I suspect that the repercussions of this barbarity will potentially have great significance well beyond the tragic deaths of the individuals who were slaughtered today. Even now, people are talking about how this tragedy will improve the FN’s chances of taking power. If these killers turn up in, say, ISIS-controlled parts of Iraq or Syria the implications for French society will be profound and very disturbing.
I wish to discuss one significant aspect of this tragedy. Clearly, this was not intended as a “suicide mission”. The killers wanted to escape with their lives and seem to have made advance plans, however imperfect, for doing so. The critical question for France is whether they have will find support among the French people.
Mao Zedong once said that the guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea. As his statement implies, without at least some level of support from the people of a particular community, it is difficult and perhaps impossible for revolutionaries or terrorists or even ordinary criminals to successfully hide from the police.
I think we must be honest with ourselves. The natural suspicion is that the killers are Beurs and have disappeared into the Muslim community in France—a community that is frequently castigated as being in France but not of France. We can argue about whether that is a fair categorization (and as an advocate for integration, I think it’s unfair for a variety of reasons) but I don’t see how the question can be avoided.
Certainly, the planning of this operation needed at least some degree of acquiescence among more than a handful of people living in France. At this point, there must be many people in France who know or suspect the identity of the killers. Their escape from France will require both the active support of some people there and the willingness to remain silent of a much larger group. This is the meaning of Mao’s axiom.
Do these killers enjoy any level of support in France? Assuming that they are hiding in the Muslim community, the question is will that community choose to shelter the killers as they, presumably, leave France for a country where they will be welcomed as heroes? Or will the revulsion to this barbarity among ordinary French Muslims (and which seems to be slowly building in the admittedly perhaps non-representative parts of the Beur media to which I have been directed by friends) mean that the killers will be quickly identified and delivered to the police?
Now we will see the reaction of the Muslim community in France. Will they show solidarity with the victims? Will the leadership of the Muslims in France speak out to condemn this attack? Will they help to identify and capture these barbarians?
I believe that the majority of French people will be looking to see whether the French Muslims are simply people who share a physical space with the French while remaining outsiders in separate communities, who are perhaps even antagonistic towards France. This is an important moment. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, my reading of the French media (and my own heart) tells me that this will be a test.
In a development, the significance of which cannot be overestimated, the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, which is a very conservative Islamic umbrella group, has issued an even more strongly worded condemnation of the attack in which they called for all French Muslims to show solidarity by participating in marches or rallies in memory of the victims and stating that a delegation of the management of the UOIF went [to one of the many demonstrations today] in order to show their solidarity. (NB, there were many marches and demonstrations today throughout France in hommage or to show solidarity).
They are in French and I couldn’t find English versions but the statements are in very simple, very direct and very strong French and I believe that Google Translate will handle it nicely.
I would like to direct attention to this very strong statement by Hassan Chalghoumi, an imam in the Paris suburb of Drancy, who has visited the scene of the crime and issued a very strong and extremely moving condemnation of the attacks. (This video is in French with English subtitles).