For the first time since the Nazi occupation was lifted in 1944, the city of Paris is under curfew. French President Francoise Hollande has declared a state of emergency, called the army onto the streets of Paris and closed French borders. It is hard to imagine that this is happening in a Western European capital.
While the perpetrators and their motives are not yet confirmed eyewitness accounts report that it was the work of Islamic Fundamentalists. ISIS sympathizers on twitter have already taken to celebrating. [Editor's Note: ISIS on Saturday claimed responsibility for the deadly attacks and called them "the first of the storm."]
The attack comes at a particularly perilous time for Europe as the influx of over a million refugees has placed its open border Schengen system under strain and has put incumbent parties on the defensive in Poland and Croatia. France now joins at least six other European nations that have imposed temporary border controls, although it is the first country to do so for terror reasons.
The attack strengthens the voices of those who believe that by providing asylum the people of Europe leave their flank exposed to ISIS infiltrators intent on carrying out terror attacks. A multi-day terror attack in Paris in January of this year swelled the ranks of the National Front, a far-right Islamophobic party in France, and allowed the government to pass a sweeping surveillance law.
This is almost certainly what the perpetrators want. By provoking an anti-Islamic backlash they can derail the delicate process of integrating the large refugee influx and further alienate the French Muslim populations of the Banlieus (suburbs).
However, France doesn’t stand alone in its fight against ISIS or other extremists. In the last two weeks terrorists have struck in Egypt’s Sinai, the Lebanese capital of Beirut and have maintained their reign of terror in Syria and Iraq. Radical terror is a global phenomenon, and those that embrace it have proven adept at striking as far as Ottawa and Sydney.
Caught between the terrorists and their victims are millions of refugees who are most susceptible to the ideology that the terrorists espouse. If we turn our back on them now we risk creating a new cadre of militants who threaten our way of life. Responding to this global threat will require a combination of compassion, firmness and deft diplomacy to bring together the right people and countries that can tackle the problem at its roots.