Tag Archives: terrorism

At the centre of Europe

Yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Brussels have been immediately described as “terrorism in the heart of Europe“, “an attack in the centre of Europe” and so on. Is Brussels really the centre of Europe? And if the centre of Europe is not in Brussels, where is it? Previously, I’ve looked into the definition of “Central Europe” but I think that is not the same as the “Centre of Europe”.

Numerous attempts were made to define the geographical centre of Europe. The difficulty in agreeing on the “centre” is due to the unclear definition of Europe – the Eastern boundary is simply arbitrary. Other questions are whether islands are to be included or just the mainland. As one can expect, the EU has its own “midpoint”, the location of which is also not undisputed. But if you want to know more about this, just read the Wikipedia page about the topic.

The political centre of Europe is a completely different story. Brussels is often described as the political centre, since many European institutions are located there. However, the European parliament divides its time between Brussels and Strasbourg, the European Central Bank has its headquarters in Frankfurt, Europol is in the Hague, Frontex is in Warsaw – I guess its clear what I mean. Or not, but its Europe, so get used to it.

I propose a different view on the “centre of Europe”, a more statistical one. Where is the centre of a country? In its capital, naturally. Europe does not have a capital, despite all attempts to create one (previous contenders include Paris, Berlin, Rome and Moscow). Therefore, I looked up the location of the capitals of European countries, and calculated the median and mean of their latitude and longitudes. The median and mean are both close to where the borders of Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic meet.

Center of Europe

Map generated using Scribble Maps

The exact location depends on what counts as “European country”, but will not shift by much. Personally, I find this location quite fitting my expectations of the centre of Europe. It also simplifies the definitions of Eastern, Northern, Western and Southern Europe. This definition will not satisfy everyone, but at least it’s obvious that the centre of Europe is not in Brussels. Ain’t that a relief.

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“Charlie Hebdo” = Epic Fail

The events that will probably remain labelled “Charlie Hebdo terror attack” are largely over. The shooting, manhunt and hostage crises are finished, and while some suspects are still at large, victims are not yet buried and wounded are still in hospitals, it is by now possible to start summarizing this tragedy. And I can only summarize it as “Epic Fail”. If you think it is not yet the time for harsh words, or feel that you may otherwise be insulted or offended by what you may think is inappropriate, it is time to stop reading. Because I’m not in the mood to be sensitive. In fact, I even its time to stop being sensitive. Because everybody failed in “Charlie Hebdo”.

We all, as a society, in all European countries have failed. Europe has proved to be a fertile ground for growing increasing numbers of insane fanatics who kill everyone they disagree with. And we’ve failed to find the reasons why and to rectify them.

The Muslim communities of Europe have failed. They have failed to see that turning a blind eye to the spread of militant fanaticism and the hate of the other among them is not making the problem go away. I don’t want to enter the numbers discussion, but studies show that support for IS among some Muslim youth in Europe is less an exception but more of a mainstream. Rather than admit to have a problem, Muslim organizations opt to blame the studies for being “wrong”. They have failed to realize that the hate hurts us all, including Muslims. They have failed to stop the haters among them, by failing to do the only rational thing to do – turn them in. And don’t tell me the Muslims of Europe do not know who the dangerous radicals in their communities are.

The politicians of Europe have failed. They failed to identify and discuss the massive problem that the militant Islamism in Europe presents. They still fail, as they not dare say that militant, radical Islamism is a problem, declaring instead that the terrorists are not Muslims. They are Muslims, bad, violent Muslims, but Muslims nevertheless. Pretending they’re not is rather counter-productive to say the least. And they enjoy support among the Muslim communities, too – see #JeSuisKouachi hashtag.

But to me, the most terrible, the worse fail was the operational one. The French President Holande said “the country is proud of the forces of law and order”. Well, I think there’s very little to be proud of. The forces of law and order have failed miserably all along the way.

The intelligence services have failed. They were tracking the murderers, who were convicted criminals with known extremists ties, and have failed to prevent them from committing the attacks. Why bother have ‘intelligence’ services, why pay them and severe personal freedoms and privacy, if they can’t stop (known!) terrorists before they strike?

The French police has failed to protect Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish community. Despite warnings and previous attacks, the protection was appallingly insufficient. The murderers have basically done as they pleased.

The police officers responding to the various incidents have failed when called upon, getting themselves killed in the process. I can understand how a lone guard at the Charlie Hebdo offices can be overwhelmed by armed terrorists. But how and why the officers responding to the shooting have, instead of taking the shooters out or at least pinning them down until the arrival of more heavily armed units, have allowed them to escape? Why a day after the attack, a known associate of the Kouachi’s shoots and kills a police officer and is able to escape from the scene, in a city literally flooded with security services? Not only was he able to escape, but was also able to take hostages, killing several of them in the process! You’d think that a Jewish supermarket would be heavily guarded a day after the attack on Charlie Hebdo. Adding insult to injury, his girlfriend and accomplice seems to have escaped police and reportedly fled to Syria, where she no doubt will become some sort of celebrity. Furthermore, as the Kouachi’s have taken a hostage of their own, the security forces were unable to prevent the hostage-takers from communicating with each other, making a laughing stock of the efforts of the police negotiators.

About the only thing we can find comfort in, is that the terrorists have failed, too. Yes, they killed several people and frightened many. But if they intended to stop the spread of cartoons depicting the Prophet, they’ve reached the exact opposite. If they intended to reduce the suffering of Muslims, they failed. Because it is Muslims that suffer the most of the hands of fanatics and of the consequences of their actions. If they intended to reach paradise by dying as martyrs, they failed, too. Because if your god is insulted by pictures, but is celebrated by murder – you are worshipping the devil. And your reward will be eternal suffering, because the devil is not known for being good in rewards, even to those who worship him.

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Je suis Charlie

This is not what I imagined my first post in 2015 will be. But I do not think I have much choice. I believe this is the only reasonable answer we can come up with, the only thing that will work. Repeat after me: “Je suis Charlie!”

Faut pas se moquer – Thou shalt not mock

And now that you’ve said it, try to remember these words next time you hear about a terror attack in Israel.

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