Commentary

Media Reacts to Brussels Terror Attacks

Middle East In Focus

Middle East Policy Council

This week’s terrorist attacks in Brussels have once again elicited strong discussion in the regional media.  Besides the usual messages of solidarity, many commentators in the Middle East have offered various explanations for the current state of affairs, what to do to counter future terrorist attacks, and, more important, why such terrorist attacks occur in the first place. While continuing violence in the Middle East is often seen as a cause or contributing factor in the rise of terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere, some have also singled out the West’s own policies as a possible culprit.

In its editorial addressing the Brussels terrorist attacks, the Jordan Times staff issues a call for solidarity with Brussels and victims of terrorism: “The world has to come together to fight evil forces standing behind these agendas. The ongoing fight in the region is currently focusing on military power, mainly against the Daesh terrorist group in Syria and Iraq. This fight is coupled with a parallel security effort attempting to prevent any spillover of the bloodshed and destruction into neighboring and other countries of the world. The long-term fight that the world should also keep in mind is the ideological battle against the thought and dogmas that breed terrorism and help recruit people from all over the world to fight....The world, which today stands in solidarity with Brussels and the Belgian people, should not ignore these three fronts: military, security and ideological. The Tuesday Brussels attacks that intended to set people apart should be a unifying factor, bringing all of us together to pray for the dead and to intensify the war against terrorists.”

The Khaleej Times editorial also calls for a concerted and forceful action against the Islamic State, but accuses governments of having been asleep at the wheel for too long: “The authorities in Europe, Asia, the US and the Middle East have been at a fail in prejudging and preempting the terror movement, and had unfortunately spent their time in playing to the gallery. The rise of Daesh and its reach across the Middle East and Europe are a case in point. Had the stakeholders reacted promptly with a cohesive strategy against Daesh, the dreaded militia could have been cornered to a great extent. But that is not the case. The attacks in Paris, Peshawar, Baghdad, Ankara and Brussels are a grim reminder that the terror psyche is scot-free, and is one of the biggest threats to civilization....A broad-based roadmap to exterminate the terror nexus is now indispensable. It's high time action was taken against sleeper cells and all those non-state actors who have ever staked their claim to terror activities. Only then can reprisals be checked.”

While joining calls for unified action, the Peninsula staff cautions in a recent editorial that politicians ought to beware of Islamophobia and racism, which in their view may be partly to blame for the current impasse: “The attacks must harden the world’s resolve to defeat the Islamic State which has claimed responsibility for the attacks. There is a need for better coordination between countries and a more rigorous action against terrorists, including military operations. The financial resources of the Islamic State must be targeted and wiped out....The Brussels blasts threaten to push Europe and the Western world deeper into the whirlpool of Islamophobia and racism, which is what the Islamic State wants. The conservative and right-wing parties across Europe will yell louder against Muslims and immigrants.”

In fact some, including this editorial by the National, express the view that divisive and discriminatory rhetoric may be the greatest threat in the aftermath of the Brussels attacks: “What European politicians and police do next matters profoundly. Divisive talk of ‘us’ and ‘them’ serves no-one, and only exacerbates the very problem that we are all seeking to solve. When European politicians talk of a ‘war,’ they are using the same rhetoric that ISIL does. That is dangerous, and will only push more Europeans to travel to Raqqa. Already, Belgians make up the largest number of European citizens there, by population. When they accuse the community in Molenbeek of somehow ‘knowing’ something, they are making an offensive assertion. These were men on the run, hiding their identities – why do politicians imagine their next door neighbors would somehow know the truth? So there are serious dangers: careful language, policy and policing are needed to make the situation less dangerous.”

