Belfast Telegraph

It's vital we grasp roots of terrorism

By Mohammed Samaana

Those who carried out the recent attacks in Paris do not represent the views of the vast majority of Muslims. Their acts are more insulting to Islam than the cartoons. While almost every Muslim felt offended by these cartoons and considered them racist, very few of them would sympathise with these terrorists.

Considering the media focus on the terrorists' ethnicity, of French-Algerian origin, examining the histories of France and Algeria is important.

France occupied Algeria for 132 years until 1962, which caused the death of 1.5 million Algerians. During that period, 42,000 Algerians were used as guinea pigs for France's nuclear experiments in the country. Israel took part in the experiments as part of the two countries' nuclear co-operation.

Additionally, hundreds of Algerians die annually as a result of the 11 million mines left there by France. Hundreds of thousands of Algerians also fought with France in the First and Second World Wars. In 1961, hundreds of Algerians were killed when demonstrating peacefully in Paris to support Algerian independence.

Socio-economic exclusion of France's Muslim minority doesn't help. The unemployment rate in the Paris suburbs, largely inhabited by minorities, mainly of North African origin, is over twice the national average, while 36% live below the poverty line, three times the national average. Banning the niqab in public and the hijab at French schools added to the Muslims' alienation.

Foreign policy is also important, and France's decision to take part in bombing Isis, which caused civilian deaths, added fuel to the fire.

The plight of the Palestinians doesn't justify anti-Semitism, which I condemn. However, seeing Israel's Prime Minister at last weekend's Paris anti-terror demonstration, after the Gaza bombing last summer in which 17 Palestinian journalists were killed, many people will accuse the French government of hypocrisy over free speech.

Extremists of different backgrounds feed off each other. Ethical foreign policy, social justice and standing together as Muslims, Jews, Christians and others are crucial to tackling extremism.

  • Mohammed Samaana is a freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland

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