Catherine Bearder MEP writes…Our best weapons against terrorism are unity, tolerance and compassion

Last Friday’s sickening Paris attacks shocked us all. They weren’t just attacks on France, but attacks on our shared values and way of life. Seeing such horrific tragedy being inflicted on a city that so many of us associate with joy, love and freedom has been deeply upsetting. At the same time, it has been profoundly moving to see the courage and resilience of the French people and the solidarity shown with them from around the world, including in the UK.

When emotions run high, it is important that our responses are made with great care and with a cool head. Most of all, we must remember that the central aim of these attacks was to sow division and conflict in our societies.

Provoking resentment against refugees and Muslims, as is being done by the likes of the Daily Mail with its despicable cartoon likening refugees to rats, is exactly what these terrorists want. This fosters a cycle of prejudice and hatred, playing into the hands of the far right and extremists across Europe. We as Liberals must not fall into this trap, but fight it at every turn.

Of course, it is crucial that steps are immediately taken to improve security and intelligence cooperation across the EU. Britain needs to help in these actions to combat terrorism. It appears that vital intelligence has not always being properly shared or acted upon by national security services. We need more sharing of information and terror watch lists across EU countries to help us stay one step ahead and prevent future attacks. That means more, not less European cooperation. Rather than blanket mass surveillance, we also need greater human resources for counter-terrorism efforts to keep us safe. More international cooperation is also needed to put in place strict security checks of people arriving at the EU’s external borders, closer surveillance of EU citizens trying to return from Syria and proper assessment of refugees so they can be given the help they need.

But we must not shut the door on those vulnerable refugees who are fleeing the very same kind of atrocities we saw last week in Paris. Nothing shattered the hateful worldview of ISIS more than the sight of Syrian refugees being warmly welcomed into Europe. Our strongest weapons against this twisted ideology are not bombs, but unity, tolerance and compassion.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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  • “Nothing shattered the hateful worldview of ISIS more than the sight of Syrian refugees being warmly welcomed into Europe”

    Except that that “warm welcome” was how they managed to get key people into Europe to carry out the attacks in the first place.

    Do we have any evidence whatsoever that their world view has been “shattered”?

    I seriously think that the Lib Dems’ stance on this whole issue has been one of the main reasons why we are still languishing at 6-7% in the polls when we should be making real progress on the back of Labour’s self destruction and the Tories’ potential unpopularity as the new round of cuts hits home.

  • Does’t address the very real concerns many have that terrorists are coming in amongst the refugees.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 22nd Nov '15 - 11:25am

    This Churchill/Chamberlain polarisation is pretty toxic and needs to be challenged. People need to use actual facts in making their arguments rather than try to dismiss and discredit those who think differently. Is it too much to ask for a bit of intelligent debate rather than name calling, John Marriott?

  • “This Churchill/Chamberlain polarisation is pretty toxic and needs to be challenged.”

    I don’t think it’s as much toxic as it is inaccurate. ISIS, however much we might despise it, is not Hitler and the nazis.

    The question is, how is it best defeated in its”home” territory while preserving the human rights and safety both of Syrian and UK citizens? I don’t think Catherine Bearder comes anywhere near answering that question.

  • What happened in Paris last week was a hate crime – one of the worst such crimes in Europe since the war – perpetrated by a handful of psychopaths who happened to be Muslims, and who showed zero tolerance and compassion towards the non-Muslims who were their primary targets. The also showed no regard for any fellow Muslims – at least five, maybe more – unlucky enough to get in the way of their bullets.

    So how come Catherine Bearder’s call for greater “tolerance” is directed specifically at non-Muslims? Should this not be a two-way process – isn’t greater tolerance required on all sides? Why is it only non-Muslim folk who receive these kinds of lectures from liberal politicians after terrorist atrocities, regardless of whether the attacks were committed by Muslims or white supremacists?

