If you are Muslim living and working in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia, 2015 was a bad year, but it seems 2016 will be worse.
Last year saw a surge of terror attacks targeting the western way of life. Random attacks on shopping centers, magazines, theaters, a nursing home, and football stadiums - all are examples showing the intent by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to disrupt security and the free movement enjoyed by all in western democracies. The nature and barbarity of the attacks were also clearly aimed at driving a further wedge between law abiding peaceful Muslims and the wider societies..
The attacks on the Bataclan theater in Paris, the knife attack in the London Underground system, the mass shooting at a special needs center in San Bernardino in the U.S. and before that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine, and the Kosher grocery in Paris were all carried out by Muslims mostly born and bred in western countries. Either that or were people who arrived with or without their parents as refugees or as economic migrants from troubled countries.
Unlike the 9/11 attacks on the New York World Trade Center in 2001, which were carried out by people neither resident, nor native in the targeted communities, the more recent attacks were apparently carried out by fighters returning from Syria or Iraq. Another group were simply Muslim converts or dispossessed youths who pledged allegiance to a criminal organization ISIS - an organization bent on establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria whether the local population support the idea or not.
But also this criminal band called ISIS seem bent on attacking western cities and citizens randomly in a bid to flex its muscle and win recruits, maybe for a cause that echoes specially with a minority of disenfranchised immigrants or second generation Muslims as well as recent converts.
However the draconian laws quickly past at the end of 2015 to confront the clear and present danger in western cities are likely to cause more challenges to those democracies.
Sorting the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’
Recent incidents such as the Muslim family of nine prevented from boarding a U.S.-bound plane at a British airport for a holiday at Disneyland in what has been described as an overreaction to the current threat to international security, are examples that many individuals and family groups that either look Muslim, or with Muslim names, will have to be ready for. More checks and possible schedule and travel delays, seem inevitable.
Laws revoking European nationality from those with dual nationality, who were involved in ISIS activities, or propagating hate rhetoric and action, is another extreme response in an effort to separate the good Muslims from the bad.
Crossing airport checks is again full of problems. The profiling of individuals is reminiscent of the processes carried out at U.S. airports in the days and weeks following the 9/11 attacks. It would seem that travelers through European airports cannot help but notice an increase of checks and cross checks for people with Muslim names.
Authorities across Europe are not shy from admitting the privacy of a few will potentially be invaded in the interest of saving many, as they strive to prevent any future attacks.
Migrants, including those seeking asylum, who risked everything to find a safer and more peaceful life for their children to grow up in, are already bearing the brunt of such measures aimed at scrutinizing their past and future intentions.
Intolerance is also starting to brew with the help of extreme right wing parties across Europe.
The new recruitment
France’s Marine Le Pen and her National Front Party is an example where success at local elections is only won thanks to Daesh (An Arabic acronym for ISIS). The attacks on Paris have brought out people’s fears, raising Islamophobia among the many who then voted for the extremists. Ironically these parties’ core supporters in my view are no different than Daesh in their intolerance, racism, and twisted interpretation of history, society, philosophy and theology.
The far right in Europe and America, and their hateful rhetoric are proving a new recruitment catalyst, and worth. It seems that such groups share some common ground with Muslim radicals bent on destroying coexistence in an increasingly open and globalized world.
In 2016, Muslims in the west are again subjected to citizenship and loyalty tests in many parts of the world.
As the level of threats remain high in most western cities, the race is against the clock to vet citizens, mainly those returning from the wars in Syria and Iraq, to eliminate the current and future dangers.
Security experts insist that several dozen radicalized European, and maybe non-European individuals, remain at large in various western cities, tasked with carrying out more attacks.
Intelligence information suggests several such plots have been uncovered. Yet holes remain in the investigations and the search for those would be terrorists will not be carried out in the homes and neighborhoods of Christian white people.
The focus of law enforcement agencies everywhere in 2016 will unfortunately be another Asian Muslim community in North London, the kids from a Parisian suburb populated by second generation North African Muslims, or a housing estate of struggling working class families who once fled persecution in a faraway Muslim land.
For all those reasons, and more, the year ahead will be a bad one for Muslims everywhere. But particularly bad for Muslims in western countries as cities there are on the edge after bloody and barbaric attacks in 2015, and we are told more are likely to come in 2016.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London.