Todorov on Terrorism

In the Daily Star (Beirut), Tzvetan Todorov on “homegrown” terrorism, in the wake of the arrests in Canada.

There have always been fanatical individuals ready to die and kill in the name of their beliefs. But they seem far more dangerous nowadays as a result of technological advances that have “democratized” bomb making. After all, as the London and Madrid bombings demonstrated, a cell phone is all that is needed to time an explosion – or a series of explosions – with deadly efficiency.

Our freedoms and social fluidity also contribute to the threat. People move about the globe cheaply and with relative ease. Immigrants can establish themselves in new societies, and in democratic states they can live completely free of supervision. Our freedoms are their tools.

So how do we fight such an amorphous enemy?

US President George W. Bush has demonstrated one way not to do it: His invasion and occupation of Iraq shows that directly attacking Muslim states only fuels fanaticism. Of course, civilized countries should not give up the fight against extremist Islam because of the bloodshed in Iraq; but we must recognize that war, occupation, and forced submission to military power have merely caused mass humiliation and resentment among many ordinary Muslims – emotions that are then channeled into terrorist networks. British Prime Minister Tony Blair could loudly proclaim that the London bombings of July last year were unrelated to Britain’s participation in the Iraq war, but the terrorists themselves, once arrested, said exactly the opposite.