The Paris Attack and Our All Too Predictable Discourse Enough With the Zero-Sum Identity Politics. A Solution Is Going to Require All of Us.

By Amir Ahmad Nasr




Another terrorist attack. Another city. Another group of innocents killed in cold blood.

And yet again, another round of the same predictable troubled and troubling discourse that replays itself over and over whenever tragedy like this strikes. To what end?

“Islam is a death cult!”

“No, Islam is a religion of peace!”

“America’s despicable foreign policy is responsible!”

“No, these monstrous terrorists are responsible!”

I guess “discourse” is too generous of a word to describe this frequently repeated cycle of zero-sum identity politics. Instead, it’s more like a shouting match between the loudest and most uncompromising voices.

Thankfully, many of us know better, but what more can be said?

After the attacks immediately happened, I posted on Facebook: “Ankara, Baghdad, Beirut, and now Paris on a scale not seen in 50 years. Utterly vile and appalling. May the hammer come swinging down hard on whoever is found responsible, and may the values of liberty and humanism withstand and prevail. Tragic night.”

Well, details have emerged, and we now know who’s responsible.

I could write a Medium essay entitled ISIS Isn’t the Real Enemy. The “Game of Thrones” Medieval Mindset That Birthed It Is, but I’ve already done that.

I could write an article for Bloomberg entitled How the Web Radicalizes and Liberates Muslims, but hey, I’ve already done that.

I could write an entire book about the (combustible) angst many alienated Muslim youngsters torn between East and West feel – “perched awkwardly between a politicized religious culture and modern skeptical rationalism” as Paul Berman noted in the Wall Street Journal – but then again, I’ve already done that too.

Which is why I don’t have much to add except one more thing that says almost exactly all I want to say in this moment: Laila Lalami’s must-read brief piece To Defeat ISIS, We Must Call Both Western and Muslim Leaders to Account. Read all of it now.