Others have drawn attention to the negative impact of such attacks on Muslims around the world. For example, Arab News’ Bikram Vohra notes that “Regrettably the most likely to suffer will be the Muslim youth of which there are a large number in the country. Also the family units will come onto the radar and there will be a heightened level of surveillance....Every such attack in the western world only strengthens the sense of fear and suspicion and gives people like Donald Trump exactly the sort of platform to articulate his hostility and fan the flames of religious bigotry. Once again, with Paris still fresh in memory and the caravan of human despair trudging westwards, the average Muslim, simply wishing to live his life in peace and care for his family will have to go through the frequent unfair and hurtful exercise of explaining that he is not a terrorist.”

Meanwhile, with an eye on what is going on inside the country, Turkish commentator Yusuf Kanli argues in an op-ed for Hurriyet Daily News against the rise of the police state as a response to increased threat of terrorism: “Naturally, countries should act in awareness that they cannot use terrorists as an alibi to terrorize society. They must always remain within limits of law and respect norms and values of democracy in fighting terrorism. That is, governments must avoid state terrorism while fighting terrorism....It is the fundamental duty of any state to protect its citizens against all threats and that includes excessive use of force by government forces.... The state cannot achieve security with lofty statements but by addressing the root causes of threats, coming up with solutions to problems and of course developing adequate intelligence capabilities. Before pointing at others and claiming they were collaborating with terrorists and deserved worse than what happened to them, we should for one second think about how we were dealing yesterday with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or Kurdish terrorists. Is it not difficult to differentiate between beasts and freedom fighters?”

Moataz Bellah Abdel-Fattah writing for the Daily News Egypt suggests that the West may bear some responsibility for the continuing threat of terrorism by turning a blind eye to extremism and radicalization of their own populations, noting “a terrorism tree grows only in a forest of extremism. Those who fight terrorism, excluding extremism, will lose both battles....That is exactly what western countries do. They turn a blind eye to extremism, allowing it to flourish in an environment of freedom of religion, opinion, expression, and political asylum, then they bear the brunt of those extremists living in their land....Islamization, in this sense, is a necessary condition to becoming a terrorist, because his way of thinking led to the hatred, distortion of others by dehumanizing a segment of society to ease the decision of killing them. Islamization is a necessary condition for the Muslim to convert to terrorism…. Some of them, unfortunately, are taking advantage of the freedom of belief, opinion and expression ​​to adopt extremism, providing an appropriate environment for others to evolve from extremists to terrorists.”

Similarly, the Israeli commentator Ben-Dror Yemini opines on the pages of the Yedioth Ahronoth that what is happening in Europe is a blowback of educational policies which identifies Muslims as victims rather than perpetrators of violence: “Combined with incitement in mosques, frustration with discrimination and claims of discrimination, propaganda from Arab TV networks, it becomes clear dangerous weeds are growing in the backyard. The Belgians like many others in Europe believe that their enmity towards Israel grants them immunity from attacks. They do not understand that exactly the opposite is true: As long as incitement against Israel rises to new heights, hatred for Europe will rise to new heights....It is no surprise that some jihadists are young Belgians who converted to Islam. Unmitigated propaganda has made them identify with Muslims, who they see as victims. Identifying with another person eventually leads to conversion.”

The Iranian daily Press TV takes a different angle in an interview with Egyptian political analyst Said Zulficar, who sees the recent attacks in Europe as a direct consequence of the West’s policies toward Syria: “it is a bit late to change the strategy because these people who have been provoking or causing these attacks on Western capitals are people who have left Europe a few years ago and who were encouraged to do so at a time when they were themselves the Western powers’ foot soldiers in Syria. As long as they were part of the Takfiri groups, fighting against the Syrian government and against Bashar al-Assad, they were being encouraged....So, now we have a backlash.”


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Middle East In Focus is a synopsis of commentary and news from Middle Eastern and other international media. Its purpose is to provide a succinct and balanced summary of the main developments and views that are often overlooked or not properly reflected in the U.S. media. For the most recent collection of articles on and from the Middle East, please go to: http://mepc.org/articles-commentary/articles-hub. Comments and feedback are welcome at info@mepc.org.