Terrorism polarises politics

07 December 2015 3:00 pm

In France, the far right Front National have made unprecedented gains in the first round of regional French elections. It looks like they will take control of at least two regions for the first time in the New Year. Surfing on the anger and anxiety following the Jihadi attacks in Paris, the far right is leading the polls in six out of 12 new super-regions created in mainland France last year. The party’s leader, Marine Le Pen, polled around 42 per cent in the Lille-Calais-Amiens region of northern France – reducing the ruling Socialist party to a miserable 19 per cent in one of its historic bastions. Her harder-line niece, Marion Maréchal Le Pen, 25, also scored over 40 per cent in the Provence-Côte d’Azur region in the south. Both Le Pens appear to be in an unassailable position before the second round next Sunday and could, from January, govern two of the most important French regions with a combined population of 11 million people. The FN has never governed any French region before.

In the United States, President Barack Obama has given a rare Oval office address outlining his administration’s efforts to combat terrorism.

All over the world, terrorism is polarising politics. We’re seeing it in the French vote. And in the US, the Republicans are calling for tougher action against Islamist extremism while Democrats are demanding stronger gun control. Upping the ante against Obama administration, the Republican presidential candidates have accused it of not taking enough steps to defeat Islamic State. At the same time, US President Barack Obama has vowed for restrictions on the sale of assault weapons.

What makes it even more alarming is the background of the culprits behind the San Bernardino shootings. In Europe, politicians alarmed by reports of radicalisation among Muslim populations often point to high unemployment, poverty and other social ills alienating Muslims from society. If only young Muslims can be offered more opportunities, they say, then perhaps Islamic extremism will have less appeal.

But Syed Rizwan Farook, and his Pakistani-born wife, Tashfeen Malik were in a sense American success stories. Farook worked as an environmental health specialist for five years, part of San Bernardino County's public health department which was holding the party he attacked. He reportedly made $53,000 from his job, three years after he graduated in 2010 from California State University in San Bernardino after studying environmental health.

He and his wife were ordinary people which should be sending a message to politicians everywhere. There are millions of Muslims scattered around the world. How do political leaders propose to defeat Islamic terrorism without the help of those Muslims? After all, they are better placed than anyone to report radicalisation at their local mosque, in their community or in their own family? Looking overseas, how do politicians plan to defeat the fanatics of the Islamic State without Muslim allies?

All of a sudden, keeping people safe from terrorism has become a lot harder.