Reprinted from www.opendemocracy.net
After the Paris attacks, it is imperative that we safeguard this arena of co-existence, where people of all faith and none remain unified on the principles of common humanity.
At the end of last year, as politicians and pundits cheered on coalition airstrikes in Syria, I wrote this:
"The war on ISIS has already been lost. As regional instability escalates predictably as a direct consequence of the US-UK led non-strategy, ISIS will become stronger, and reactionary terrorist violence against western targets will proliferate -- in turn fuelling reactionary and militant responses from western foreign policy establishments."
Less than a year later, 129 people have been confirmed dead, and 352 injured, from terrorist attacks in Paris.
'Islamic State' (ISIS) acolytes conducted a sophisticated operation involving three coordinated teams, striking multiple targets simultaneously, demonstrating a considerable degree of training and planning.
Yet the airstrikes that began last year had been justified by our leaders precisely on the pretext that they would be necessary to prevent ISIS from striking the west.
Although the attacks appear to have been triggered by the drone strike against 'Jihadi John', their sophistication reveals that preparations for the operation had been going on for months, at least.
ISIS, in other words, activated sleeper cells with a longstanding presence in France.
But the attacks in Paris must not be viewed in isolation.
So far, world governments have responded as if the ISIS attack came entirely out of the blue, "an act of war" in Hollande's words, targeted "against France, against the values that we defend everywhere in the world, against what we are: a free country that means something to the whole planet".
While there is truth to Hollande's words, they are also misleading.
The Paris attacks have occurred on the tail-end of an escalating series of massacres.
On 22 May, an ISIS militant blew himself up at a mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, killing 21 people.
On 20 July, a female suicide bomber killed 31 students in Suruc, a Turkish city close to the Syrian border.
On 13 August, an ISIS bomb detonated at a farmers' market in an impoverished district of Baghdad killed 80 people, and wounded over 200.