Today France suffered its most violent homeland terror attack in over 50 years, as three gunmen attacked the Paris office of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. (Chiaramonte) The gunmen specifically targeted the publication for its historical depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, before wandering the streets screaming “Allahu Akbar” (translated as “God is Great”) and proclaiming the attack as retribution for Hebdo’s insult against Islam. (Fox News) And while the attack is tragic in that 12 human beings were killed (11 employees and one of two responding police officers) for no other reason than doing their job, fact is we must remember to look past the immediate emotional response to the historical facts of the matter that led to today’s events. Because the truth is the French government is as much to blame for today’s tragedy, as the radicalized gunmen themselves.
While the events of today are readily available on major news sources, looking historically we must consider several points;
Fact: France is one of the most Progressive societies on the planet. Indeed the government has enabled (via residential planning, commercial zoning, or legislative) for total districts of immigrants to perpetuate non-French cultures, such as Arab communities, who exercise their own societal norms and laws, without host government oversight or involvement. For many French-Arab communities this includes the establishment of Sharia Law on what should be French soil. Indeed many of these districts exist as “No-Go” areas for French law enforcement and are treated as almost independent city-states. However, this segregation has not come without a cost, as many of these isolated communities suffer dramatic economic disparities with rampant unemployment and high tax rates. (Kern) The result has been breeding grounds for radical ideology, mosques, and (shockingly) probable terror cells as we have seen today. Other countries following this liberal immigration approach include England, Germany, Belgium, and many other predominantly European nations as Arab immigrants attempt to escape violence in Iraq, Syria, Turkey and so on.
Fact: The Hebdo was an organization well established for its satirical writings that not only depicted the Prophet Muhammad; but Jews, Americans, Russians, and other sensitive political leaders. They were fearless despite the threats, in publishing their voice and drawing public attention to topics regardless of its sensitivities. But we live in a world where openly discussing Arab culture as anything other than “peaceful” almost draws immediate condemnation as racist or insensitive. Indeed the publication had been threatened with beheading, firebombed, and even the Yemeni arm of al Qaeda had labeled them among their “Most Wanted”. (Duggan) (Moore) So how does that not underscore Hebdo’s message?
Fact (Now for the flip side, because without examining both sides we cannot adequately judge the events clearly): Islam is a complex religion, that varies in both interpretation and expression based on geographical region and culture. My time in Iraq showed me that. And culturally it is one of the greatest sins to deface the Prophet Muhammad, show his likeness, or even have some discussions unless one is a religious leader (despite that many Arabs love to debate the baser teachings of Islam). So to the extreme elements of Islam like al Qaeda, it is not unexpected Hebdo would be targeted. Frankly it was only a matter of time. And as al Qaeda and ISIS have been producing more slick publications advocating radicalization, they have stated for fighter-elects to not travel to the Middle East for jihad, but to stay home and fight on foreign soil against civilian targets. (Esman) (Dabiq) In effect it’s a way to extend jihad beyond the Middle East without extensive networks to support them, all fighters need is to find a sympathetic safe-haven in a foreign country or where they were born. Like France.
So while press sources splash video and high-def images of the victims and gore, decry the Paris attack as akin to 9/11, an assault on freedom of speech, and calls for mobilization by Arabs and the World for justice – just try to remember the situation is the sum of its parts. When nations cede their sovereignty for the sake of political correctness and enable foreign cultures to dictate a host nation’s laws it is opening the door for other influences, like radicalization. The Global War on Terror was also just as flawed almost from the onset because American politicians and military wonks felt they could solve an ideological issue with conventional weapons. Truth is all it did was create more resentment and radicalized fighters. Hebdo has just been the most recent in a spate of radicalized Islamist attacks in countries that are largely permissive to immigrants.
Chiaramonte, Perry. French police identify gunmen in attack on Paris magazine that killed 12. 7 January 2015. 7 January 2015 <http://www.foxnews.com/world/2015/01/07/terrorist-commandos-paris-gunmen-likely-highly-trained-say-experts/>.
Dabiq. “What Islamic State’s New Magazine Tells Us about Their Strategic Direction, Recruitment Patterns and Guerrilla Doctrine.” 1 August 2014. The Jamestown Foundation. 7 January 2015 <http://www.jamestown.org/programs/tm/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=42702&cHash=0efbd71af77fb92c064b9403dc8ea838#.VK33a8bcgng>.
Duggan, Oliver. Charlie Hebdo attack: 2011 firebomb over Prophet Mohammed issue. 7 January 2015. 7 January 2015 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/france/11330145/Charlie-Hebdo-attack-2011-firebomb-over-Prophet-Mohammed-issue.html>.
Esman, Abigil. ISIS’s Stay-at-Home Radicals. 9 December 2014. 7 January 2015 <http://www.investigativeproject.org/4697/isis-stay-at-home-radicals>.
Fox News. Gunment Heard Yelling Allahu Akbar. 7 January 2015. 7 January 2015 <http://video.foxnews.com/v/3975515725001/report-gunmen-heard-yelling-allahu-akbar-during-attack/?#sp=show-clips>.
Kern, Soeren. European ‘No-Go’ Zones for Non-Muslims Proliferating “Occupation Without Tanks or Soldiers”. 22 August 2011. 7 January 2015 <http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/2367/european-muslim-no-go-zones>.
Moore, Jack. Charlie Hebdo Paris shooting: Al-Qaeda hit list named cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier. 7 January 2015. 7 January 2015 <http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/charlie-hebdo-paris-shooting-al-qaeda-hit-list-named-cartoonist-stephane-charbonnier-1482383>.