Istanbul attack shows terror is closer than we think

The terror attacks may be local but the reach of the pain they cause are global

Abdullah Hamidaddin
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For some of us the few hours before and after a new year will always be associated with tragedy. Turkey, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia were all targets of terror attacks claiming the lives of many and turning the festivities and optimism of welcoming the new year into tears and fear from the worse to come.

The attacks were local, but the reach of the pain they caused were global. In Istanbul tourists from more than one country were killed, and families around the world were mourning. The attacks on the Reina nightclub claimed the lives of people from 14 countries. Many of the victims were Saudis.


I personally do not know anyone of those killed, but I know people who know some of them. They were not only saddened by the deaths, or angered by its senselessness; they were also afraid for themselves and their immediate loved ones.

As one put it: “No place is safe, no country is safe, they can hurt us no matter how far we are.” This is what globalized terrorism is. It is not merely having global networks with the capacity to strike in different countries; rather it is the capacity to generate fear in everyone around the world.

I am from Saudi Arabia, a country that had been the target of many terrorist attacks in the past. But we’ve felt safe in the past partly due to the remarkable efforts of the security apparatus, but also partly due to a naivety that if we are safe from terrorists in our countries then we have little or nothing to worry about. This is wrong. If anyone, anywhere, is not safe, then we should worry.

We seem to forget that ideas are rarely, if ever, local. We hear of radical ideas in another country or region in the world, and say to ourselves this is not here

Abdullah Hamidaddin

Effectiveness of striking fear

Terrorism stems from socio-political frustrations, but is guided by an idea that legitimizes killing innocent people to further one’s cause, and as importantly an idea that convinces the would be terrorist of the effectiveness of striking fear into the public.

We are constantly reminded of being vigilant, and we keep hearing things like “if you see something say something” but we are not encouraged enough to be vigilant about ideas, and many of us do not feel an immediate responsibility to act against ideas.

Part of the problem is that we got accustomed to certain ideas to the point where we aren’t provoked when hearing them. We grew up attending mosque sermons that call for the destruction of others and we listened through our lives to preachers cursing sinners. Many of us do not agree with that, but having listened it so often we are no longer aware of the gravity of such statements.

Sometimes we are not aware of such statements being uttered. But while we are listening to a sermon unaware of what’s being said, someone sitting near us may not be.

Radical ideas aren’t local

Another part of the problem is that we seem to forget that ideas are rarely, if ever, local. We hear of radical ideas in another country or region in the world, and say to ourselves this is not here.

But what is “here” in the world of the Internet and social media? And what is “here” in a world of global movement of people? If an idea starts spreading in an another country, we do not worry.

We say to ourselves its “here” and it’s not our problem. But it is our problem, and its effect will hurt us. If not by hurting us immediately in our own countries, then by hurting us or those we love in other countries.

Globalized terrorism aims to strike terror in everyone. We are all legitimate targets. Governments are responsible for the security approach to fighting terrorism. We should take responsibility for the intellectual approach.

We can do this, not just by deconstructing the ideas that legitimize or encourage terrorism, but at least by standing out and rejecting all utterances of hate toward anyone anywhere.
Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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