Lethargy

“Once conform, once do what others do because they do it, and a kind of lethargy steals over all the finer senses of the soul.” The words of French philosopher Michel de Montaigne. And if there is one person who certainly will not be guilty of conforming to what others do or slipping into lethargy, it’s Polish prime minister, Beata Szydło.

Speaking to public broadcaster TVP Info on Saturday evening, and asked to comment on the terrorist attacks in Spain, Szydło said that Europe must “wake up from its lethargy and finally start thinking about the safety of its citizens” (unless from home grown pollution, and so forth). In the prime minister’s view Europe “must not be afraid to talk about terrorism”, and should “finally replace political correctness with common sense.” The attacks in Spain had left at least 14 people dead and 100 injured in two separate attacks.

Relating this to the domestic agenda, the prime minister continued: “There is no price at which the safety of the Polish people could be sold, so the most important thing for me today is to have partners in Europe, among the European elites, to talk about what should be done to combat terrorism.” Szydło added that the migration policies of Europe’s leaders, especially those of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, “have benefitted those who are now sowing death” among European citizens, before suggesting, without further details, that Central and Eastern European countries have developed their own ideas on how to deal with terrorism.

Meanwhile Paweł Soloch, the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau (BBN), told Polish state broadcaster TVP on Monday that there were ties between the attacks in Spain and “at least certain factions of … radical Islam” because “terrorist propaganda … refers to Islamic religion and is undoubtedly linked with religion”. He did say that Islam should not be condemned as a whole, but that links between terror and Islam are “concentrated where there is a Muslim community mainly from Arab countries”, and that Muslim communities “integrate poorly” and are a “natural base for those terrorists”.

He added that while Poland would be in solidarity with the EU in its fight against terrorism, it would not take part in the EU plan to allocate a quota of refugees from camps in Italy and Greece to other member states, in response to which refusal the EU has decided to launch legal proceedings against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. In 2015 the EU decided to relocate some 160,000 of those migrants in Italy and Greece, but so far only some 20,000 have been re-settled, with Finland and Malta the only countries to have met their targets. For his part Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister, Jarosław Gowin, said that politicians from Western European countries increasingly backed the Polish government’s stance against the EU’s migration policy.

Poland’s interior minister, Mariusz Błaszczak sees the matter as a clash of civilizations. He told state broadcaster TVP Info that Poland is a safe country, adding: “In Poland we do not have Muslim communities which are enclaves… which are a natural support base for Islamic terrorists.” “Europe should wake up,” he added. For him, resettling migrants encourages millions of people to come to Europe and “this ends tragically. We are dealing with a clash of civilizations. This must be said outright and it is a problem for the whole of Europe.”

Be that as it may, it is certainly the case that Europe faces a growing problem, which can only be solved by injecting some common sense into the discussion. We need to distinguish between refugees who are fleeing some immediate danger and who are in need of assistance and those who are simply seeking a better life in Europe because the circumstances of their own countries are far from ideal. These two groups are, of course, wholly different from the terrorists, many of whom are home grown Europeans – which explains Poland’s reluctance to allow such communities to take root – who may well use the refugee and migration crises, caused in no small part by the mistaken belief that regime change in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and Syria would of itself usher in an era of peace of democracy, to advance their nefarious aims.

We would do well also to recognise that unlike most terrorists, those of the radical Islamic persuasion want nothing we have – apart from the destruction of our way of life – so there is nothing about which to negotiate with them. They simply despise us for what they see as decadence and immorality, which makes it easier for them to justify to themselves each terrorist act. Perhaps if we were clearer about our own culture and why it is worth defending we would at least have fewer home grown radical Islamic terrorists.

Perhaps it’s even simpler. Climate change, water shortages, and population growth have left many angry young men with nothing to do and, absent anything else, they tend to fight. Whatever the cause, and however much one may disagree with it, the approach of the Polish government is not illogical, absent a coherent international approach to the problem.

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