Terrorism's goal is to commit frightening, high-profile crimes that scare people into making rash, expensive decisions that make the world look like the terrorists would like to see it.
In France, terrorists would like the largely secular, politically apathetic Muslim population to view the world without "gray zones,", setting up a conflict in which liberal, secular values can't peacefully co-exist with the Islamic faith and the cultures of the countries from which France's Muslim populations originate.
If the crimes of the Paris attackers can be leveraged into military attacks on middle-eastern states with high collateral damage; invasive domestic surveillance and racial profiling and harassment by police; as well as the legitimization of Islamaphobia at large, then the terrorists will have achieved their goals.
There's only one way to fight terrorism: to refuse to be terrorised.
Terrorism works. Against us, terrorism works very, very well. Our collective insistence on treating terrorist acts as something categorically different than crime—as something harder to understand, something scarier, something perpetrated not by humans but by monsters—feeds the ultimate goals of terrorists. It makes us dumb. It makes us primitive. It is our boogeyman, and no amount of rational talk will drive it out of our minds…
…We are richer, and mightier, and far more deadly than any of our terrorist foes could dream of being. And yet we happily play into their hands. We declare a "War on Terror" of our own making, an absurd construct with no possible victory. We overreact so harshly to every injury that our reputation as bullies and savages is confirmed. We allow ourselves to be cowed by fear. We allow ourselves to be rendered senseless by rage. The terrorist lays the bait, and we give him the terror he seeks. The terrorist may be the criminal, but we are the hapless suckers who make his act worthwhile.
(Image: İslam Devleti bayrağı ile bir örgüt üyesi.
[Voica of America/public domain]