Some of them would have dropped their children to school on their way to work after giving their wives a quick peck on the cheek. Some would have put the coffee on the boil and picked up a croissant from a patisserie while going to work. Some would have paused to greet a neighbour, or help an old lady cross the street. Some would have paused for a moment to look up at the sky, breathe in the morning air, and enjoy the promise of a wonderful day. Just ordinary people doing ordinary things on an ordinary morning on the way to work; to draw a cartoon or write an article.
But there was nothing ordinary about those horror-filled minutes on January 7, when jihadis stormed into the office of Charlie Hebdo and massacred journalists.
Ordinary days are over for Europe. Fear is the new visitor. The murderers didn’t just kill journalists, they eliminated the spirit of liberalism and civil society. With a single act, they have polarised Europe—Christian against Muslim, the white man against people of other colours. Centuries ago, Crusaders and Saracens fought bloody wars that cost millions of lives over a patch of religious land. The phantoms of ancient hatreds are rising, casting aside the mouldy shrouds of history and could sweep across Europe like the bubonic plagues of the medieval age.
A cultural war is now an armed conflict, which has come home to the orderly streets of Europe. What the gunmen unleashed in Paris were the demons of racial conflict. In Europe, now no Asian, African or a person from the Middle East will be viewed as a citizen in spite of their passports. Every Asian will become the white man’s enemy, hunted by skinheads and white supremacists, in turn generating hatred not just towards the white bullies, but towards the jihadis and their cause as well. Religious war will soon be transformed into a racial war where innocents regardless of faith and nationality will become victims.
The bedrock of human society is sympathy towards all living things. Its higher form is empathy. The Western aid workers beheaded by ISIS butchers were acting out of sheer empathy towards innocents affected by the Syrian war. Social sympathy is an amorphous collation of a million individual outlooks, which follow the trend of the times. In the 1930s and 40s, social sympathy towards Hitler made Europe complicit in the Holocaust, passively or aggressively. Six million Jews were murdered. After last week’s Paris massacre, the Muslim is Europe’s new Jew. It is unlikely that anyone would stop white thugs from kicking an old Muslim or Hindu shopkeeper to death or bomb a gurdwara where children are praying. Or put any Asian into hospital. The fury towards Muslims will encompass anger towards all immigrants.
This will create economic instability that Europe doesn’t need at this time. Immigrants were imported to aid the reconstruction of Europe after World War II. Liberal immigration policies encouraged people of other faiths enter Western countries in massive numbers, especially Muslims who brought their value systems that clashed with the European way of life. It, however, helped politicians create vote banks. The backlash of immigration politics is the rise of the Extreme Right and racial intolerance. The Paris gunmen have killed their own cause. Jihad will become a dirty word for Muslims who just want to live peacefully in their adopted cities. The Crusades are starting all over again, this time not just for Jerusalem but for all of the world.