    By focussing entirely on intolerance towards Muslims, this kind of article itself plays into the hands of the terrorists, because it’s helping reaffirm their “hateful worldview” in which Muslims are always under attack from non-Muslims. A good example being this :-

    “Provoking resentment against refugees and Muslims, as is being done by the likes of the Daily Mail with its despicable cartoon likening refugees to rats”

    I’m normally the last person to defend the Daily Mail, and I think it was unwise of them to publish this cartoon in the current climate. But it’s unfair and inaccurate to claim that the cartoon likens refugees to rats. It should be obvious to anybody with any familiarity of the last week’s news that the rats shown are meant to represent terrorists sneaking in under cover of genuine refugees. The rats do not represent refugees. Any Muslim who reads this article and hasn’t seen the cartoon will go away wrongly thinking that one of Britain’s most popular newspapers is likening Muslims to rats. Not a great way of promoting tolerance and understanding between communities.

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Nov '15 - 12:16pm

    Good on improving security and proper assessment of refugees, but unless we want to be subjugated and possibly even killed then ammunition is part of the answer.

    I support targeted airstrikes.

  • RC and Otty T
    The attackers in Paris were French citizens. The Syrian passport probably belonged to a dead Syrian soldier killed in the civil war in Syria.
    To get western countries to bomb Syria in retaliation was the hope of these attackers.More bombing creates more recruits on the ground. Daesh has been gaining ground not losing ground since the French and American bombing.

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Nov '15 - 12:54pm

    @ RC,
    The issue of borders is an important one. You mention defeating ISIS in its home territory, but isn’t it the case that it doesn’t accept that it has ‘home borders’ , especially not the ones imposed by the British and French after the first world war?

    The twisted, warped slaughterers of ISIS would not be able to exist unless there was a great deal of sympathy, if not for their methods, but for their cause, much of it in countries that are now supposedly part of an alliance to defeat it. Given that this sympathy knows no borders, I don’t see how bombing its ‘home territory, with the inevitable loss of civilian life will improve matters. It seems to me to be failing to deal with the root cause.

  • For anyone that doesn’t keep up with the Daily Mail’s offending cartoons, yertis :

    I agree with much of Stuart’s post, overplaying the offence caused by a cartoon plays into the terrorists hands. Catherine is doing what she’s warning us against, just against the right wing rather than Muslims. Either way, it feeds the cycle of hatred and fear she speaks of.

    >I support targeted airstrikes.

    OK, which targets and why?

    >unless we want to be subjugated and possibly even killed then ammunition is part of the answer

    I see, so you see this as a “kill or be killed” situation? The Paris attack killed 130 people – if they attacked Paris every day at that rate it would take 47 years to kill all Parisians. I think you’re overstating the threat considerably – you’re far more likely to die by suicide. Should we lock everyone up because they’re the most likely suspect in their own hypothetical murder? The odds are none of these things will come to pass, so using an extremely unlikely hypothetical as your justification for mass murder seems particularly flimsy, I’m glad you’re not talking about somewhere my family live!

  • @Manfarang
    “To get western countries to bomb Syria in retaliation was the hope of these attackers.”

    There is no evidence for that. Islamic State’s (alleged) statement claiming responsibility for the attacks said the complete opposite, threatening “crusader states” that they would continue to be targets until they stop interfering in Syria. Psychopathic though IS may be, we have no reason to conclude that they don’t mean what they say.

  • whether terrorists are arriving amongst refugees is irrelevant since they are going to get here anyway. You sign on to a liberian or panama registered ship and disappear when it docks here. Port security can never be tight enough. There are many ways of entering countries without the authorities. Known suspected terrorists don’t want to mingle with refugees because of the checks.

    If the syrian community are welcome and onside it is in their own interest to give up any suspicious characters in their midst. We should also remember that nearly all western terrorists are home grown. They often train in Somali, Pakistan, Yemen or Syria but they are from here. To be a terrorist you have to know your territory, the weak spots, what the official response is.

