Studio guest Sergei Oznobnischev, Director of the Institute for Strategic Assessment and Deputy-Chairman of the “Russia-USA” Association (studio guest), Anna Nivat, prominent author (Paris), Henrik Lerke, News Anchor at the Danish TV, David Stupples, Professor at the City University, London.
Is this really a clash of civilizations, what is your take on this?
Sergei Oznobnischev: I would say that this is the clash of representatives of the civilizations. And this clash is going on for quite a period of time already. In fact, this is the clash of ideologies. You believe is some values and in some kind of God, and you don’t let others to interfere into this ideology.
Some people inside France are saying that they will continue to fight. How France is going to handle this problem?
Anna Nivat: That is actually the biggest problem at the moment. The reality is that France is completely divided and is totally in denial of what is the meaning of what has happened. It is not only a question of the freedom of expression. It is not only a question of terrorism. It is a question of how do we live together in France today. And that is the question that nobody wants to face. So, there are many, many new questions ahead. And I'm sorry to say, but I don’t see our politicians, for the moment, being able to face it entirely. Everybody is in denial.
But how can it happen that young people who were born in France, who lived in France, all of a sudden they attacked the French citizens and French values?
Anna Nivat: It is just because they don’t believe in those values. And they are not the only ones. There are many people in France who don’t believe in those so-called values. We've been taking too much time in France in the last years, saying that we still possess these values. But in fact, no one really observed and paid attention to the fact that those values were step-by-step disappearing. I'm not saying that they don’t exist in France anymore. And there is nothing new in that. What is new is that people are realizing that we are having problems with ourselves – with our society. And the terrorists that appeared last week are the product of France, exactly in the same way, I would say, like the Tsarnayev brothers in the USA are the product of America. And that is also something that the American society doesn’t want to face.
Where does France go from here? How do the French people move forward with what happened?
Anna Nivat: That’s what I'm saying: for the moment I have no idea where the French people will move. The French people themselves have no idea. You really have to understand that the people here, including myself actually, are totally in a state of disarray. There are many people panicking. Can you imagine, since it happened we have had almost a hundred cases of prosecution of people insulting the police or authorities, and people talking about terrorism publically. And those people are now being put under trial or in jail. So, those moments are happening now and our politicians so far don’t have an answer, except for Marine Le Pen, except for the Front National, unfortunately, although right now she is not speaking out too much.
How does France deal with Islamophobia?
Anna Nivat: There is Islamophobia in France, but it is not new. From my point of view, before hating the Muslim people, they are just afraid of them. And this fear of Muslim people becomes Islamophobia and hatred towards Muslims. And that is something that France, and not only France, but other European countries in which a big part of the population is Muslim, have to face. But those questions have not been faced so far. They were totally tabooed. In France it was an illusion of the good “vivre ensemble” – we all live together well and everybody is integrated. This is a lie; this has not worked so far.
We are struggling to understand whether this can be described as a clash of civilizations?
Anna Nivat: No, I disagree with that, because Huntington’s opinion is very opinionate. I mean, it is very stereotyped and what is happening in France is much more nuanced. We have to try to understand it much more deeply and in detail. It will not be easy. Actually, that is also part of the perplexity of the intellectual people and the journalists, and even the politicians here. It is the level of complexity of this issue that no one really wanted to face, and that now people will be obliged to face. I'm not saying that we have the answers. I'm saying that we are at least obliged to discuss it, but to discuss without hatred is not easy.
I’d like to ask you where this all started? I remember a few years ago there were some Prophet Muhammad cartoons in Copenhagen and there was a terrorist incident, and threats associated with that. Can you draw some parallels between them?
Henrik Lerke: We've had problems with the Muhammad cartoons in Denmark way back in 2006 and a couple of years ago there was an attempted murder on one of the cartoonists. So, when the things happened in Paris recently, of course, it made everybody to remember what happened here in Denmark. So, it made quite an impact.
What happened in Paris, can it be described as a clash of civilizations?
Henrik Lerke: I wouldn’t call it a clash of civilizations. I think we are seeing a group of very frustrated young people being radicalized. And this of course is a very dangerous development. We are also seeing a lot of moderate Muslim organizations trying to deal with this and trying to find the ways to stop these young people from being involved in fighting in Syria and Iraq, and doing terrorist attacks, like the ones we saw in Paris.
How do the Paris attacks reverberate in London, given the 2012 atrocities that occurred? And with your cyber security expertise, even if Charlie Hebdo ceases publication today, these pictures will always be on the Internet, how do we deal with this?
David Stupples: From the point of view of atrocities in Paris, here in London we are just shocked, as we were with our own problems back in the earlier part of this century and our heart goes out to all of the victims. But on the cyber security side, I don’t think that Charlie Hebdo will in fact cease publication, but the pictures will forevermore be beyond the Internet. And there is not very much anyone could do about it. They can be taken off Facebook, the Google might be able to then turn around and say – well, we’ll take them down as well. But they will just be put back up again, and they will just continue. So, forevermore they will be there. Whether it sinks in people’s memories if people don’t look at them, I would suspect that it would always be reasonably popular to do so.
We know that social networks are a powerful tool in the hands of terrorists and social networks don’t have a nationality. What can be done in practical terms to avoid such things?
David Stupples: In some countries it is banned to take these images from the Internet and publish them. And it is also banned to put it out on a social media. For instance, in the UK, if these images were broadcasted, say, on Twitter, it would be against the law because of incitement and the organization itself would be asked to remove them. And I'm sure they will. But it is a cat and mouse game, because there are many parts of the Internet which are anonymous. And so, therefore, these images will continue to appear.