Jacob F. Farr
Naked Politics Blogger
With the bomb going off in St Petersburg last Monday, a Kyrgyzstan national was named as the main perpetrator. After the London attack recently, as well as Paris, Berlin, and Belgium not so long ago it has become apparent that the first place to point blame is normally IS. My next thought after wondering who might be responsible is always what the ramifications will be. We have seen in the past that anti-ethnic feelings tend to bubble over after a national attack of this proportion, such as those in the US and the UK to name but a couple and in a country like Russia, one questions the force with which that backlash will be felt.
Russia is famously xenophobic. Whether rightly or wrongly, they are seen as a non-tolerant stereotype, proud nationalists with a patriotism that is unshakable. The US elected a president who shares a lot of the same patriotic tendencies as his Russian counterpart, a staunch representative of what it is to be Russian, Vladimir Putin. Attempting to enact a ‘Muslim Travel Ban’ is a move that would not have raised eyebrows if it had come out of the Kremlin. Those who backed Brexit echo the same principles as Trump; close the borders and let’s focus on making the United Kingdom Great Again. With this atmosphere of protectionism gripping some of the world’s most powerful nations, I begin to ask myself: have we begun to solely target people who belong to an ideology rather than considering their socio-economic history? Have we forgotten to factor in power structures and the feeling of disenfranchisement when we approach global issues like refugees?
It cannot be denied that Trump’s election, Brexit and Putin’s success is owed immensely to the feeling of disenfranchisement that has spread right across the Western World and Russia. Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and for the Western World the crash of 2008. Russia, it could be argued has been forced to support a strongman in Putin because they were not offered a re-negotiated deal on the international stage after the US promised Gorbachev things would be more equal following the fall of the Soviet Union. Trump’s rise can be attributed to the feeling of resentment that was seen towards ‘career politicians’, for bailing out financial institutions during the crash of 2008. Brexit was another middle finger to the establishment, a vote of discontent at being left behind by the political elite during the globalisation transition. All of these people acted in a reactionary way to the powers of their time, as they felt powerless to shape their future. So could it be argued that in a higher stakes game, life and death, that those who commit mass acts of violence share similar feelings of disenfranchisement, just on a larger scale?
The aforementioned terrorist attacks across Europe and the US have led to a feeling of resentment towards the Muslim community as a whole. A small but vocal minority have serious issues with immigration, especially when it comes to Muslims. Britain First, UKIP, Brexit and the election of Trump all point to more xenophobic times on the horizon. Trump’s recent attempt at a travel ban is a perfect indictment of where the Western world right now. The ban proposes to prevent for a set amount of time, certain peoples entering the country from mainly Islamic states; the first attempt being thrown into controversy when it was stated that Christian Syrians would get priority over Muslim Syrians. Many Brexiters voted for Brexit on xenophobic reasoning, wanting to stem the flow of refugees entering through the Schengen area. After the recent Westminster attack, all of those resident in the UK will have found videos on their newsfeed from Tommy Robinson and Nigel Farage, essentially stating that we have to stop Muslims from entering the UK; both had egg on their face when it turned out the perpetrator of the attacks was a 52 year old from Kent (the same demographic as Farage).
So why do we attack innocent Muslim individuals that have as much in common as Western Christians do with Hitler (a Catholic fascist) as they do with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of IS? I can’t necessarily answer that, however I do want to raise the issue of people jumping to conclusions and not analysing events within a wider context. Take, for example, the horrific data behind the violence in Buenaventura, where body parts wash up in the harbour as the area is gripped by extreme poverty and violence. The homicide rate is worse in Buenaventura than in many cities in war torn countries across the Middle East. A reaction to this violence has been to adopt Islam within the Colombian Harbour region; black port workers have sought refuge in Islam, after the religion spread to the continent during the 1960’s thanks to the Nation of Islam. Is that not a mad paradoxical thought, that in an extreme violent environment, individuals turn to Islam for peace, yet in an environment of relative peace Islam is seen as the cause of violence?
My hunch is that it is not being Islamic, nor is it being Colombian that makes you extreme. People act out in an extreme way like voting for protectionist candidates when they feel disenfranchised. I believe it is a deep feeling of disenfranchisement that makes others feel like they are forced to use violence. What the Colombians experience is extreme poverty and consistent failures of government. The exact same thing can be said for Islamic extremists in the Middle East. People act out because they feel they have no power, they resort to violence when it seems like their normal actions are no longer viable. We must fight for violent extremism to be viewed in the wider context. If we do not, we risk exacerbating the issue by ignoring those who feel forgotten by the fast evolving modern world.