SHAFAQNA – Following a series of violent terrorist attacks in Belgium, Turkey and now Pakistan, Shafaqna interviewed US Senator Angus King on issues related to counter-terrorism, foreign policy and how Muslims continue to be seen through the lens of terrorism, even though they remain the main victims of it.
A member of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator King was in Paris with four other members of the Senate Intelligence committee: chairman Richard Burr, R-North Carolina; Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland; Dan Coats, R-Indiana; and Mark Warner, D-Virginia, only 200 miles away from where the Brussels attacks took place.
SHAFAQNA – Senator King how do react to calls from certain US and EU politicians that governments ought to take a tougher stance against Muslims in view of defeating terror? Quite often, if not always, Muslims have been played for terrorists’ actions, even though they, themselves, have suffered most from radicalisation.
SENATOR KING – Answering terror through ostracization is not helping anyone, especially not our communities since it will ultimately play into this narrative of division and victimization terror groups have fed on. Marginalization remains our biggest challenge. Marginalization leads to disenfranchisement, and from there on young people can be preyed upon by unscrupulous individuals.
Discrimination is not who we are … this not the values we want to teach or be remembered for. This language of hate politicians use is nothing more than dangerous fearmongering. Fear has a way of distorting realities! Distortion can be dangerous in the context of terror, and counter-terrorism, as it could lead to abuses of power. Something we need to remember is that Muslim communities have been instrumental in apprehending terror militants. It is Muslims’ willingness to divulge information, and Muslims’ collective sense of civic duty which has allowed police to do their job.
People’s sense of reality has been warped by bigotry and xenophobia. We are better than that, and we ought to do better than that! An explicit part of ISIS’ strategy is to drive a wedge between Muslims that live in the west and their societies so that they will then be radicalized and feel that they have no option. So let’s not play a hand into the rising of a monster. Let us instead stand together in opposition of radicalism.
SHAFAQNA – How do you see the future in terms of safety and security. Do you expect more attacks, more violence against innocent civilians? How do we stop radicals from carrying out attacks like the one we’ve seen in Brussels, Istanbul and Lahore?
SENATOR KING – Look, terrorist attacks are more or less inevitable. Regardless of the intelligence we may gather, regardless of the efforts we may have and will exert, it is almost impossible to predict, prevent and stop attacks from happening – especially if militants are motivated to do harm. We are fighting an elusive and insidious enemy. Terror is not something you face on the battlefield and destroy. The difficultly in this country [US] – the thing that keeps me up at night – are what I call lone wolf attacks. Someone who is an American citizen, is radicalized online, who gets a terrorist APB saying go out and kill people and they go to their basement get a gun and go somewhere.
That’s why it is so crucial not to succumb to abject fear and stereotyping of Muslims. There has to be a better way to protect US citizens while preserving the thing that makes the US great. We are asymmetrically vulnerable because we are asymmetrically free. And that makes us vulnerable to people willing to commit uncivilized acts. We don’t want lose that. But if we stop moving, or traveling, or going places, that’s a small victory for ISIL. A friend said to me, couldn’t we have prevented the bombings at the Boston Marathon? Yes, if we’d had National Guard troops shoulder to shoulder for 26 miles on both sides of the street. That’s not a world we want to live in. That’s not who we are.