On the Competition for Recognition Part X A Political Dissension in France – Islamicist Violence

If the deepest divide in the U.S. is between the right and left, whatever the divisions within each of those rivals, if the deepest divides within the UK are within the left and within the right, the deepest divides in France are between the center and left on one side and right on the other side. After all, Emanuel Macron came into the presidency by running as a centrist against Benoît Hamon for the Socialists and François Fillon for the Republicans on the right. Fillon was felled by a scandal. The Socialists had been weakened by the failing presidency of François Hollande. Macron emerged from the pack to face Marine Le Pen in the run off, with predictable results. And he managed to create his own party to run for the legislature following his election. La République en Marche won a clear majority. Initially, it had no effective opposition but also little experience on its own side. A 39-year old political novice was supported by an inexperienced cohort.

Some commentators mark the divisions in France as left, right and Muslim. This is a mistake. Six million Muslims in France constitute 8% of the population. Characterizing Muslims as marginals torn between their Muslim and French identity is simply false. Muslims are either liberal or left. In 2012, 86% voted for François Hollande. “Muslims tend to mostly cast a left-wing vote” as a “class vote of a stigmatized minority.” (Hakim El Karoui, “Is there a ‘Muslim vote’ in France?” Brookings, 27 April 2017)

The May 2016 survey of the Institut Montaign and the Institut français d’opinion publique (Ifop) concluded:

  • No “Muslim community” or organized communitarianism exists
  • Belonging to and engaging as a Muslim tends to be private
  • Muslims in France have little commitment to community-based initiatives (only 5 percent belong to a Muslim organization)
  • There are very few denominational schools in France – only 10 for 1.3 million Muslims younger than 15
  • Political choices are very weakly influenced by the candidate’s actual or supposed connection to Islam
  • Only 19% would vote for a candidate just because (s)he was Muslim
  • Because 30% are not citizens and because their sense of participation in French political life is also weak, the Muslim electorate is only 3.6% of the total, half their proportion of the French population
  • Muslim citizens mostly want a stable job (93%), a decent degree (88%), and an ability to afford accommodation (65%)
  • A higher social status is more important than a Muslim or ethnic identity

As mentioned in the blog on Britain, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recently completed a survey of 16,500 across twelve member states. It was the second such survey – the 2018 MIDIS II, the European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey. Ignore its findings on child poverty, discrimination against the disabled, different genders and the aged. The report concluded with respect to racism that there had been no progress since its last report. With respect to antisemitism, the report confirmed the British findings, that most antisemitism is Muslim in origin. Jews increasingly, though still occasionally, avoid public events and feel wary. The problem is especially acute in France which has both the largest Jewish and largest Muslim populations in Europe.

The Islamicist attack against a Toulouse school in 2012 set off a slow Jewish exodus from France, primarily to Israel. Seven died, including the rabbi and his two children. Jump to this past year. A march was held in March to honour a Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, who had been stabbed eleven times in her apartment in the 11th Arrondissement in Paris. Her body was then partially burned. Two suspects were arrested; the murder was being investigated as an antisemitic hate crime. One apparently said to the other, “She is a Jew. She must have money.”

A year earlier, a young Muslim man aged 28, Kobili Traoré from Mali was accused of murdering his neighbour, Lucette Attal-Halimi, 65, an Orthodox Jewish physician known by her Hebrew name, Sarah Halimi. The murderer tortured Sarah Salami and then threw her body off the balcony. In July 2018, Kobili was found unfit to stand trial. These are just some examples. But they have not led Jews to engage in widespread Islamophobia. For one reason, most of the attacks have not directly targeted Jews. Further, only 1 in 100,000 Muslims have participated in these terrorist attacks.

In addition to the Toulouse attack mentioned above, three major Islamicist attacks took place in France since then and before this year:

Île de France          Jan. 2015     20 killed      22 injured

Paris                      Nov. 2015  137 killed      415 injured

Nice                       July 2016     87 killed      434 injured

Two major attacks took place in 2018, in March in Carcassonne and Trèbes where 5 were killed and 15 injured, and in Strasbourg last month; 6 were killed and 11 injured. In the other 19 attacks, 18 were killed and 40 injured.