  • Stuart 22nd Nov ’15 – 1:43pm…………@Manfarang………..“To get western countries to bomb Syria in retaliation was the hope of these attackers.”……………………..There is no evidence for that. Islamic State’s (alleged) statement claiming responsibility for the attacks said the complete opposite, threatening “crusader states” that they would continue to be targets until they stop interfering in Syria. Psychopathic though IS may be, we have no reason to conclude that they don’t mean what they say…………………….

    I don’t believe that stopping ‘interfering’ in Syria (or anywhere else) would affect their decision to attack ‘Western countries/Values…It is THEIR interpretation of the Koran that means they find our way of life offensive enough to want to destroy it.
    However, I don’t believe that ‘bombing them will improve matters; rather the opposite….IMO the arming of Afghan religious fanatics, to fight Russia in the 1980s, sowed the seeds; Bush/Blair watered the crop and, after Libya, we are reaping the harvest…
    We will not eradicate ISIS/Al Qaeda/Boko Haram but we can support governments, even those who we find unpalatable, to contain them….Our best long term bet is to minimise the threat of home grown terrorists by working within their communities…

  • Helen Dudden 22nd Nov '15 - 5:33pm

    I have little faith in the EU. The Brussels 11a and the Hague Convention, have for a very time been causing problems.

    Differences in law. There was a pro bono completed in 2006 on the subject for ECAS, guess what, nothing happened. Good ideas put forward, similar to SOLVIT. Like closer working together.

    I lost faith in a system, I once believed in.

  • Shaun Cunningham 22nd Nov '15 - 6:12pm

    One person with automatic weapon can do a lot of damage. A group of people with automatic weapons can do an awful a lot of damge and I have no wish to see the bloodshed in Paris repeated.

    Sorry we cannot simply say those who carried out the acts in Paris were just simply bad apples. How many bad apples are there out there? The answer is, we do not know. It is clear one bad apple has moved in and out of France undetected at will. The question must be, is that acceptable, the answer surely is NO. It is also clear at least two bad apples entered Europe through Greece, it does not matter whether they were two bad apples out of many apples , there were rotten apples. Anyone who believes we carry on as normal should look the families who have lost their love ones in the eye and find some strength to say Oh well, they were just bad apples. The present world is full of people who wish to do us harm and I expect my government to do all they can to keep me safe. I honest believe this party is out of line with public opinion on this matter. Until this party starts to listen to the public and moves away from protest to a position were the public believes we are a party of government we are not going anywhere. Doesn’t our current poll rating say anything?

  • Eddie Sammon 22nd Nov '15 - 6:43pm

    ChrisB, I’m not justifying mass murder, I’m justifying the military defeat of ISIS. France has found lots of military targets and some of the tweets about them bombing children and hospitals have been lies that anti-war activists have retweeted to prove their points, even though a lot of it is just ISIS propaganda. One time an apparent al-Nusra fighter, who thinks France are worse than ISIS, said France were bombing children, but a journalist on the ground in Raqqa said no civilians were harmed or wounded.

    The point that I am unlikely to be killed by ISIS, especially I suppose if I keep my mouth shut, is in my opinion irrelevant. This is not a situation where retaliation just continues the cycle of violence because ISIS are fundamentally violent. Anti-democratic territorial expansionists with no limit on how big they want to be.

    The only decent explanations I have seen for the existence of ISIS are down to economic necessity. We should listen to economic concerns, but that still doesn’t justify their totalitarian violence.

    Even if ISIS had only killed one person I would still support their military defeat. When someone says they are going to instil anti-democratic totalitarian rule by force how far do they have to succeed before people say “that’s enough”. I also think the slow speed at which Britain and others have acted encourages others to try to do the same thing.

    Of course it is a difficult situation, but whilst the “kill or be killed” situation isn’t very relevant for us now, it is certainly relevant for some of our allies and we should support them. Of course, ISIS also have the option of surrender, but they won’t.

    The alternative to airstrikes seems to be western boots on the ground, but in a just war, which this would be, I think the soldiers count as civilian deaths too and most agree we shouldn’t risk our own soldiers if possible. Regards.

