Last night, while Donald Trump was outlining his plans to ban all Muslims from entering the United States, I found myself standing with thousands of Parisians singing along to Patti Smith’s hymn to democracy, The People Have The Power, as the Eagles of Death Metal made their triumphant return to the French capital following the attack on their concert on November 13.
The American rock band were sharing the stage with U2 who had invited them to close out their show with a surprise appearance at the AccorHotels Arena, less than two miles from the Bataclan. Say what you like about Bono but the man has a better understanding of how to effectively oppose the designs of ISIS at home than the current front runner for the Republican presidential nomination.
Trump’s increasingly incendiary language around Muslims is surely more than even ISIS could have hoped for when they were plotting their murderous activities. With allies like Trump, happy to propose draconian sanctions on their own people, the terrorists don’t have to try that hard to destroy the long fought for freedoms of the West. It is no surprise Trump’s intervention has been described as fascist by his opponents. As LBC Radio’s Andrew Pierce pointed out on Twitter, Trump’s bizarre plan would see the British Government’s own Secretary of State for Business unable to enter the United States of America. Mo Farah would also not be welcome.
Bono on the other hand took the completely opposite path on Monday night. In a tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks, the names of all the deceased were projected onto a giant screen in the centre of the arena in the colours of the Tricolour. Bono draped the French flag over the band’s drum kit and made frequent reference to the solidarity the world shared with Paris. There were tears in the eyes of people around me as he sang “Ne Me Quitte Pas” (Don’t Leave Me) in French. But in a poignant moment he also said that, although it was hard, we must spare a thought for the families of the terrorists who have lost loved ones to a perversion of a beautiful religion. In the capital of a country reeling from Islamist aggression and sandwiched in the process of voting for Marine Le Pen’s National Front in regional elections, that was a difficult, and maybe even brave thing to say. But it’s the right approach if we really want to defeat ISIS’ twisted strategy and ideology. If liberal Westerners start turning on their Muslim neighbours then the terrorists have already beaten us. The one thing that non-Muslims like me can do to strike a blow to ISIS is to embrace a Muslim, to share a smile or a meal with one, to show them welcome and community rather than hostility. In the battle for the heart and mind of Islam we should do all we can to help the peaceful and moderate majority. Those who advocate for animosity and pedal hatred are complicit in the terrorists schemes.
Ukip may be in retreat in the UK, as Lewis James Brown wrote at CapX last week, but the anti immigrant agenda and mistrust of the foreigner is alive and well in the UK and across the western world. Whether it be Trump, Le Pen or Germany’s Pegida there are plenty of voices happy to collaborate with the Islamists in stoking the fires of religious hatred.
But the good news is the rest of us can undermine this unholy alliance with daily acts of defiance, exercising our freedom to offer the hand of friendship. As Bono and 16,000 Parisians sang last night “Love over fear.”