#NoHateNoFear: Justice and remembrance for the victims of terrorism

“We want a Europe that grieves with us,” said Luciana Milani, whose daughter was killed in the Bataclan attack, and who was disappointed that “the Europe we’ve been teaching our children about has not managed to make its voice sufficiently heard.” According to Ms Milani, the European institutions seem opaque and far removed from ordinary citizens and “the message of solidarity is not getting through to the victims’ families; it makes me very sad to have to say this,” she told participants at a #NoHateNoFear event held by the PACE’s political and legal affairs committees. 

Echoing these sentiments, Antoine Leiris, who lost his wife in the Bataclan attack, called for “a European way of honouring the memory of the victims” but also for consideration to be given to introducing a mechanism for recognising and compensating victims. The conferral of such status, which would be the same for all victims, may then help to change the way terrorism is perceived.

“When I launched this initiative in June 2016, I wanted to pay tribute to the victims of terrorist attacks. How can we reassure and show a moral example to our citizens in the face of this general sense of fear and hatred terrorists are trying to create? Would our society be able to take with it this message and give a democratic response to the terrorism threat? #NoHateNofear invites all members of society not to give into hatred and fear, but to resist and defend – with even greater vigour – our principles and ideals, » PACE President Pedro Agramunt stressed.

“This initiative to combat the hatred and fear which are currently spreading in our countries can only succeed if it is based on empathy between individuals, peoples and the institutions which represent them,” pointed out Ms Milani.

As far as Mr Leiris is concerned, “#NoHateNoFear is just the start. Acknowledging fear is the only way to help our fellow citizens not to succumb to it.” He went on to explain that “terrorism seeks to sow lasting fear within communities. Fear arises from an external event but it immediately acquires a personal resonance that strikes very deep within each of us. Fear feeds on our wounds, our fantasies and, above all, our ignorance. Fear is like music. The notes that go into it are written in the ink of what we are. We have to listen carefully in order to be able to understand and transcend it.”

“The #NoHateNoFear initiative confirms today that all terrorist acts are attacks against the type of society that our pan-European Organisation has aimed at building since the end of the Second World War, a society free of hate and free of fear,” Mogens Jenssen (Denmark, SOC) recalled.

“The threat of terrorism curtails normal activities, heightens suspicion and promotes prejudice. That is precisely what the terrorist intends. Strong laws can help reduce the fear and hatred that the terrorist seeks to generate by prevention and by punishment, without, however alienating the rest of the population. This matters particularly for Muslims, because as a minority group in most of our societies, they are especially liable to feel targeted by measures, however well-intended, that may seem to be designed more for them than for others,” David Anderson, Q.C., an independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, stressed.

“As Europeans, we have a responsibility not just to enforce laws against terrorism but to protect our own people – Muslims and Muslim converts –from the grievances and crises of identity that can render them vulnerable to the murderous ideology of Salafi jihadism,” he added.

“Hatred is a destructive emotion that eventually rebounds on the hater. It consumes our vital energy and stops us from getting on with our lives,” stressed Ms Milani. Calling for a return to the principles of “solidarity, community and civilisation that have guided us along our path since the days of ancient Greece,” Ms Milani pointed to the important work being done by schools in this area but also to the ambitious European project which helped us overcome the hatred and destruction of the Second World War.

A similar message of hope was expressed by Antoine Leiris: “We are not helpless in the face of terrorism. After the attacks, I saw people pick up their lives again. They did so despite their fear. They were conscious of it. What they were not aware of, however, was the strength that drove them to get back to normal life so quickly. Each one of these normal everyday activities is actually an act of defiance. The ranks of those who believe that life is sacred outnumber the forces of death. In order to not fear death, one has to be really afraid of life. If we promise death to a terrorist, we are effectively giving them what they want. If we give them freedom, and life, it is a way of making ourselves indestructible.”

For David Anderson’s “laws against terrorism can only treat the symptoms”, therefore “practising tolerance but knowing its limits” is essential. “People resent newcomers who do not conform to their customs, but are unsure which of their own values they are allowed to defend, and which must give way to the perceived demands of multiculturalism or human rights.”

“But what should we tolerate, and what should we not? I will suggest three principles. First - confidence in setting limits. Tolerance does not extend to expressions of religious belief that unjustifiably restrict the rights of others. Second - confidence in applying the laws we have. Radicalisers cannot be allowed to incite murder, radicalise the young, finance violent jihad and train people for it. Failure to investigate or to prosecute corruption, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual abuse and so-called honour crimes should never be excused, or tolerated, by misplaced respect for cultural difference. Third - humility: an acceptance that the battle for hearts and minds is an impossible one to direct. Human rights do not hamper the fight against terrorism and extremism: they underline its legitimacy,” David Anderson emphasized.

Alain Destexhe (Belgium, ALDE) concluded the debate, inviting the participants to continue supporting the #NoHateNoFear initiative and in particular to consider the issue of remembrance and to look at introducing a specific status for victims of terrorism.