Why Does France Keep Getting Attacked?
Why Does France Keep Getting Attacked?
For those who haven’t heard, France has been attacked again. At least 13 people were injured in an explosion in the French town of Lyon yesterday, putting 12 adults and an 8-year-old child in local hospitals. Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet said that an investigation into “terrorist conspiracy” has been opened several hours after the explosion took place. Thankfully, the injuries were minor.
Most of us know that it wasn’t a militant Amish female that planted a parcel bomb packed with nails in Lyon’s central shopping area. A grainy photo released by the French authorities shows what appears to be a male wearing a shirt with long sleeves and covering his face, walking a bike, who they believe was responsible for placing the bomb, and asks for witnesses to come forward with any information about the suspect.
The attack certainly resembles ISIS’s modus operandi. Time and again, we’ve seen ISIS supporters attack France, Belgium, Germany, and other European countries using car rammings, stabbings, shootings, and bombings.
But some of the more significant ISIS attacks seem to have been taking place in France in the past several years, and I have to wonder why ISIS keeps targeting that particular country. Sure, ISIS isn’t fond of Western values, doesn’t particularly like democracy, and considers the West a decadent, corrupt society. But is France the embodiment of everything that ISIS hates, or is there more to the extremists’ hatred of that country? Is that why France keeps getting attacked by ISIS?
France has been more active in Syria than any other European Member State. French policy towards the civil war has been aimed at removing President Bashar al-Assad from power and launching airstrikes in Syria against The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS or Daesh, calling itself the Islamic State). The US has led the coalition carrying out air strikes in Syria for the last 15 months while Britain has chosen to remain more active in neighbouring Iraq.
ISIS claimed the Paris attacks were a response to France’s campaign against its fighters and insults against Islam’s prophet, an argument that was also voiced by the ‘lone wolves’ who attacked the Charlie Hebdo offices and the Kosher supermarket in January 2015.
France’s foreign policy could certainly be a motivation for extremist attacks – whether inspired or directed by ISIS. After all, several of the November 2015 Paris attackers and facilitators were returning foreign fighters from Syria, and France ranks at the top of EU countries from where foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and Iraq hail.
But what about France’s domestic policy? Why is it that Islamic extremists consider France hostile to Islam?
France is a secular country, and Islamist extremists interpret France’s secularity as hostility toward Islam. In 2004, the French Government passed a law prohibiting conspicuous religious symbols in schools and government buildings, including the headscarf, ticking off Islamic fundamentalists, including al-Qa’ida’s Zawahiri. Then, in 2010, France passed another law banning face coverings for security reasons. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well. In a rather tone-deaf, ironic recording released in October 2010, Usama bin Ladin accused the French of having banned “free women from wearing the burqa.”
And then there’s the jihadist message itself that seems to resonate with French-born, disaffected youth.
These individuals mostly belong to the second or third generation of immigrants, whose recent history saw a much stronger assertion of their Islamic identity coming to the fore. Many factors converged to feed this trend. Among the most prominent were the successive failures of the population with immigrant descent to reach full political representation and to structure their claims.
In 2005, riots triggered by the deaths of two teenagers and exacerbated by a tear gas grenade tossed at a mosque, failed to morph into increased political representation for this generation of Muslims. They felt politically underrepresented, they felt alienated from French society, and they felt like the Islamic organizations created to represent their interests in France failed to do so – especially after the veil was banned in 2004.
Radical Islam gave these malcontents a sense of belonging and power – strength they don’t have as French citizens, especially after the economic crisis of 2009 which raised unemployment rates and exacerbated their sense of inequality and exclusion.
A recent study by the Montaigne Institute, Salafism has taken a massive hold in France, and radical indoctrination has taken hold. The authors of the study want to target France’s susceptible populations with Arabic language offerings in France’s schools – to preempt the Arabic language education offered by the mosques in France. The think tank’s other suggestion is a “halal tax” to fund a “neutral organization, independent from any Muslim country, free from the control of those in charge of France’s mosques, and the French State.”
“The levy would be managed by the association and inspired by the kosher tax of the Jewish community, managed by the rabbinates that certify kosher products.
The study’s authors believe that creating an independent organization to represent the interests of Muslims in France will prompt Muslims there to police themselves, so to speak, and counter Islamic fundamentalism in their own communities.
I’m not sure whether the fundamentalists in France will view a halal tax as yet another way they’re being targeted by the French society. France seems to represent everything they despise in this world, and the feeling of alienation would probably be amplified by a tax aimed specifically at their way of eating – their very means of sustenance. Will the extremists feel like they’re being attacked? Will they attack back?
Is it unchecked mass migration that’s the problem? Last year, France realized that its immigration system was broken, and implemented tough new laws to control its borders.
The bill shortens asylum application deadlines, doubles the time for which illegal migrants can be detained, and introduces a one-year prison sentence for entering France illegally.
Hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants have been straining France’s resources and created social tensions, according to The Telegraph.
And where are they coming from? Syria, Iraq, Tunisia, Eritrea, Afghanistan, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire.
Would it make sense that already disaffected youths would feel that their religion is the target of the tough, new immigration laws?
In the case of France, I think it’s folly to examine just one cause of ISIS’s fascination with the country. The combination of all these factors is contributing to the Islamic State’s focus on France.
The question is: what will the French do about it?