By Max Newman
On November 13, 2015, the city of Paris as well as the nation of France was changed forever. Barbaric and well coordinated terrorist attacks hit the French capital, as ISIS jihadists rampaged through a soccer stadium, a lively nightlife district and the Bataclan concert hall. The latest terrorist attacks to hit France were not just shocking, but took an even darker turn than the two attacks that took place just eleven months ago. The terrorism that struck Paris on November 13th will not just go down in history, but could very well be the opening salvo of the clash of civilizations that could split a country apart.
It seemed like a normal, vibrant Friday night on the streets of the City of Lights. Parisians were enjoying a soccer match between France and Germany, eating at restaurants and attending music concerts. In short, Parisians were living life by the French phrase of joie de vivre (the joy of life). However, at 9:20 pm local time, explosions ripped through the air near the Stade de France. Suicide bombers affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) detonated explosives, killing one person. Throughout the night, a series of coordinated terrorist attacks in the name of jihad were committed on the lively streets of the 11th arrondisement and at the Bataclan concert hall, with bars being shot at and pedestrians being massacred by machine guns. The worst attack took place at the Bataclan concert hall, when Islamist terrorists killed 89 people and took hostages for over two hours. When the attackers were neutralized, 129 were killed and over 400 were injured in the deadliest terrorist attack in French history. France is still beginning to come to grips with what happened on November 13th, and while the attack only occurred on one horrific night, the seeds of radicalization have been stemming for years. Furthermore, the implications and ramifications of what happened in Paris are long lasting and will continue to have an effect for years to come.
The latest Islamist terrorist attacks to hit France are horrific and shocking, but are unfortunately becoming the new normal. From the Toulouse shootings to the Charlie Hebdo attacks, Islamist terrorist attacks on French soil are nothing new, and unfortunately, Islamist terrorist attacks are increasing as time goes on. From 2010 to 2013, only two Islamist terrorist attacks took place. However, from December 2014 up until now, ten terrorist attacks have taken place in France perpetrated by jihadists. While the majority of the ten terrorist attacks have caused very few casualties since December of last year, either way, Islamist terrorism is on the rise. The increase in terrorist attacks in France highlights an unfortunate reality.
The November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris are just the latest event to rock France, as already deep divisions between the native French and Muslim immigrants continue to grow wider. Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists. In fact, it is quite the contrary, as most French Muslims are peaceful. However, surprising poll numbers from the ICM Research Group, which found that 15% of Frenchmen support ISIS, are extremely worrying. France has had difficulty assimilating its Muslim community, currently numbering at about six million, into society for decades. Unfortunately, the lack of Muslim assimilation in France has only grown worse over the years. A large number of French Muslims live in poor, crumbling neighborhoods on the outskirts of large cities such as Paris. These impoverished, segregated housing projects are also known as banlieue, as Omar Ismail Mostefai, one of the Paris attackers, came from the southern suburb of Courcouronnes.
The growing Muslim alienation and building anger in the often dangerous banlieue reached its boiling point in October 2005, as massive riots started in northeastern Paris, but spread to other disadvantaged banlieues is in the following days. Three weeks of intense rioting occurred throughout France, as mainly Muslim rioters clashed with native French police. Tensions between the native French and Muslim immigrants have only became worse since then, as the lack of Muslim assimilation in France as well as the recent Islamist terrorist attacks have made the situation in France into a powderkeg. With tensions in France continuing to rise, a new reality emerges in that France is unfortunately not a united country right now. In the banlieues, many of these areas have become “no go zones”, as these lawless areas are now places where the native French and tourists largely do not dare to enter. This contrast is seen not just in the impoverished and dangerous banlieues, but in other facets of society. In a soccer match between France and Algeria in October of 2001, hundreds of French Muslims of Algerian descent invaded the field chanting “Bin Laden, Bin Laden!”, cancelling the match. Events such as this one as well as the October 2005 riots have caused tensions to continue to skyrocket.
Long running tensions between the native French and the Muslim immigrants as well as native French Muslims have added to rising poll numbers for the National Front, a right wing conservative party led by the charismatic Marine Le Pen. The National Front feels that mass immigration from North Africa and the Middle East is changing French society, and not in a good way. Their views come at a time when over 850,000 migrants from the Middle East and Africa have illegally migrated to Europe, with many of them being Syrian refugees. With hundreds of thousands of migrants pouring into Europe, Frenchmen are already on edge. To add to the migrant crisis sweeping Europe, the shocking news that at least one of the Paris attackers posed as a refugee to enter Europe in October has native Frenchmen turning to the conservative National Front Party. The growing anxieties of the native French have the National Front as the leading party in the polls to win the French presidential election in 2017. These anxieties are also expressed in eyebrow raising poll numbers. In a poll taken by the infamous French newspaper Le Monde after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, 74% of respondents agreed that “Islam is incompatible with French society.” With rising poll numbers for the National Front, and the continuous poverty that has plagued the predominantly immigrant banlieues for decades, the future for France looks as uncertain as ever.
The dangerous scenario with a rising conservative, anti-immigration party, coupled with the failed assimilation and subsequent radicalization of many French Muslims has led to an unstable and frightening future for the French Republic. France will need to toughen up and clamp down on radical Islamism that threatens not just banlieues such as Clichy sus Bois and Saint Denis, but France as a whole. France faces a two pronged threat from radical Islamists, in that the enemy is not just entering Europe illegally through Greece, but also that the enemy is already inside the gates. France will need to make difficult and tough decisions now in order to avoid absolute chaos and bedlam later. A great way for France to fight and end the decades old problem is for the French people to elect the conservative National Front in order to replace the spineless leaders of their current socialist government. If France does not toughen up to fight radical Islam both abroad and especially at home, then the quintessential French values of Liberté, égalité, fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) may truly be at risk.