After the horrific Friday nights act of terrorism that killed 130 people, on French soil, the Islamic State communiqué said that France was at the top of the list of external enemies. “France has launched air attacks against the Islamic State, France has made war against its own Muslim population, France represents a “perverted culture” where people can enjoy outdoor cafés, restaurants and concert halls.” The communiqué ends by stating, “This attack is the first of the storm.” The Islamic State inspire and orchestrate such attacks, because they truly believe that through terrorist acts, weak and corrupt Western societies can be brought down and forced to disengage from the fight against the Islamic State.
In this respect, what the Paris attacks represent is one successful strike in a campaign announced even over a year ago by the IS media spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani. His chilling exhortation to IS supporters everywhere was something we need to pay attention to: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European especially the spiteful and filthy French or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”
As it slowly loses ground in Iraq and Syria, bit by bit losing the caliphate that has been its primary focus, ISIS has been sending fighters abroad at this critical moment? So, there seems to be no fundamental shift of strategy by the Islamic State. They are committed to a two-front war against the enemies of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and against Western states and societies that dare to oppose its dreams of religious empire.
Moreover, ISIS may believe that terrorist attacks are its best way of striking back against foreign attacks (The French are part of the US-led coalition bombing ISIS in Syria and Iraq). In order to sell itself as the prophesied return of the caliphate, it needs to show that its victories are inevitable and divinely inspired. That means claiming “victory” over foreign enemies by hitting them with terrorist attacks. Indeed, Paris wasn’t the only foreign attack ISIS has launched: ISIS suicide bombers have hit Kuwait, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. It also claimed responsibility for taking down a Russian civilian airliner in Egypt’s Sinai desert.
The Paris attack “changes the conversation from ‘ISIS is contained’ on November 12 to ‘ISIS is rampaging uncontrollably’ on November 14. This would be yet another stage in ISIS’s evolution: an inspirational symbol for wannabe terrorists around the world.
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, most of the Canadians think that the new Liberal government should rethink its desire to withdraw from the coalition bombing campaign. As such, there is no option but a sustained military effort to destroy the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Representing this section of Canadians, Mark Steyn, a Canadian writer, journalist, and conservative political commentator says that, “If M Hollande isn’t prepared to end mass Muslim immigration to France and Europe, then his “pitiless war” isn’t serious. And, if they’re still willing to tolerate Mutti Merkel’s mad plan to reverse Germany’s demographic death spiral through fast-track Islamization, then Europeans aren’t serious. In the end, the decadence of Merkel, Hollande, Cameron and the rest of the fin de civilisation western leadership will cost you your world and everything you love.”
But we must remember that painting all Muslims with the terrorist brush would be playing directly into ISIS recruitment strategy. Nothing in Islam justifies ISIS’s heinous acts. We feel sick at what these so-called Muslims are doing under a banner of Islam. At its height, Islamic civilization embodied many of the values we cherish as Canadians: Tolerance, respect, knowledge and beauty. So, it’s time for Muslims to reclaim Islam.
It looks the horrific Friday night’s act of terrorism on French soil, since the Second World War, will inevitably change France. Small but telling examples of the changes could be seen everywhere. Three days after the attacks, people in Paris were seen on the streets and defiant. To reinforce the point, they plastered the base of the monument in Place de la République, topped with a statue of Marianne, the national icon of freedom and democracy, with signs that read “Not afraid” and “We will remain standing.” Sunday editorial of the Libération newspaper urged that “To turn our back on our values is to begin to flee before the terrorists.”
The popular open-air food market in Place de Bitche did not open on Sunday for the first time in living memory. Soldiers and policemen, armed with rifles and wearing body armour, were common sights in the city centre streets. According to some Parisians, the vast subway network seemed emptier than usual on the weekend. “For the first time, I thought twice about getting on the metro,” Stéphane Faure, a 25-year-old Parisian and trainee journalist, said in République, where he was among the mourners.
The attacks – six in total across Paris – were unlike the January assault on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. “Hebdo was a targeted attack against a single publication and its means of expression, but this new attack was against everybody and anybody, against young Parisians … What makes us crazy about what happened is that that sort of attacks can’t be prevented,” said Matthieu Da Rocha, 25, who works in digital marketing.
The fear triggered by the attacks will be enough to change the French way of life and French politics? Some Parisians think nothing much will change, because Europeans are used to sporadic terror attacks. In the 1970s, for instance, Italy suffered a string of them at the hands of the Red Brigades, a paramilitary group that sought to destabilize the country. Their most infamous exploit was the kidnapping and murder of Aldo Moro, who had been Italy’s prime minister. In France, Algeria’s Groupe Islamique Armé launched terror attacks in the mid-1990s. A train bombing in Madrid in 2004 killed 191 people; a terrorist cell linked to al-Qaeda took the blame. A year later, Islamist suicide attacks killed 52 people in London’s subway and on a bus.
But as we know the French are natural-born rebels, they cherish their individual freedoms and they won’t let terrorists deny to them. But many Parisians aren’t so sure they think the fear factor is bound to keep the city on edge. “What will change is that, in our heads, we will live with the knowledge that we have enemies and that is a new thing,” said Alain Auffray, a political writer at Libération.
At the same time, we shouldn’t forget that after January’s Charlie Hebdo attacks, French government passed legislation that increases the power of the police, the judiciary and the intelligence services. Now, Friday’s attacks could see those powers boosted, to the point that France, in effect, would have its own version of the U.S. Patriot Act, or Canada’s Bill C-51.
Tightened surveillance powers could be endorsed by Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right, anti-immigrant and anti-European Front National even if they come at the costs of the French people’s cherished individual freedoms. The refugee crisis, combined with the fear of new jihadi attacks, could boost Ms. Le Pen’s popularity to the point she becomes a serious contender in the 2017 presidential elections. Four years ago, it was considered a shame to vote for the Front National. Now they are proud of it. The attacks could boost Marine Le Pen and she could become the president. So when you ask if France could change because of the attacks, it sure would if she gets elected.
Writer is Editor, Asian Times, Edmonton