  • Shaun Cunningham 22nd Nov '15 - 7:13pm

    BREAKINGBBC sees bomber’s ID
    Posted at 18:55
    The BBC understands that the picture released today of the third suicide bomber outside the Stade de France is a man known as M al Mahmod. He entered the Greek island of Leros on 3 October with another attacker called Ahmad al Mohammad.

    The BBC’s Ed Thomas looked at the arrival papers of a man called M al Mahmod in Leros. The photograph in those papers looked identical to the picture released by French investigators today. Al Mahmod bought ferry tickets with al Mohammad to leave Leros and journey through Europe with Syrian refugees.

    What does this say?

  • Jayne Mansfield 22nd Nov '15 - 8:43pm

    @ Eddie Sammon,
    ‘The only decent explanations I have seen for the existence of ISIS are down to economic necessity’. No Eddie, there is no decent explanation for the existence of ISIS and in my opinion one should not attempt to offer one.

    I profoundly disagree with Catherine. It is my opinion that we have been too tolerant of people in our midst who have values that are incompatible with civilised society, and too often we have been cowed by the accusation of Islamophobia. when we dared to raise objections. Those of us, myself included, who have allowed this situation to develop must take the blame for the distrust that decent Muslims, the overwhelming majority, now face from some quarters.

    Tonight I will be watching a programme, ISIS:The British Women Supporters Unveiled’, on Channel 4. It is an undercover investigation by a groups of brave young Muslim reporters.

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Nov '15 - 9:10pm


    It tells me that there is a small but significant threat of terrorism from people who have entered Europe carrying fake Syrian passports, but a much larger one from people born and brought up in Europe.

    If that says to you “take no more refugees” then it must also say “deport all Muslims from Europe, even if they were born here”. Hopefully not many on this forum would agree with that…

    I agree with Catherine Bearder that the only effective way to deal with this threat which is already in our midst is to engage fully with Muslim communities and support the voices within those communities that condemn Islamic State and related organisations. Isolating them will only make things worse, as will behaving inhumanely to refugees fleeing real danger.

    As for military action, the track record is not promising (Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan…), and we should take an evidence-based approach to what we do. We do NOT face a threat similar to that of Hitler in 1939 and comparisons with that era are a bit foolish…

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Nov '15 - 9:15pm

    Meanwhile it is pretty clear that the uppermost thought in Cameron’s mind is to try and embarrass Jeremy Corbyn just before the Oldham West by-election, if he can. Does anyone really think that adding our bombers to those attacking IS in Syria will make a real difference? We are already attacking them in Iraq, with some success apparently in terms of territory gained from them. It is gesture politics. More planes in Iraq would certainly make just as much difference, and Cameron can do that without any vote if he wishes.

  • nigel hunter 22nd Nov '15 - 11:55pm

    The killers were FRENCH. Equally what I hear is that Muslims in France are not highly regarded, a hotbed to allow extremists. Anywhere where people are isolated, marginalised ,regarded as different can lead to trouble. Isis is loosing territory but not recruits bombing is bringing them in. In killing non believers in their interpretation of Islam is valid. Cameron is using jesture politics, scoring points . UKIP and the Conservatives will gain support from the troubles and the fear of terrorism, No security that is set up is 100% safe .An idea of a Caliphate will be there even when ISIS is no more. In the end maybe an IRA sort of solution will be needed in the area.

  • nigel hunter 22nd Nov '15 - 11:57pm

    The party will have to come to terms with the present feelings that are prevelant in the country but work for a lasting solution.

  • nigel hunter 23rd Nov '15 - 12:46am

    To help people to keep away from trouble they must feel that they belong to the society they live in and that they have hope for their future.

  • Personally, I think it’s easy to see what you want to see in these situations and there are no quick fix solutions. There’s probably far less central planning involved than there sometimes appears to be and possibly has more to do with loose groups with mixed motives rather than anything that concrete.

