What we’re reading: The Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad attacks in a global context

We at Blog would like to extend our condolences to those who have been affected by recent and on-going attacks in Paris, Beirut, and elsewhere in the world. Thankfully, all 18 Brown students studying abroad in Paris were safe throughout the attacks. In light of recent events, this week’s “What we’re reading” will focus on the attacks in Paris, their international implications, and the international response by the media and society at large. At 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, November 18th, the Chaplains will host a “candlelight vigil to express our prayers, concern, and commitment to our global neighbors.” There will be a reception to follow in JWW 411.

On the night of Friday, November 13th, eight individuals killed at least 129 people and wounded over 350 others throughout Paris in an attack that has been linked to the Islamic State (ISIS). The eight attackers–seven of whom are dead–worked in three teams to carry out the attack that spanned the city, targeting several restaurants, the soccer stadium, and the Bataclan concert hall, where 89 victims were killed. The New York Times breaks down the timeline of events and the reaction of the French government.

French authorities have identified Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a 27-year-old Belgian man, as being responsible for orchestrating the attack, the New York Times reports. Authorities are also searching for Abdeslam Salam, 26, who is one of two French brothers living in Belgium who helped carry out the attack and is the only one of the eight attackers still at large.

The Saalam brothers lived in Molenbeek, a Belgian neighborhood that is largely populated by immigrants from the Arab world and has been linked to other attempted and successful attacks in Europe. Slate explores how Belgium became a hotbed for extremist activity. Politico reports that Jan Jambon, Belgium’s interior minister, is vowing to “clean up Molenbeek.” The implications of the connection of Belgians to the attacks are unclear as of yet. Jambon has not specified how he intends to “clean up” the area of concern. 

French President François Hollande declared that “France is at war” and enacted a state of emergency that he now proposes should be extended to three months, the Wall Street Journal reported. Under a state of emergency, the government can conduct raids without a proper search warrant. French officials conducted 168 raids early Monday morning throughout 19 departments, including Paris, Lyon, and Marseille. They arrested 23 people and put an additional 104 people under house arrest.

Looking Ahead (and Behind): ISIS, Immigration, and Islamophobia

France has expanded its aerial bombing of ISIS targets in Syria in response to the attack. They have dropped at least 20 bombs on Raqqa, Syria in the past couple days. Since the beginning of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, more than 200,000 Syrians have been killed and the country has been destabilized by various factions battling for control, including ISIS. The Atlantic outlines France’s role in fighting ISIS in Iraq since September of 2014. Olivier Roy, a professor at the European University Institute in Florence, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times outlining the geopolitical challenges to confronting ISIS and the likely course of action for France.

The conflict has displaced over  11 million Syrians, many of whom have migrated to Europe to escape the violence. For a more in-depth look at refugee resettlement, CNN has a report from September that looks at migrant flows. 

The attack in Paris raised concerns over accepting Syrian refugees into European countries after a Syrian passport was found near the body of one of the suicide bombers. The Guardian cautions against jumping to conclusions about the discovered Syrian passport. Because of the attack, several governments whose nations have been opening their doors to these refugees are receiving intensified backlash from various citizens. In Germany, a country considered friendly to migrants, debate has been especially pointed and a tense climate has emerged (discussed here in Time). 

President Obama has faced criticism from the right claiming that the United States’ strategy to defeat ISIS is not getting the results we need. Obama responded to these criticisms in his first meeting with journalists since the attack. The New York Times reports that he believes it will take time to get the desired results and the current strategy is indeed working. He calls the suggestion that the U.S. refuse to take in Syrian refugees and discriminate based on religion “shameful” and “not American.”

Of significant concern is the relationship between the Muslim and non-Muslim populations all over the world, which is a subset of more general tensions surrounding immigration and has been a prevalent issue since long before the attacks.  George Packer, correspondent for The New Yorker, published a piece in August about immigration in France, focusing on Paris’s banlieues–diverse suburbs divided from the center of Paris and whose residents frequently face a barrier when it comes to integrating in French society. Packer explores France’s history of immigration and colonialism, as well as what it’s like to be a Muslim in France. 

Debate over the relationship between religion and violence also recurs in dialogue surrounding acts of terror. An opinions piece from Foreign Policy in Focus explores different viewpoints of this topic when it comes to Islam, and also highlights the potential for repression of migrant communities to contribute to the risk of violent acts. Written in February, the article deals with the Charlie Hebdo attacks and with secularism in France, which are arguably very relevant to Friday’s events.

As far as the U.S. goes, The Nation has published an editorial about the potential for the Paris attacks to trigger a renewed wave not only of Islamophobia, but of racism towards Arabs, South Asians, and immigrant communities in general. The piece discusses government practices which target these communities, xenophobic rhetoric, and hate crimes, consequences similar to those following 9/11 and intensified by a fear for national security. The piece also highlights the potential for progress in these areas.

Media Coverage: Paris, Beirut, and Kenya, among others

This past weekend, we have seen the media provide continuous coverage of the Paris attack. Amid this coverage we have also witnessed the myriad of strong responses from leaders and people worldwide. Some have pointed out that other atrocities which occurred last week–such as the bombings in Beirut and in Baghdad–received a disparate amount of attention as compared to the Paris attacks, which is cause for concern over the alienation of victims in other parts of the world.

The New York Times gives us a piece that compares the attacks in Beirut and Paris, and explores the experience of the Lebanese people in relation to media coverage and mourning.  An editorial from National Public Radio cites examples of such events that occurred either on the day of or during the few days before the events in Paris but received little global attention, including the ISIS attack of a funeral in Baghdad that killed at least 18 people. 

Some social media users, in the wake of the Friday’s event, have revived coverage of an event from April: shootings in Kenya that claimed a similar amount of victims as those killed in Paris. A Washington Post article explores how this news just recently began trending, and why it did not spark a global response months ago. It also delves into such differences in international media coverage more generally, pointing out that this is not a new issue. 

If you’re interested in further investigating criticism of the media and its relationship with society, Noam Chomsky has an opinions piece about media coverage of the Charlie Hebdo attacks which explores biases in public memory and its relation to international politics, as well as to Islamophobia.

1 Comment

  1. Nick

    Re: “What we’re reading: The Paris, Beirut, and Baghdad attacks in a global context”

    Thank you for this. Great curation. Look forward to the next “What We’re reading.”

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