In all the furore after the diabolical attacks on Paris less than a fortnight ago, we seem to have forgotten something very important. There was one human being, who although he planned some of the most shocking crimes possible, decided at the last minute to walk away, dump his suicide vest and flee.
Salah Abdeslam is on the run and no-one seems to have a clue where he is. Interestingly, IS statements after the raid exulted in barbaric strikes in the 10th, 11th and 18th arrondissements, except there was no bloodshed at the last location. Surely, this was where Salah was meant to blow himself up but balked at the prospect because he let his mind dwell on the real-life consequences. The “eight brothers” became just seven and lives were spared by the conscience of one man.
Clearly, Salah has many questions to answer and should give himself up to face justice. However, should we in our civilised, Christian-shaped democracies not show some clemency? Rather than hunting him high and low like a criminal with overwhelming force, what if we tried to reach out to him? Remember, he is probably now hated by former IS comrades who will regard him with disdain for failing the basic test of a jihadi terrorist. He is caught between a rock and a hard place with nowhere to go, unless he can somehow alter his identity and evade detection.
We cannot conquer terror through bullets, bombs and bloodshed. If we are to win this fight, we must learn to reconcile with those like Salah Abdeslam who turned back from the brink, who seem to have realised that violence solves nothing and who give us some hope that there is humanity left which is worth saving.