Belfast Telegraph

Islamophobic attacks play into hands of Isis barbarians

By Paul Connolly

The sheer scale and barbarity of the Paris attacks still takes the breath away. Thankfully media and political reaction has been measured with little outright Islamophobia.

Newspapers in Northern Ireland, including this one, have been measured in their response. Not that it stopped the racists within our ranks.

A petrol bomb attack on a Muslim man and his family in Ballymena could have ended in four deaths. Luckily no one was injured. What were the scum behind the attack thinking? An eye for an eye - a good old Northern Ireland trait, that's for sure.

What would that achieve except to fall into the trap that Isis is setting, the trap to set people against Muslims in the hope this drives some Muslims towards extremism?

As we know too well here, extremism feeds off extremism. It positively needs it. Otherwise it fails to set off the required chain reaction.

What was the view of the man who was targeted by the Ballymena thugs of the attacks in Paris? Here's what he thought: "It is a shame. We were all disgusted at the Paris attacks."

That reads like unequivocal condemnation to me. As does the statement from the Belfast Islamic Centre after Paris: "We believe that these horrendous and inhumane attacks are against all human and moral values and are crimes against humanity that cannot be justified under any circumstances, and such acts should be denounced wherever they occur.

"We disassociate our faith and our fellow Muslims from such violent and inhumane acts and their perpetrators."

The statement doesn't mince its words (unlike, I have to say, many public pronouncements from our own political leaders during the Troubles).

A "crime against humanity" - you can't get much stronger than that. That's not to deny there should be a more vigorous debate within Islam and beyond about combating jihadism.

What exactly did the bigoted idiots who petrol-bombed Amin Ibrahim's house hope to achieve, apart from walking, eyes wide open, into the jihadi trap? Let's hope they're found, prosecuted and given a sentence that reflects the seriousness of their crime.

There can be a fine line between raising legitimate questions about the nature and scale of mass immigration into Europe and whipping up sentiment against innocent migrants.

Personally, I think throwing open the doors as German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested was wrong-headed - perhaps not quite an "unparalleled historical mistake" as her sister party in Bavaria described it, but an exercise in risk-taking and foolishness.

Schengen is effectively dead - it was designed for a quaint era when the challenges of today were not even dreamed of. As are the current asylum rules.

But there is a fine line between raising legitimate questions about security and immigration and stigmatising ordinary people who oppose extremism. The Daily Mail's cartoon showing rats slipping into Europe along with ordinary Syrian refugees came, for me, close to that line.

There is a long history of extremists identifying human beings as unpopular animals: rats, rodents, vipers, cockroaches and the like.

I don't think the cartoon goes way beyond appropriate boundaries. But nevertheless it ill behoves a cartoonist on a national newspaper that says it champions tolerance to even cast a glance down that road.

Belfast Telegraph

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