July 15, 2016 4:18 pm

Overreacting to Nice attack only helps extremist groups: expert

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Expressions of sympathy, anger and solidarity came flooding out of government offices around the globe on Thursday night as France once again reeled from what is being labelled a terrorist attack.

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But each one of the statements from world leaders following the deaths of over 80 people in Nice had to be carefully crafted, according to one expert, because the wrong words could end up prompting even more violence and fear.

Michael Zekulin, an assistant professor and terrorism expert at the University of Calgary, said the public declarations that follow a major attack like the one in Nice must strike a delicate balance.

“You sort of have to recognize that there’s a cycle here, or a feedback loop. Action, reaction,” he said.

Declarations of war — like the one made by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump — or promises to crack down on an entire group for the actions of a few, can embolden copycats and deepen existing divisions, Zekulin explained.

“The narratives of groups like ISIS in particular is that ‘you (Muslims) don’t fit into the west, they don’t like you they don’t want you. They look down on you.’ If you’re using language marginalizing or attacking or turning people into suspect communities, it’s feeding right into that narrative.”

That seems to have been exactly what former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich did with a suggestion that America “test” every Muslim citizen to see if they believe in Sharia law, and then deport the ones who do. Gingrich appeared to be backing away from that statement on Friday afternoon.

Other security experts have suggested that overreacting to terror attacks with inflamed rhetoric, intensive security measures and widespread media coverage can not only embolden extremists of all stripes, but also promote a widespread culture of fear, endanger privacy rights and take needed money and resources away from more pressing security issues.

France, meanwhile, must be seen to be taking some kind of action in the face of repeated attacks, said Zekulin. But again, promises to re-double military efforts in Iraq and Syria and to get more security onto the nation’s streets may prove empty or ineffective.

“What have we been doing for the last year and a half?” Zekulin pointed out, referencing the U.S.-led campaign against ISIS.

“Unless you’re going to have a fundamental shift … which would involve French troops on the ground, which you’re not going to do, it comes across as bluster.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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