The brutal attack against Charlie Hebdo magazine and the constant stream of horrific images which the Islamic State regularly posts on social networks do little to encourage a serious, measured debate addressing a phenomenon that directly challenges one of the foundations upon which twenty-first century democratic societies are built: freedom of speech, the respect for human rights and the recognition of political action as the only valid tool for the resolution of conflicts.
One can appreciate that such great outpourings of grief are necessary. Nevertheless, they have little effect aside from being an act of catharsis. We ought to strive, decisively, to take decisions that get to the heart of the matter, concerning ourselves less with the means and more with the outcome.
The Islamic State is a grave threat. For the first time we are not faced with an
armed group with a greater or lesser operational capacity but rather an organization that presents itself as a caliphate, an Islamic state. It proclaims itself to have religious authority over all the word’s Muslims, with the stated aim of uniting under their yoke all the regions which they inhabit. The formula that governs their behaviour is a brutal and primitive interpretation of Islam which exercises extreme violence against those they consider infidels, including practitioners of other branches of their own religion, including the Shiites.
I realize that the expansion of the Islamic State has no single answer, and
that it is taking advantage of the countless geopolitical and geostrategic errors
committed at the regional level by their own governments in the Middle East
besides the other countries that have varying degrees of interest and presence
in the region. Nonetheless, it is undeniable that apart from a steady influx of
foreign fighters from around the world who choose to sign up to this sectarian
option, the organization also has sources of external funding which enable it to use the powerful weaponry at its disposal.
The Western world is aware of the support traditionally provided by Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the other Gulf countries to Sunnis in all instances in which they confront the Shia. Syria and Iraq are no exception. Traditionally, Europe and the United States have turned a blind eye to this support because these same states, in spite of the lack of democratic freedoms enjoyed by their citizens, have been able able to engage in a game with the West, well aware of their economic power, a product of their control of fossil mineral resources, mainly consisting of oil.
Perhaps the time has come to put an end to this double standard. An end to blessing these countries with playing the host to major global sporting events, an end to accepting without question their multimillion dollar sponsorship deals, an end to kowtowing to them wherever they go in the world and Western businesses falling over each other in the rush to win a contract for one of their billion-dollar building projects.
The links between every one of these monarchies and the Islamic State needs to be established, studied and, where present, denounced. They represent the major threat to the democratic system of global governance to which we aspire. We must denounce such grave deficiencies with respect to democracy and the respect for human rights suffered by the citizens and immigrants of these countries. In short, the West must deal with them and have the same relationship with them as we do with other dictatorships with less economic capacity. We must, therefore, demonstrate that in the international arena money cannot buy everything and that we in Europe, the old Europe in particular, are committed to political, social, cultural and economic ideals which are not for sale.
We ought to express these values whenever necessary of course, but every day we ought to remind our leaders, the managers of sports clubs and national and international organizations, that when it comes to democracy and human rights there are no shortcuts: or one believes in them or one does not. It is up to the defenders of democracy to defeat the enemies of these fundamental ideals.