Refugees Are Victims of Terrorism, Not Its Source

Refugees Are Victims of Terrorism, Not Its Source

If we give in to the politics of fear, we will only harm ourselves and others.

A memorial to the victims of Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris (Franck Schneider / Flickr)

France has suffered a terrorist attack whose brutality and barbarism mirrors the brutality and barbarism of the Islamic State. Closed borders, a state of emergency, soldiers on the streets—these are things France has not seen in its postwar history. There was no such attack even during the war in Algeria.

Now more than ever it is important to stress that refugees are victims of terrorism, not its source. Under the influence of strong emotions, it is easy to place blame. The first accusations against refugees have already fallen, and in social media accounts from France are interspersed with the sick triumphalism of the right, which is using these attacks to bolster its theories.

Less than half a day had passed after the Paris terrorist attacks before the new Polish government, in the person of the Minister for European Affairs, Konrad Szymanski, took advantage of the attacks in Paris in order to denounce the EU agreement on the distribution of refugees. Refugees fleeing Islamic State murderers, the Paris terrorists’ ringleaders, are once again becoming their victims, as well as those of right-wing policymakers propagating fear.

The vast majority (90 to 95 percent) of the victims of Islamic terrorism have been and continue to be Muslims. It is precisely terrorists that Syrian refugees are escaping—the very same terrorists who perpetrated the Paris attack.

Nationalists and other haters who are taking advantage of the refugee crisis in order to further their politics of fear will now attempt to convince Polish, Czech, Slovak, and Hungarian voters that they now have empirical justification for their views.

But a phobia would not be a phobia if it had a rational justification.

Haters are not only immoral, but also dangerous, because they make it more difficult to conduct the kind of effective security policy that citizens expect from their governments. A country guided by phobias would be completely irresponsible. Suffice it to mention the war in Iraq, which resulted from the politics of fear. If we give in to fear, we will only harm ourselves and others. We will not only act immorally, we will fail to act pragmatically. No one has ever benefited from the politics of fear.

The global community has been facing the threat of terrorism for a long time. Defeating that threat requires well-considered policies based on international cooperation that combines emergency policies aimed at combating threats and long-term plans for the economic and political stabilization of regions antagonistic towards the West.

Hasty reactions lead to the destruction of states, masses of refugees and casualties, and billions of wasted spending, ultimately yielding even greater threats.

Without such policies, there would be no Islamic State, and perhaps there would have been no Paris attacks.


Sławomir Sierakowski is a sociologist, the director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Warsaw, and the leader of Krytyka Polityczna (Political Critique), the largest movement of left-wing intellectuals, artists, and activists in Eastern Europe.

A version of this article originally appeared at Political Critique.


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