2016 was a fine year for Islamist terrorism and an even finer year for Western political distraction. While Islamic terrorists repeatedly succeeded in carrying out mass-casualty terrorist attacks, as well as a constant run of smaller-scale strikes, the political leadership of the free world continued to try to divert their public.
The most striking example of the year came in the summer with the French debate over whether or not to ban the “burkini” from the beaches of France. The row erupted in the days after another 86 people were murdered in a jihadist terrorist assault — this time in Nice, France. With no one sure how to prevent access to vehicles or any idea how many French Muslims might want to follow suit, the French media and authorities chose to debate an item of beachwear. The carefully staged decision by an Australian Muslim woman to have herself filmed while wearing a burkini on a French beach ignited the row, which was eagerly seized upon by politicians.
At the local and national level, the decision to discuss the burkini allowed all the larger political issues behind Europe’s growing security problem to be ignored. In the wake of Nice, there should have been a fulsome public discussion over what if anything can be done to ensure that people who have been in France for many years — in some cases their entire lives — are not indoctrinated to hate the country so much that they drive a truck through a crowded sea-front on Bastille Day. Or there could have been a wide public debate over whether, with so many radicalised Muslims already in France, it was a wise or foolish idea to continue to import large numbers of Muslims into this already simmering situation.
As it was, neither of these debates did occur, and no meaningful political action was taken. Instead, the issue of the burkini sucked all the oxygen out of the debate, leaving no room to discuss anything more serious or longer term than beachwear.
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