  • Paul Kennedy 23rd Nov '15 - 8:21am

    Any thoughts on the tolerant and compassionate response to the case of the Kurdish teenage runaway who has been jailed for 21 months for supposedly going to fight IS ?

  • Paul Kennedy 23rd Nov ’15 – 8:21am……………Any thoughts on the tolerant and compassionate response to the case of the Kurdish teenage runaway who has been jailed for 21 months for supposedly going to fight IS ?…………

    Hang on. Surely, she’s an adult and equally capable of making such a decision as a 35 yo man; so shouldn’t be treated equally? ….Anyway, on another thread we are all for 16 yos being given the same treatment…Or does that only apply to making a decision on voting?

  • Ronald Murray 23rd Nov '15 - 11:53am

    I do not feel airstrikes are the only answer, soldiers on the ground are the only way to win a war. However this has to be a UN supported plan involving Western Allies and Russia and the moderate arab states preferably ones who do not regularly legally butcher prisoners in public. In addition I think many Islamic states and groups are still in the middle ages finding using Quran statements saying it is OK to behead and kill non believers if you cannot convert them. It is not the whole Quran. Like many terrorists killing their own people does not bother them. Yes we must take the refugees meantime but make it possible for them to return home in peace. The problem as has been said is not Islam but the crazy groups abusing their teachings supported by many sympathetic countries.

  • Shaun Cunningham 23rd Nov '15 - 8:48pm

    Andrew, are you saying we ignore what’s happening and simply do nothing to solve the problem of terrorist walking openly through Europe.

    It does not matter if the passports are fake or genuine, what matters the person who used them blissfully walked through a number of country’s here in Europe disguised as a refugee and then murdered 131 people. Furthermore, over 300 people who were out enjoying themselves were seriously injured. This is a serious issue, please don’t play around making implications sound trivial, we all have to face up to the dangers out there.

    Some people in this party need to stop being a voice of protest and start listening to voters we are trying to win over.

    My view on refugees is a hard one. Yes, you are right, I don’t believe all the people trekking through Europe can be classed as refugees, because they are not. Many are economic migrants, and there is a difference. Many of these people are walking towards a rainbow, jobs, housing, etc. Many will be disappointed. Many are young men looking for a better life.

    I fully support taking refugees from the camps surrounding Syria, we at least know to some degree who they are.

    Regarding your remark about deporting Muslims…. I find that remark offensive. I did not say that or implied it.

    You can agree with Catherine, but on this matter, I do not. We don’t have the luxury of time or space to go down the long road, we need action now, which is why I will be supporting the Government actions in the coming days, because they are right for the security of this country.

  • A Social Liberal 23rd Nov '15 - 10:08pm

    Shaun Cunningham said

    “It does not matter if the passports are fake or genuine, what matters the person who used them blissfully walked through a number of country’s here in Europe disguised as a refugee and then murdered 131 people”.

    With all due respect Shaun, you do not know this. That the passport came through the system is fact, that the holder of the passport (that is, the illegitimate holder) took part in the massacre in Paris is not fact but supposition. There are articles in the broadsheets which make this assertion, and given Da’esh’s wishes to portray the West as modern day crusaders.

  • Andrew McCaig 23rd Nov '15 - 11:21pm


    My point is that by focussing on the refugees as the security threat you are entirely missing the point of where the main threat comes from.

    Sorry if anything I said offended you – I was only pointing out the logical endpoint of your argument, not accusing you of believing it…

    I am surprised to hear you will be supporting the government actions without even knowing what they are going to propose! When we have a motion before Parliament we will know!

    The “long view” here is that virtually every action of the western powers in the Middle East since WW2 has fed the flames of Islamic fundamentalism, not suppressed them. Our own actions have made both the Middle East and our own streets less safe. We should reflect on this a little more before plunging into another bombing campaign with no achievable objective at the end of it

  • Shaun Cunningham 24th Nov '15 - 9:29am

    Good morning Andrew

    I welcome debate, We all have our views and they can be diverse even within our party and there’s nothing wrong in that. Healthy I would say.,

    The logic endpoint in what I have said does not take your suggested path.