Borrowing from Wikipedia with minor edits, the following offers a more complete list of Islamicist violence in France:

Date Type Dead Inj. Location and description
11-22 March 2012 Shooting 7 5 Toulouse and Montauban shootings of three French paratroopers, a French Rabbi and three schoolchildren (aged eight, six and three) over a period of 11 days by Mohammed Merah.
23 May 2013 Stabbing 0 1 2013 La Défense attack by an Islamist knifeman against a French soldier in a Paris suburb
20 December 2014 Stabbing 0 (+1) 3 2014 Tours police station stabbing. A man yelling “Allahu Akbar” attacked police officers in Joué-lès-Tours with a knife, injuring 3; he was killed.
7-9 January 2015 Shooting 17 (+3) 22 January 2015 Île-de-France mass shooting at the antifascist satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo office in Paris, carried out by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, two Islamist gunmen who identified themselves as belonging to Al-Qaeda in Yemen, and a third Islamist gunman and close friend of the Kouachi brothers, Amedy Coulibaly, who shot two and took another hostage at a Hypercacher kosher market. The three pledged allegiance to ISIL.
3 February 2015 Stabbing 0 3 3 military men, guarding a Jewish community center in Nice, are attacked by Moussa Coulibaly (not related to the January Coulibaly attacks).
19 April 2015 Shooting 1 0 (+1) Unsuccessful attack against 2 churches in Villejuif by an Algerian jihadist. He killed a woman probably when trying to steal her car but accidentally shot himself in the leg, putting an end to his plans.
26 June 2015 Beheading 1 2 Saint-Quentin-Fallavier attack. An Islamist delivery driver probably linked to ISIS decapitated a man and rammed a company van into gas cylinders at the Air Products gas factory in an attempt to blow up the building.
21 August 2015 Shooting and stabbing 0 3 (+1) 2015 Thalys train attack. An attempted mass shooting occurred on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Four people were injured, including the assailant who was subdued by other passengers.
13-14 November 2015 Shootings, hostage taking and suicide bombings 130 (+7) 413 November 2015 Paris attacks. The single deadliest terrorist attack in French history. Multiple shooting and grenade attacks on a Friday night targeted a music venue, sports stadium and several bar and restaurant terraces. 90 were killed in a siege at an Eagles of Death Metal concert inside the Bataclan. French president François Hollande was evacuated from a football match between France and Germany at the Stade de France, venue for the UEFA Euro 2016 Final, after three separate suicide bombings over 40 minutes. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks.
1 January 2016 Vehicle ramming 0 2 A man rammed his car twice into 4 soldiers protecting a mosque in Valence to kill troops; jihadi propaganda images were found on his computer.
7 January 2016 Stabbing 0 (+1) 0 January 2016 Paris police station attack, a jihadist wearing a fake explosive belt attacked police officers in the Goutte d’Or district in Paris with a meat cleaver, while shouting “Allahu Akbar”. He was shot dead and one policeman was injured. The ISIS flag and a clearly written claim in Arabic, were found on the attacker.
13 June 2016 Stabbing 2 (+1) 0 2016 Magnanville: a police officer and his wife, a police secretary, were stabbed to death in their home by a jihadist. ISIS claimed responsibility.
14 July 2016 Vehicle ramming 86 (+1) 434 A 19 tonne cargo truck was deliberately driven into crowds celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. The driver was Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France. The attack ended following an exchange of gunfire, during which Lahouaiej-Bouhlel was shot and killed by police.
26 July 2016 Stabbing 1 (+2) 1 2016 Normandy church attack, two terrorists attacked during a mass, killing an 86-year-old priest. ISIS claimed responsibility.
3 February 2017 Stabbing 0 1 (+1) 2017 Paris machete attack. A soldier near the Louvre opened fire on a man who attempted to enter the museum with a machete. The man, shouting “Allahu Akbar,” injured the soldier’s scalp.
16 March 2017 Letter bomb 0 1 letter bomb, probably sent by Greek anarchist organization Conspiracy of Cells of Fire, exploded at the French office of the IMF injuring one person.
18 March 2017 Shooting 0 (+1) 2 2017 Orly Airport attack injuring a policeman in the Paris suburb of Garges-lès-Gonesse; the attacker, was shot dead after trying to grab a soldier’s rifle.[
20 April 2017 Shooting 1 (+1) 3 April 2017 Champs-Élysées attack. An Islamist opened fire on police officers on the Champs-ÉlyseesISIS claimed responsibility.
6 June 2017 Melee attack 0 1 (+1) 2017 Notre Dame attack. An Algerian Islamist attacked a police officer with a hammer. He was shot by a second policeman and arrested. He had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
19 June 2017 Vehicle ramming 0 (+1) 0 June 2017 Champs-Élysées car ramming attack. A jihadist rammed his car into a police car. He was killed and the Department of Interior stated that explosives, AKM assault rifle and handguns were found in his car. The attacker had pledged allegiance to ISIS.
9 August 2017 Vehicle ramming 0 7 (+1) 2017 Levallois-Perret attack. A man rammed his car into soldiers near their barracks outside Paris. He was arrested on the highway after a shootout.
15 Sept. 2017 Melee attack 0 2 A man sought by police, who are investigating a possible terrorist motive, attacked two women with a hammer in Chalon-sur-Saône near Lyon about 15 minutes apart, shouting in Arabic. Earlier a knife-wielding man attacked and was stopped by an anti-terrorist soldier on patrol in Paris Metro train station without injury.
1 October 2017 Stabbing 2 (+1) 0 2017 Marseille stabbing. A man stabbed to death a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl at Marseille-Saint-Charles Station. Attacker was shot dead. He was heard shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’. ISIS claimed responsibility.
23 March 2018 Shooting, hostage taking 4 (+1) 15 Carcassonne and Trèbes attack. A gunman affiliated with ISIS attacked and stole a car in Carcassonne, killing the passenger and wounding the driver. He arrived in Trèbes and shot at a group of police officers who were jogging. Then, he attacked a supermarket, where three people were killed and several others were injured.
12 May 2018 Stabbing 1 (+1) 4 2018 Paris knife attack. A Chechnya-born French Muslim, armed with a knife, killed one pedestrian and injured several more near the Garnier Opera in Paris before being fatally shot by police.
11 December 2018 Shooting and stabbing 5 (+1) 11 2018 Strasbourg attack. A gunman opened fire just outside the Strasbourg Christmas Market, killing 5 and injuring 11. Killed in a gunfight with security forces two days later.

