The Response to Terror: We Need a New Narrative

By French journalist Nicolas Hénin, who was held hostage by ISIS for 10 months. In The Guardian, March 23

…Valls and Hollande are considered to be progressive men, but they are leaders reacting to the landscape that faces them. In France, as in other countries where the right and nationalists have been gaining ground, many politicians feel the best way to counter that is to adopt their words and their ideas. But that is a big mistake. Why help the terrorists when we know they wish to divide us and to have us live in fear?

There will be immense pressure on Belgium now, and certainly a push for more security there. But I always come back to the words of Jens Stoltenberg, the then Norwegian prime minister, after the 2011 mass shootings by Anders Breivik. He, too, faced populist pressure to crack down but his response instead was to call for more democracy and freedom.

In France, we feared a backlash after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. That didn’t happen, and instead we showed strong cohesion. But since then it has become apparent just how fragile we are as a society. I am shocked by the racist utterances of politicians and the mainstream media, things that would never previously have been said or published. There is no future in that approach.

We should keep calm and keep things in perspective, and above all we should tackle the root cause of all this, the war in Syria. We should remember, too, that terrorists terrorize – with actions and with images – but even so, terrorism is still the least likely cause of anyone’s death. They want us to be afraid. We can deny them that. Better to hold tight and reaffirm our values.


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