The terror attack at the National Bardo Museum in Tunis is not an attack on Western values, says DW's Rainer Sollich. It is, above all, an attack on a vision for the sociopolitical future of the Arab world.
The German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier poignantly stated: the terror attack in Tunis was a "cowardly attack on all of us." It was an "attack on the shared values of humanity."
Those are not simply diplomatically appropriate words used in response to a shocking event. They also contain a deeper truth that tells us about the motivations of the perpetrators. For Tunisia was certainly not chosen by coincidence; rather Tunisia was attacked because it is a model for the future - a vision of an Arab world in which stability does not mean repression. One in which democracy, civil society, development, and human rights all have a real chance, despite facing many challenges and hurdles.
Attacking a vision
Tunisia is the "mother" of the so-called "Arab Spring," and it is also the only country in the region where the uprising's values still count for something. Moderate Islamists and various secular groups have devoted themselves to the tedious task of dialogue there, rather than fomenting hate and confrontation. Civil society there is alive, and compared to other Arab states the regulation of citizen's rights is exemplary, not least of all for women.
Not only terrorists, but also numerous authoritarian regimes in the region have no interest in such a role model - one which stands in direct opposition to their own ideologies and sociopolitical designs. The attack on the museum is therefore not an attack on Tunisia's pre-Islamic heritage, which local Salafists and Jihadists would like to see extinguished just like in Syria and Iraq. They see Tunisia as the "West's darling," and therefore feel the need to fight it. They want to keep Tunisia from becoming a political and economical success story in the region - at all costs.
The attack on the National Museum in Tunis threatens to set Tunisia back in terms of its development, while at the same time laying bare the numerous societal and security challenges that confront the small Maghreb state for all to see.
The economic situation is oppressive, and the tourism sector that is so important for the country will no doubt face even larger difficulties after the attack in Tunis. Youth unemployment is stiflingly high as well, which means that many young Tunisians see no real perspective for themselves. More than a few have illegally emigrated to Europe, or - ideologically deluded, or simply attracted by good pay - have joined the jihad in Syria or Iraq. Percentage-wise no other Arab country has flooded as many recruits into the ranks of the "Islamic State" or similar terror groups than Tunisia has. Terror groups are also active domestically as well, especially in the border regions.
Not a 'Western Darling'
When Germany's foreign minister said that this was an "attack on all of us," then he also meant that it was an attack on German and European foreign and developmental policy seeking to aid Tunisia's development as a democratic civil society. He could have just as well said, "We're all Tunisians," just like we are all "Charlie," and just like we are obliged to stand in solidarity with victims of violence around the world.
Words, however, are not enough. Tunisia not only needs more economic and civilian cooperation, it also needs concrete security sector help, no matter how large the risks entailed may be. And it also deserves more help from the Arab world itself. For the vision that is on the line is not "Western." It is a vision that is a timely synthesis of democracy, development, and Arab-Islamic influenced culture. And it is a vision worth fighting for.