I have one friend living in Paris. That is my only connection to the city. I have never been there or been particularly drawn to it. I cannot cry for it and will not pray for it. Just as I felt nothing for Beirut, Ankara, Garissa or Mumbai, my heart is unmoved by the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13th. Even while my head tells me they were horrible atrocities. I mean no offense. I respect the right of others to grieve, to feel shock, to be scared, to be angry. But I cannot compel myself to feel grief or outrage. Perhaps because I am desensitised. Perhaps the link between the attacks and me is weak. I have a low level of empathy anyway. I am neither proud nor ashamed of my lack of feeling. It just is.
Je ne suis pas Charlie. I am an immigrant. I am a visible minority. I am a social science student and a free movement proponent. As I tend to do after a terrorist attack on Western soil, I am carefully watching the politicians. I am watching for reactionary measures: increased surveillance on citizens; increased racial profiling; increased intrusion on civil liberties; increased military spending; tighter restrictions on movement; inflammatory and divisive rhetoric.
I am carefully watching international mainstream media. Criticism of the gross discrepancy between media coverage of a terror attack in Europe and one in a browner part of the world is valid. Watching the in-depth analysis on the German Tagesschau after the eight-o’clock news, however, I was relieved by the iterations – of the anchors, reporters and experts – that there is no link between this attack and refugees. One even pointed out that the Paris attacks were carried out by the same people that the refugees are running away from. And one of the ‘terrorism experts’ interviewed stressed that even without the recent flow of refugees into Europe and the presumably laxer entry security checks as a result, the perpetrators of Friday’s events in Paris would have found a way in regardless.
European Commission president Juncker responded that “those in Europe who try to change the migration agenda we have adopted – I would like to remind them to be serious about this and not to give in to these basic reactions that I do not like […] I see the difficulty but I don’t see the need to change our general approach.” But politics will react. Poland, Slovakia and France’s Front National already have. That is not why I am unable to grieve for Paris, but it’s the worry that I feel in place of grief.