Prof. Tomasz ALEKSANDROWICZ: "Paris. The European version of 9/11"

"Paris. The European version of 9/11"

Photo of Prof. Tomasz ALEKSANDROWICZ


Associate Professor of the Police Academy in Szczytno. Information management expert in the Centre for Research on Terrorism. Founding member of the Collegium Civitas Institute of Information Studies.

Ryc.: Fabien Clairefond

other articles by this author

The emotions after the massacre in Paris began to subside. They do not help one’s rational thinking and good decision making.

I will therefore try to help draw conclusions from the Paris attacks and give hints as to how we could decrease the risk of the like in Europe in the future.


.There is no full safety, nor is there a system safeguarding us completely. Terrorists always prevail over a state in terms of time, place and modus operandi; they may strike a selected target at a chosen hour and in a way they consider perfect. The state cannot guard everything all the time and against any kind of threat and it cannot lead total surveillance. This is a price we pay for the existence of open democratic societies. Indeed, North Korea is not confronted with terrorism.


.The attack in Paris is a proof that ISIS is changing its habits and, similarly to Al-Qaida, started hitting targets in Europe. Significantly, the attack was not only well prepared, but also difficult to execute – in fact it was a set of co-ordinated attacks, an example of networking, which shows what a dangerous enemy we are dealing with.


.The refugees – they evoke the strongest emotions, even hysterical reactions. There are warnings and appeals for turning all the influx away from Europe, since this carries the terrorist threat. Also there are different voices to be heard, however, which call the situation disgrace for humanity and remind of the necessity to help the poor people escaping war and atrocities committed by ISIS. However, both sides are wrong.

The refugees coming to Europe in great numbers surely increase the threat of terrorism, because among them there are ISIS emissaries slipping in, whose tasks include radicalization of the locals, support for the Islamic combat units and preparation of attacks. It is easy to hide in the crowd, even to avoid border controls. Not to take such an opportunity would be a grave negligence on the part of ISIS.

.Nevertheless particularly dangerous are those born in Europe, the second generation of immigrants radicalizing each other, people living in Islamic ghettoes – enclaves closed for and avoided by the police. Many of them after a period of living their lives as the Europeans do have turned back to orthodox Islam. There are various reasons for that: sense of being pushed to the margins of society and disappointed with the modern Western civilization, lack of perspectives and/or life goals and finding them in radical forms of Islam, poverty and anger, influence of hateful talk of imams, contact with indoctrinated newcomers from the Middle East etc. This is a vast field for research that needs to be done in order to understand the processes of radicalization and, last but not least, to effectively oppose them.

The experience we have got so far proves that tolerance is mistaken by Islamists for weakness. One must state it clearly: for those who are against a Christmas tree on the market square, who demand that a part of the city is excluded from the rule of domestic law which should be replaced with shariah, who send patrols to the streets to check if the way women are clad does not offend Islam – for such people there is no place in Europe. Let them go wherever they will come across no obstacles for manifesting their faith so openly. The same regards jihad fans, terrorist attack admirers and violence perpetrators. Recently Italy has deported a citizen of Tunisia who praised the activity of ISIS in an interview on television. Well done, better late than never.

This is a true challenge. Helping refugees requires a well prepared, reasonably implemented and long-lasting program of social and cultural assimilation on the one hand and carefully used surveillance of the immigrant communities on the other. We must not allow creation of such districts as Molenbeek in Brussels which slip into unlawful self-governing areas (there are numerous examples of similar ones in other European countries) and police abstains from pursuing the local criminals only because those are immigrants.

.Tolerating the Others should be limited by the security of the state and its citizens. Law must be adequate to threats and enforced on no matter who tries to break it. This is what the equality before the law is based on, one of the most fundamental rules of democracy that we seem to have forgotten over the years, at least in the context of immigration. Am I exaggerating? In the years 1997–2013 in the city of Rotherham in south Yorkshire no fewer than 1.400 children have been sexually harassed. According to an official report even 11-year-olds were raped by a gang, kidnapped, taken to other cities, soaked in petrol and threatened to be burnt, held at gunpoint, forced to watch brutal rapes and warned they would be next if they tell anyone. It was hushed up for years, because the politically correct authorities were afraid of being called racists. The victims were white orphans and the wrongdoers were Pakistanis. I do not want to have anything to do with such ”tolerance”.

The other side of the coin is that if a coutry tolerates such attitudes towards the immigrants, the society becomes more and more reluctant towards them. The case of Anders Breivik, setting of fires in houses of refugees in Germany or rising popularity of Marine Le Pen’s National Front are all effects of the ”tolerance”.


.Human rights vs fight with terrorism. This is a difficult, sensitive matter that causes stormy discussions and sometimes hysterical reactions. Human rights defenders accuse the West of infringements of the rights that the terrorists possess, mass surveillance, brutality, tortures and intimidation. They fall silent when an attack happens taking its toll among random innocent passers-by. They feel the urge to speak out once the tension fades away and the agencies can be criticized again for their violence.

