We love to eat out, go to music concerts, watch sports, shop and travel. It is apparent from the pattern of recent attacks, terrorists don't want us to do any of this.
Their leaders, terrorists of the Islamic State (IS), want everyone to regress into their 7th-century world dictated by archaic tribals laws based on fear and punishment of some god they have appropriated and interpreted.
It must be clear to the IS by now, especially after the series of setbacks against Iraqi armies and the pounding by various coalitions arrayed against them, that it will never rule over a vast territory, establish a Sunni Caliphate or battle the army of Rome in an end-of-days battle at Dabiq.
So, it has decided to focus on a guerrilla war against the freedoms that humanity cherishes. This will only escalate as Daesh (Arabic for IS) finds itself squeezed out of the Middle East.
In Paris, a few months ago, IS terrorists targeted people eating in restaurants, participating in concerts and watching football games.
In Brussels, on Tuesday, terrorists set off explosions in an airport terminal, attacking our freedom to travel. The bomb, carried mostly likely by a fidayeen into a departure lounge, was aimed at people taking early morning trans-Atlantic flights.
This concerted attack on modern lifestyles, the things we love--food, music, travel, sports-- is an indication that terrorists want people to live in fear, forget their freedoms and turn their homes into cages of cowardice.
That the attacks are being carried out in Brussels and Paris — two European cities considered hubs of liberal, cosmopolitan lifestyles — is a clear sign that terrorists are not attacking people randomly in crowded places. They are striking events in high-profile places to ensure their message of 'stay home, don't eat out, sing, dance, play, travel or else' gets wide publicity.
So far, as the history of such attacks shows, the terrorists have failed miserably. After every attack, people get into their protective shells for a brief period, like they did in Paris after the attacks in November, but eventually life returns to normal. Nothing changes.
Everywhere in the world, in Mumbai (1993, 2006 and 2008), New York (2001), Madrid (2004), London (2005) and Paris, people shrugged off memories of terror attacks, personal loss and returned to malls, theatres, stadiums and airports.
It would be wrong to assume people don't get scared after a terror strike. The fear of death, of losing a loved one in a terror attack keeps people home for a long time after every attack.
In Paris, for instance, The New York Times reported that several markets were shut during Christmas and the number of shoppers during the holiday season was abysmally low after the recent attacks. The mood was sombre and the economy was hit hard because people refused to spend money.
But, in the end, as a period of calm prevails, fear subsides and the trauma of loss fades away, people step out again, with the hope that the previous attack may have made security agencies wiser and the government would have initiated steps to ensure the safety of citizens.
Only to be attacked again.
How long can this go on?
The latest conflict between humanity and its enemies who can't be seen, do not come from a particular region and kill in the name of god has just begun. It is unlikely that this war will end sometime soon, especially till Islam finds a way to neutralise and eliminate the jihadists it is breeding.
Reports indicate that hundreds of trained fighters have returned from Syria, where Daesh is fighting a losing war against a coalition of forces, to unleash terror in Europe. Their plan is to carry out intermittent attacks in mainland Europe and terrorise people to stay indoors, give up their liberties.
The only way governments can win this war, protect liberties and freedoms, is by upgrading the security and surveillance systems. They will have to guard people even as their intelligence agencies track and destroy terror cells. Otherwise, people would be at the mercy of terrorists.
In Brussels, terrorists struck even when the security agencies were convinced they will launch a counterattack to avenge the arrest of Salah Abdeslam, one of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks caught a few days ago. But, for some reason, the Brussels authorities lowered the terror alert after Abdeslam's arrest. Such incompetence puts lives at risk and emboldens terrorists to strike with impunity.
Consider, for instance, Tuesday's strike on the Brussels airport. So lax was the security at the international terminal that anybody could have walked into it with a bag full of explosives, without getting scanned or stopped. Someone did and blew it up.
The attacks in Paris and Brussels show governments will have to think of new safeguards to deal with the strategy of targeting events and freedoms. Malls, theatres, stadiums, airports, schools and transport hubs — all potential targets — will have to be secured afresh.
The age of innocence, where anybody can be allowed to walk into a public place unchecked, is obviously over.
Consider, as a contrast, the airport in the Indian city of Srinagar as a model for our trying times. The building has such tight security that nobody can get within 200 metres of it without getting their baggage screened or passing through metal detectors at heavily guarded entrance gates. The drill is then repeated inside with increased strictness and alacrity, sometimes twice and thrice.
The security is exasperating. But, it takes the fear out of flying.
If only Brussels had similar security at its airport.
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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2016 12:29:05 IST