As an American i’m used to hearing jihadists issuing general threats to my countrymen, and to be frank i don’t take it too seriously or personally. Maybe i’m naive or maybe i’m jaded, either way i don’t think it has the desired effect of striking fear into my heart.
That said, it struck me as a horse of another color this morning when i read the what a rebel commander told the Associated Press recently after French attack aircraft bombed military sites in Mali to halt the advance of rebels in the former colony.
“France is going to reap the worst consequences possible from this. Now no French person can feel safe anywhere in the world. Every French national is a target,” he is quoted as saying.
Inflammatory rhetoric is nothing new, nor are threats from abroad, yet I felt a momentary pang of panic I’m not used to feeling when reading Islamist hate speech directed at Western nations and their citizens. As I write this I’m trying to understand why Oumar Ould Hamaha’s comments felt different to my sensibilities this time. Is it because they are directed at a friend and ally nation to the US and not my home country? Is it the specific threat to “[e]very French national”, innocents and not just the military? Is it because I’m suffering from violence fatigue and cavalier gross misappropriation of anger exhaustion? I think it’s probably a little from column A and a little from column B combined. I’m overeating on a diet of Western bombs falling on angry men with guns.
It doesn’t do me or anyone else much good to wax nostalgic about the past, but Western culture hasn’t always been at odds with Islam, and i think it would do everyone a bit of good to remember that. Generally speaking I believe the West has much more to gain than to lose by engaging rebel groups, extremists, even terrorists directly, on their territory, and on their terms. Far too often we create our own worst enemies.