    I have long supported military action in Syria. If we acted 3 years ago then the mess we see today could have been adverted in my opinion. No one likes to see military action, but there are times when it is simply being the only answer.

    This barbaric group we see today in Syria and Iraq with their poisonous ideology must be confronted. They say they act in the Muslim faith they do not, they are nothing short than a bunch of thugs, terrorist racketeers who could give a damn about human life.

    There is no excuse for anyone in this country to have the slightest support for them. This country of ours is a tolerant one, but there are limits. I do honestly believe the Muslim Community could and should do more more in combating this contamination to our way of life.

    I am not an expert in the Middle East and when I hear someone who says they are I am usually very sceptical. The Middle East is a hotbed of various religious groupings who are unable to see or practice what their faith teaches them. Love and respect for your neighbour.

    I do hide my views and so hold your breath Andrew, I do not believe the Iraq war was a complete disaster like so many believe it to be and it is not the reason why we have terrorist masquerading as liberators. The Iraq war is no excuse for what we see today in the region.

    The counties of the Middle East are no angles, they need to come together and solve this issue once and for all, they have the resources, equipment all they need is a little backbone

    Today Tim layout his thinking for backing military action in Syria I am not too far away form his thoughts

    Have a good day.

  • @Eddie Sammon

    >I’m not justifying mass murder

    Surely that’s the usual consequence of dropping bombs on civilians? In the last 3 weeks SOHR reports 403 civilians deaths by airstrikes in Syria, 97 of which were children. SNHR reported 526 dead, 137 kids. Src :

    >The point that I am unlikely to be killed by ISIS, especially I suppose
    >if I keep my mouth shut, is in my opinion irrelevant

    Surely you’d consider the level of danger a threat poses to the population a salient factor in deciding on how to tackle it? I think IS want us to respond in the way you’re suggesting, to perpetuate war and struggle, just as the Taliban did before them.

    >Even if ISIS had only killed one person I would still support their military defeat.

    If we attacked every country that a single terrorist had come from we’d be at war with everyone. I’m not saying don’t do anything, I’m saying we need to think it through this time and don’t succumb to this impulse to “just do something!”. I think your position is poorly considered and would lead to many unnecessary civilian deaths and further acts of terrorism, it’s exactly what I fear the most. I expect the number dead in Paris will be a drop in the ocean compared to how many innocent lives will be taken in Syria between now and Christmas.

  • Alan Depauw 24th Nov '15 - 1:06pm

    Most of the terrorists are home-grown. Most have criminal records. They come from communities that have suffered from a combination of discrimination, poor integration and maladministration. To justify their criminality they have wrapped themselves in the black flag of fanaticism, joining a murderous sect that provides them with organisation and weapons.

    Therefore action needs to be focussed on three fronts. One is the normal policing against criminality including assuring efficient cross-border co-operation to tackle international criminal gangs. The second is to continue working towards integrating all communities within a single commonwealth of shared values. The third is to overcome the source of organisation and weapons, which in its own terms has declared war on us.

    The refugee crisis is not directly relevant and should be dealt with separately. It was first caused by brutal repression from the Assad regime and then worsened by attempted subjugation to religious zealots. The refugees are mostly like most of us; well educated, secular and in search of a peaceful life. To accuse them of harbouring terrorists or carrying false passports is deeply unfair, although very useful to Daesh in fuelling hysteria amongst us. That a handful of terrorists should choose to mingle amongst refugees is hardly surprising; but they have many other ways of crossing borders. Even when borders were strictly controlled, fifth columns existed that were continuously resourced from outside. And how are Syrians, under constant bombardment from their own state, supposed to apply to Damascus for passports? Not surprisingly many have had to create their own.

    Above all, we should not succumb to the mass hysteria so helpful to Daesh. Our response needs to be firm and level-headed as well as, as advocated by Catherine Bearder, united, tolerant and compassionate.

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