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The Dangers of Paranoia

Reader comment on item: Two Germans vs. Islamism

Submitted by Aidan Maconachy (Canada), Jan 8, 2006 at 02:52

This issue of paranoia and insanity, is one well worth discussing in this context.

There are legitimate concerns with respect to the activities of radical Islamists, and most people - even liberals - will allow that such people can't simply be allowed to engage in hate speech and other forms of subversion without being closley monitored.

Ironically, the French are more draconian than the Americans when it comes to kicking out rabble rousers of this ilk.

While most reasonable people will agree that fanatics need to be identified and monitored, the way to weaken their capacity for harm is to make it increasingly difficult for them to find partisans and shelter within the greater Islamic community. I have always believed that it is the more moderate mainstream Muslims who can do most in this struggle against Islamist extremism, and this is why it is important not to alienate the community at large.

When you stigmatize people, you dehumanize them. You also create a climate of paranoia. When people become dehumanized, they are more easily subjected to hatred and violence. The thugs - neo-nazis, skinheads etc - who are often the instigators, couldn't care less if a woman in a headscarf is moderate or a radical.

Once relations become polarized in this way, it will make security concerns all the more incendiary.

So I think Western governments have to proceed judiciously, while being firm and even forceful, in their dealings with radical elements. This doesn't mean they have to start using "tools" such as tags and tests, so much as working more closely with the Muslim community and finding a way to engender trust.

We call ourselves "civilized" in the West. It is when you are under duress that the calibre of your civilized behaviour is truly tested.
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