It is high time we took a different approach.

”(…) Acts of terrorism have the purpose by their nature or context to seriously intimidate a population or unduly compel a goverment or an international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act or seriously destabilise or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation (…)” claims in its preamble the Convention on the Prevention of Terrorism adopted in 2005 by the Council of Europe, an organisation safeguarding human rights. Article 2 of the Convention setting its purpose states that terrorism has ”negative effects on the full enjoyment of human rights, in particular the right to life (…)”. Also the UN in its documents highlights the rights of the victims of terrorist attacks as deprived of their most basic human rights. What is more important then: the lives of the innocent or infringement of one’s right to privacy, of the terrorist’s immunity?


.The reaction of the West on the international scene. The situation in the Middle East is extremely tangled. Each player has different interests and objectives which prevents them from working out common policy and acting on a full scale. Officially Saudi Arabia is an ally of the USA, while there is an unbroken flow of petrodollars from the former to the Islamic State. Americans support Kurds in their fight with ISIS and doing so they disregard the protests of Turkey which, although it declares being enemy of ISIS, covertly buys oil from the Islamic State and is glad to see the latter annihilate the Kurds. Russia, contrary to the West, supports Bashar al-Assad in Syria; Vladimir Putin is returning in full glory to the arena of international politics and will not be stopped even by the recent clash with Turkey (a NATO member) whose air force shot down the Russian bomber.

.Putin’s offer is clear: Russia will destroy the Islamic State and restore Assad’s regime, yet in return for the acceptance of the West for the Russian military actions in Ukraine and suspension of the sanctions. Israel has started to look favourably at Hezbollah’s (supported by Iran) fight with ISIS. France increases bombardments of the territories controlled by ISIS, but there is no sign of the offensive on land.

The latter is hardly surprising as such an offensive would mean war on the verge of genocide or even in the strict sense of the word. A victory of the West, considering its power, would be inevitable – but what should happen next? Who would take over the rule of the lands? Would it be reasonable to leave some Western units for occupation of part of the Middle East? For how long and what price would have to be paid?

This is deadlock. The sources of financing ISIS can and must be inactivated. But how shall Turkey be forced to give up buying oil from them? Destroying the petroleum infrastructure in possession of the Islamic State makes sense. How will Saudi Arabia be made unwilling to continue financial support for ISIS, though?

One thing is certain: this is the end of the Middle East known to us since 1948. We witness the creation of a new system of power, whereas the West has not been asked for their opinion and they have a very limited influence on the course of events.


.Conclusions for Poland? The first one seems obvious. A scheme of assimilation of refugees should be created that would minimize their falling into radicalism and maximize the effectiveness of assimilation of the next generations. This has to be worked on for years to come. It is also necessary to strengthen the borders and to give the agencies the tools for identification of the refugees taken in from the higher risk countries.

Another conclusion is the necessity to improve the Polish antiterrorist system. Since we have rightly decided to make it multi-dimensional and multi-entity, we need to intensify co-ordination of actions taken within the framework.

It is a must to pass an act against terrorism that would contain at least the following regulations:

  • the Internal Security Agency made a leading state service in fighting terrorism
  • competencies and tasks assigned to each subject of the antiterrorist system
  • regulation of the co-operation of the aforementioned subjects (currently it is being realized on the basis of agreements between the respective managerial bodies)
  • a statutory set of rules concerning circulation of information
  • procedures of use of armed forces in cases of terrorist threat
  • extraordinary powers of operational surveillance effective in the aforementioned cases

.The refugees are not about to disappear in the mist. Terrorism will not go away. Poland is not immune to all modern threats. We cannot passively wait for what is going to happen, we need to be prepared. Without hysteria, fear, demagogy and political correctness. Let me remind what I once quoted at Wszystko Co Najważniejsze – the prophetic words from the novel ”Beetle in the Anthill” by Strugatsky brothers: For scientists it’s clear that beings shouldn’t be multiplied unless it’s absolutely necessary. But we’re no scientists. If they’re wrong, it’s ultimately their own business. We can’t make errors. We may be called obscurantists, mystics, superstitious fools, but one thing we do will never be forgiven: underestimating the threat. And if we suddenly smell sulphur in the house, we’re simply not entitled to blab on molecular fluctuations. We have to assume there’s a horned devil on our doorstep and to take action against him, production of holy water on industrial scale included. And thank God if it’s only the fluctuations and the whole World Council together with all small kids will laugh their heads off at us…

.If we take in the refugees, we must be aware that in, say, 20 years’ time we will be in bigger trouble unless we dump our political correctness which does not allow us to force those people to accept the basic cultural norms commonly observed in Europe.

It is terrorists, not those who fight with them, that are most dangerous for human rights.

Tomasz Aleksandrowicz
translation: Juliusz Żebrowski

This content is protected by copyright. Any further distribution without the authors permission is forbidden. 08/12/2015
Fot. Eryk Mistewicz