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Connecting The Dots: Ankara, Berlin And Zurich – OpEd


By Faisal J. Abbas*


Monday’s atrocious attacks that targeted civilians at a Christmas market in Berlin and Muslims praying in a mosque in Zurich resemble two sides of the same coin of hatred. Both acts of terrorism should be condemned, and neither should be tolerated.

Monday was an exceptionally sad day, given that on the same night Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was brutally assassinated in a chilling televised scene that many only thought could happen in James Bond movies.

“The world has become a scary place,” is what you often hear people repeat in such circumstances. To a certain extent they are correct, as nobody can disagree that such developments are worrisome. However, I am not so sure they spell the end of time just yet.

Our world has always been subject to acts of violence, war, crime and terrorism. Perpetrators of such gruesome acts could be governments such as Syria’s, organized criminal groups such as the mafia, clean-shaven white men such as the 1996 Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, and of course the likes of Daesh and Al-Qaeda supporters, who terrorize in the name of religion.

Yet we should not allow all this to distract us from the other realities and positive developments on the ground. For example, both Turkey and Russia have shown tremendous maturity and self-restraint in dealing with the aftermath of the assassination, and the meeting between the Russians and Turks to discuss a possible solution for Syria still took place.


In Switzerland and across Europe, many took to social media to show solidarity with Muslim fellow citizens, and made it a point to say what happened in Zurich is just as bad as what happened in Berlin.

These are extremely good reactions that should not be ignored, as one could easily be dragged into focusing on those who celebrated both awful incidents, whether right-wing Christian extremists or pro-Daesh Islamic fundamentalists. The reality is that neither group represents the majority of either faith.

As for Berlin, I write these lines only four days after I was there to attend the annual conference of one of the city’s great institutions: The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy (ICD). What was surreal was that the discussions at the conference, which concluded a day prior to the Berlin Christmas market attack, focused on how to nurture discussions between different cultures and help eliminate misunderstandings.

The ICD runs impressive programs aiming to promote human rights and combat discrimination. As one can imagine, the Middle East and North Africa (including Syria, Iraq and the refugee crisis) featured heavily in the discussions. At the event, you run into progressive politicians, tolerant religious figures, courageous lawmakers and impressive thinkers who, if they ran the world, would certainly make it a better one.

The problem is that the tolerant, rational approach of such individuals cannot compete with a populist, sensationalist one in a post-truth era, and targeting innocent people at a Christmas market does not make their job in standing up to the far-right easier. We have seen plenty of the bad and ugly rise to power this year, so let us pray — and work hard — to ensure that 2017 brings in a bit more of the good!

*Faisal J. Abbas is the editor-in-chief of Arab News. He can be reached on Twitter @FaisalJAbbas

Arab News

Arab News is Saudi Arabia's first English-language newspaper. It was founded in 1975 by Hisham and Mohammed Ali Hafiz. Today, it is one of 29 publications produced by Saudi Research & Publishing Company (SRPC), a subsidiary of Saudi Research & Marketing Group (SRMG).

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