On the evening of November 13, a series of attacks in Paris by members of ISIS resulted in the deaths of 129 people. In addition, 352 people were sent to hospitals because of injuries sustained during the attacks.
For those fortunate enough to be outside of Paris at the time, fears still ran high. From concerns for loved ones in France to worries about the possibility of a second 9/11, Americans became immediately focused on the tragedy in Paris. (Fortunately, all UCR students in France are safe and accounted for).
The reactions of the French government following the terrorist attacks have been swift, and therefore poorly thought out. French military forces have stepped up assaults on ISIS targets, and French borders have been closed to the Syrian refugees that have been fleeing to Europe from their war-torn home country. However, both actions are either unjust or useless.
ISIS is not a country (try as they might to make that so), it is not a conventional foe, so normal methods of warfare will not work the way they would against an established nation. Simply bombing civilian targets indiscriminately the way the U.S. did in World War II, or in Vietnam, will only create more displaced populations. Ultimately, these people will either become the sort of refugees France now rejects, or angry recruits for ISIS. Either way, the continuation of military operations in revenge for Paris can only create more problems when conducted solely out of rage.
The reaction of the French government toward Syrian refugees is, if anything, even more cruel. Out of fear that the terrorists who devastated Paris infiltrated by posing as some of these refugees, they slammed the door shut on all of them. However, the people that France has barred from entering the country are not terrorists, they are trying to escape the mess that ISIS has made in their own country. Thus, such action by that government is rooted more in Islamophobia than in any actual supportable logic.
The U.S., therefore, should not fall into the trap of doing the same thing our ally is doing. Keeping our own borders open to refugees is essential to preventing them from feeling the despair and anger toward the country that makes one turn to ISIS as a solution. Furthermore, this attack, though heinous, should not provoke an American reaction in the Middle East. This generation has already witnessed too many Vietnam-type wars (in Afghanistan, in Iraq); to start another war would be a waste of American lives and resources. If France feels it must get blood for what happened in Paris, that is their prerogative, but it would be wrong to draw us in.
In the UCR community, the attacks on Paris provide an important lesson in global awareness. For all the prayers and thoughts France is receiving, a much smaller percentage of Americans noticed that the day before, suicide bombers left 43 dead in Beirut. The terrorist attack on Beirut is every bit as horrifying and despicable as the one in Paris, but people generally showed no interest. This cannot be blamed on the media, which dutifully covered that particular event as they did with Paris. Rather, it is the fault of individual Americans that, despite social media, Beirut did not become the same sort of focal point for international empathy. Whether this is due to latent Islamophobia or simply closer ties with France, there is no excuse in this internet age to be ignorant of such monstrous crimes against other people.
It is also imperative that these events not prove to be an opening point for negative comments or actions to Muslims on campus. To color all people of a group the same shade just because of the actions of a tiny minority of that group is unacceptable on our diverse campus, just as it is wrong to do so in our melting pot of a country. It is the responsibility of every student and member of faculty to not only avoid contributing to an atmosphere of intolerance, but also to speak up when witnessing hateful acts against any group, because to do otherwise is not only an attack on that group, but on everyone that makes up this community.
Such crimes against humanity should not be allowed to fade over the next few weeks. Forgetting about what happened in Paris and Beirut means forgetting about the lessons these events teach, and that only makes it possible for them to happen again. By standing together to remember and mourn for the victims, we show that we will not stand for letting such crimes happen again.