Did Brussels let ‘terrorists win’ by cancelling New Years’ fireworks display?
Belgium has cancelled its traditional New Year fireworks display in the capital, Brussels, as well as other public festivities, over a heightened terror alert. Extra security was already in place in the city after two men suspected of planning an attack over the holiday season were arrested earlier in the week.
RT: This seems like a drastic measure - cancelling New Year celebrations. Does this look like paranoia to you?
Pierre Schweitzer: It may seem like an overreaction, but just pretend that you are the government - what do you have to lose if you cancel all these celebrations? Well, maybe some popularity, but not very much. And now what if there is a terrible attack during the celebrations? Everyone is going to say it was very easy to predict and the government hasn’t done their job. So when you try to look at the pros and cons, if you are the government, I think that the decision can be very clear.
RT: Do steps like this simply play into the hands of extremists? Are they already having an impact on the European way of life?
PS: ... It is going in the sense that the terrorists want us to go. But in extreme cases like this maybe some temporary cancellations can appear quite wise. Just maybe in order to avoid some panic reactions just because of the fireworks, or some very bad-tasted jokes, or things that may happen in this context of very high tension. So it can be a wise decision, if it is temporary.
RT: In Belgium, as well as in France, where you are, there's been a surge in anti-Muslim sentiment in the wake of the Paris massacre. Do situations like the one in Brussels make matters worse?
PS: The whole context is going unfortunately in favor of growing tensions between the Muslim community and the others. But there are some counter examples. For example, in France during Christmas Eve there was a kind of Muslim militia that was looking after the Christians at the church. Of course it was very symbolic, but some good things happen as well. But overall, yes, the context of tension is bad and it may become worse because of these cancellations...
RT: And from your own point of view, Pierre, living in France, what is the feeling among people, maybe people you know? Is there a genuine fear?
PS: Yes, people are very scared in their feelings. There is a real sense of fear. Even around me, my friends in Marseilles, I am not from Paris, but I know people that were harmed in the attack; or I know people who know people that were killed in the attack. So there are a lot of persons that really feel personally involved in this, and they do fear.
But at the same time, even if it is an irrational fear, they know that admitting that they have fear is letting the terrorists win. At the same time they are trying to go against their fear. But of course fear is here; that is true.
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