Given the character of the Muslim population in France, given the persistence of Islamicist violence, quite aside from its horrible character, why has Emmanuel Macron invested so much political capital in creating an “Islam of France” through training Imams domestically and educating Muslims in secular values? Macron seems predisposed to stamping the Muslim “community” with parallel forms of organization to other religious communities through a top-down approach considered both patronizing and irrelevant to most French Muslims. Further, there is no evidence that such organizations would undermine Islamicist extremism, especially when the most radical Imams seem to be born in France. Religion does not determine radicalization.

As I have written before with respect to the hijab, bans were motivated by the ideology of laïcité and the effort to make religion disappear from public life rather than any empirical evidence that hijabs had anything to do with Muslim radicalization. The current French government (ironically advised by El Karoui quoted at the beginning of the blog), following both its conservative and socialist predecessors, is attempting to apply its inherited ideological formulations to the Muslim population. (Prime Minister Manuel Valls in 2016 attempted to ban burqinis on beaches.) The effort is simply misguided and a waste. El Karoui believes that the headscarf has been a decisive emblem of Islamism, the political ideology that has inspired violence. Empirical evidence finally gathered by an American sociologist proved this to be unequivocally false. (See Howard Adelman (2011) “Contrasting Commissions on Interculturalism: The Hija’b and the Workings of Interculturalism in Quebec and France,” Journal of Intercultural Studies 32: 3, June, 245-259.)

It is not only the government that is misguided. In spite of all the research on the behaviour of the French Muslim population, though declining, 43% of the French public still view Islam as incompatible with the values of the Republic. The efforts of the government seem more designed to placate a misinformed public than deal with Islamicist radicals.


To be continued


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s