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Commentary \ The Seduction of Simplicity: Popular Claims Following the Paris Attacks.

Release date: 2015-12

Elvan Isikozlu, researcher at BICC, comments on the aftermath of the Paris attacks. She argues that “the discourse following the attacks has been full of generalisations, oversimplifications and dichotomies, none of which help to better grasp who and what we in the West are dealing with.”She comes to the conclusion that “none of the popular claims following from the Paris attacks actually help anyone to understand IS and how to stop them.” Instead she underlines: “We need to keep asking difficult questions to widen the scope of available political and social responses to IS—ones that IS wouldn’t see coming.”

It is exactly three weeks since people with links to so-called Islamic State (IS) opened fire on the streets in Paris, killing and wounding hundreds, devastating many more.

As researchers on peace and conflict, we are often asked for answers on how to solve the world’s problems, how to end violence and build peace. Unfortunately there are no simple answers to these questions. We can offer knowledge—knowledge that can deepen our understanding of world events, knowledge to widen the choices and decisions to be made. Ours is a business of asking the right questions and building knowledge for informed action.

Which is why, as our collective grief after the Paris attacks settles into acceptance, the challenge for us researchers is to make sure that the new reality being accepted is not based on simplistic understandings. This is what officials and popular news media across Europe and North America are largely offering to the public. The discourse following the attacks has been full of generalisations, oversimplifications and dichotomies, none of which help to better grasp who and what we in the West are dealing with.