PARIS — There was something atrocious and yet, at the same time, terribly ordinary about the scene. A few days before Christmas, a dozen people killed and some 50 more wounded by a truck at a Christmas market in Berlin. It felt like déjà vu after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel had driven into crowds in Nice on Bastille Day. Once again, a public celebration will chosen as a target to spread terror and trauma among ordinary citizens.
But Europe has its practiced way of talking about these incidents. Some will say that it's an isolated act. We'll sing in unison that this has nothing to do with Islam. Others will suggest, once again, that the West had it coming, though one can wonder what Germany is guilty of. Faced with Islamism, the media establishment chooses denial. It takes the reality out of events, spreads them across thousands of news items in the miscellaneous section and bars us from putting a name on the war being waged against the West.
Still, this attack falls in line with the sequence of terrorist attacks linked with what happened in Paris, in November 2015. Islamist terrorism wants to show it can strike anywhere. It no longer targets individuals or institutions as was the case with Charlie Hebdo, but anybody and everybody, by turning a simple truck into a ram of death. In these blind attacks, anyone can be a target. In the total war being waged against Western civilization, the simple fact of being a member of it is enough to be guilty and sentenced to death.
Just another day
What we witnessed in Berlin is in fact just another ordinary act of terror. Once again, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. Whether it was really planned from afar or whether it's the result of a more or less spontaneous undertaking, there's one thing we can be certain of: Islamist propaganda is haunting European civilization and is capable of enflaming deadly passions.
And yet, this wasn't exactly a blind attack. The fact that the target was a Christmas market brings Europe back to a part of itself it no longer knows what to do with, its Christian roots. Those who attack Europe want to hit the most intimate part of its identity. More and more often, Christian symbols are the target.
Let's remember that in its statement after the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, ISIS said it had targeted "Crusader France." Similarly, the ritual murder of Father Hamel in his church in Normandy in July 2016 left no room for ambiguity regarding its meaning. Europeans are being sprayed with bullets, butchered or plowed down not so much for what they're doing as for who they are. Except they're no longer aware of this part of themselves. The Western world wants to believe it's been attacked because it's democratic, modern and liberal. By doing that, it prevents itself from understanding that there is such a thing as tension between cultures, between civilizations and even between religions: These aren't necessarily cut out to coexist within the same political community.
Visitors walk through the re-opened Christmas market in Berlin, on Dec. 22 — Photo: Michael Kappeler/DPA/ZUMA
The role of politics in this world is not to slide into a sort of multicultural Irenicism, in which all are told to come together under the sign of a happy diversity; but rather it is to build, preserve and guard the protective borders that allow peoples and nations to sustain their historical entity while never denying opportunities to expand productive interactions between them.
We will rightly refuse to reduce the confrontations our world is witnessing to a mere clash of civilizations. Wrongly, we will also refuse to see that it's nonetheless part of the truth.
Those who want to redefine the relevance of borders aren't vultures or demagogues seeking to manipulate peoples' sorrows to isolate them from the rest of the world. Germany is experiencing the predictable consequences of an unbridled humanitarianism in the face of the migrant crisis. Still, the consequences of the open-door policy go beyond Islamist terrorism. You only need to keep in mind what happened on New Year's Eve in Cologne last year to understand the numerous dimensions of a crisis that is not even close to going away.
The time of great military invasions might be behind us, the fact remains that Islamists are driven by a desire of conquest and they believe they can bank on mass immigration to take over Europe. How can European civilization react to this forced mutation if it downplays its significance?
It would be pointless to try to articulate in one paragraph how to respond to this terrorism that has become part of our daily fabric. Still, the Western world would be wrong to assume it can prevent its cultural or political dissolution by merely and ritually repeating its prayers and chants to the glory of diversity. Clearly, it's not just a source of richness. Not all differences are equally appreciable.
As a matter of fact, it is perhaps by embracing what one could call their civilization identity that European nations will be able to find the strength to fight this long war. There's nothing ludicrous in thinking that by turning to the very part of itself that's being attacked, European civilization will find the strength to fight.