01

The specter of terrorism in Europe reached Denmark this weekend after two attacks in a row in its capital Copenhagen. One of the fatal shootings allegedly took aim at Lars Vilks, a Swedish artist who acquired his reputation by caricaturing religious figures, especially the Islamic Prophet Muhammad. The other one, after nine hours, happened outside a major synagogue in the city. Each attack left one dead and several injured.

Vilks was holding a free-speech event and survived the attack. A contributor to the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, he has been on an Al Qaeda list of assassination targets for years after drawing a satirical cartoon of Muhammad.

The past two months have seen the continent bogged down in the mire of terrorism since the ferocious Charlie Hebdo attack on January 7. As darkness casts its shadows, Europe, however, still has a dull reaction to the changing scenario. Roused from complacency to support Charlie Hebdo, it has apparently not learned enough lessons from it.

In 2014, the rise of the Islamic State in the Middle East has raised the global terror threat. As for Europe, the gap between a growing number of Muslim immigrants in the past years and mainstream European society is growing markedly large.

Years of marginalization of the Muslim communities and unrestrained speech against Islam have offered opportunities for terrorism to breed at home and infiltrate from abroad.

Terrorism needs to be smashed under a wide cooperative mechanism. However, real cooperation does not only come from heavily armed joint forces, but integration from all walks of life within a society.

However, as of now, Europe has not employed the right approach to do so. Satirists like Vilks are misusing their influence by continuously ridiculing Islam, and some European countries are conniving at their behavior in the name of defending free speech.

Their impetus to protect free speech, however, is bigger than the will to unite European Muslims to face the challenge together. Such a scenario is only raising more tensions between Muslims and secular Europe. Europe must realize that free speech without limits is not helping but hindering the future of counterterrorism.

Cutting off the communication channels of extremist and terrorist thoughts is essential in counterterrorism. The very first step is that Europe should learn how to respect Islam to win the trust of Muslim communities. It cannot continue turning a blind eye to blasphemy against Islam. Some European countries must learn how to compromise and rein in their public discourse.

Posted in: Observer

blog comments powered by Disqus