Last Friday marked a day of triumph for the people of France. Salah Abdeslam, a suspected ISIS terrorist involved in the Paris attack of November 2015, was captured after a raid on his hideout in Brussels, Belgium. Apparently, Abdeslam had been living among the unsuspecting people of Belgium since before the attacks in Paris. He had returned to Brussels, his birthplace, to hide from police. His arrest took less than 10 minutes. Ten minutes to capture one of the most feared and wanted men in Europe.
Abdeslam’s face is young, clean-shaven. He is only 26 years old. Imagine the stereotypical visage of a terrorist. Is he young or old? Does he have a beard? Gray hair? Is his face distinctive or completely unremarkable? Perhaps the terrorist is not a man at all, but female? Judging by the recent terrorist attacks across the world, from San Bernardino, California, to Paris, France, it is safe to assume that a terrorist can fit any description imaginable.
Terrorists. They look a lot like us. They could be anywhere. Walking down a crowded sidewalk. Standing in line at the grocery store. Looking for a book in the public library. They don’t necessarily have to be affiliated with any particular group. According to the FBI, the definition of domestic terrorism includes any acts that “violate federal or state law,” “intimidate a civilian population” and “occur primarily within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” This definition could apply to a broad spectrum of threats. In fact, according to FBI data from 1980 to 2005 the rate of Islamist-related acts of terrorism fell behind those of “Latino groups, Extreme left-wing groups, and Jewish extremists.”
Additionally, a study conducted by Europol found that less than 2 percent of the acts of terrorism committed in the European Union have been religiously affiliated. To put this in perspective, the threat of terrorism has many faces.
How do we separate the wolves from the sheep? Every first-world power has its own system of national security, such as the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation. A major component of their purpose is to locate and extinguish threats such as these. But these organizations would be limited to domestic affairs without the cooperation of neighboring countries. This need for collaboration is one of the principle causes behind the birth of the United Nations.
The United Nations is comprised of 193 member states in a commitment to work against these global threats. Acts of terrorism on both global and state levels have been stifled through the efforts of this league. United Nations emphasizes the need to cut off financing to known terrorist organizations, combats terrorism from within each country, and strives to maintain a defense of human rights as the center of its mission.
While this organization has set the groundwork for a working global environment against international threats, it is only by complete support and implementation of these statutes that the fight against terrorism can be successful.
France has requested that Belgium allow Salah Abdeslam to be extradited and held on trial in the same country where he committed his offenses. While his lawyer, Belgian native Sven Mary, may staunchly refuse this request, ultimately Belgium will cooperate with France. In a statement by a spokesman for the Belgian federal prosecutor’s office, “sooner or later he will be extradited to France.”
This is an issue that stretches beyond state boundaries. While the acts of terrorism were committed in France, the threat of ISIS impacts all of us. The point we need to draw from all of these events is the simple truth that we cannot ever be fully prepared against a silent enemy unless we cooperate across cultural and political boundaries.