By Elham Manea, TELOS
It is becoming difficult lately to turn on the news. And I do not just mean the American presidential elections. The year 2020 was and still is a hard one. COVID-19 has dominated our lives with its limitations. But it has also welded people together in every corner of the world in the fight against a persistent and ultimately deadly virus. This struggle, this common challenge, has united us and yet divided us. We are still irritated by the lockdowns, afraid of their economic repercussions, and divided in our ideological fronts. Times like these are worrying and provide fertile ground for conspiracy theorists and right-wing and left-wing extremist groups.
In times like these, our societies can all too easily become polarized, and we run the risk of being trapped in a discourse of division, trapped in identity boxes. “Us” versus “Them.”
The Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris, Nice, Dresden, and Vienna give precisely this impression: the impression that Europe is involved in a kind of clash of civilizations. Islam against the West. The West against Islam. Muslims against Europe. Europe against Muslims.
We should be careful about these binary depictions. Those who are pushing for such discourse are often a minority, aiming for polarization not unity. Those who are pushing for this discourse of division are often religious far-right groups—functionaries of Islamism—or far-right groups in Europe.