If radical Islamic clerics thought they were immune to terror threats themselves, then they have now been disabused of that notion. Last month in France, instead of the predictable pattern of arrests of Islamic jihadists plotting deadly terrorist attacks; this time, the jihadists were apparently the targets themselves. This turn of events signals France's accelerated spiral into lawless violence.
The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that police in June took ten people into custody for allegedly targeting for attack “radical imams, veiled women and convicted jihadists released from prison.” (There are currently 512 people convicted on terrorism charges in French prisons.) The arrests were made in the Paris region, Corsica, and in Charante-Maritime.
“This group was aiming for ‘targets presumed in connection with radical Islam,’ ” a source told Le Figaro.
Raids on several homes turned up “rifles, pistols, and homemade grenades” and police reported this “groupuscule” (small group) “trained regularly at sport shooting clubs and had prepared arms caches and food supplies in case of a major crisis.” (Which makes one wonder whether they were “ultra-right” terrorists or simply survivalists.)
The surprising feature about this group is its composition. It is not one that is usually associated with the “ultra-right” -- namely young, skinhead, neo-Nazi types. The ten, for the most part, are family fathers and range in age from 32 to 69 without prior arrest records, and one member is female. And the presumed leader of the group is also a retired national policeman.
“The ten apparently shared the same desire: to carry out attacks to avenge the Islamic attacks committed in France these past years,” stated Le Figaro.
Roughly 245 people have been killed in France since January 2015, in a wave of jihadist attacks “without precedent.” The deadliest was the 2015 Paris attack, in which 130 people died, 89 in the Bataclan nightclub alone.
Some French citizens clearly believe their government has failed them in efforts to protect them against the jihadist menace. As noted above, Islamic terrorism in France has claimed 245 lives the last three and a half years alone, and bodies will certainly continue to pile up, jihadist attack after jihadist attack.
“Nous les combattrons!, nous les combattrons!, nous les combattrons! (We will fight them!),” declared France’s former socialist president, Francoise Hollande, in 2014.
For many Frenchmen, this statement is a dead letter. Worse, they are shattered at the realization the French government has broken its social contract to protect its people. Back in 2014, former socialist Prime Minister Emmanual Valls told students at a high school that their generation would have to get used to living with terrorist attacks “for a long period of time.” In other words, France could no longer guarantee their security, revealing its surrender to the whim of murder and mayhem. Valls also said the same thing to a crowd in Nice in July 2016, after the deadly truck attack along the Promenade des Anglais that killed 89. But this time, he was roundly booed and called a “murderer” and told to resign, by Frenchmen unwilling “to live with terrorism.”
The growing feeling of insecurity in France was not eased by current French President Emmanuel Macron’s words to a meeting of parliamentarians in Versailles recently when he said: “The Republic does not have any reason to be in difficulty with Islam, not more than with any other religion.”
This subterfuge of the political elites to normalize terror attacks - pitching terror attacks as unlucky occurrences that can’t be eliminated, like bad traffic accidents or fires - is being roundly rejected by French citizens. They rightly see this as a policy of surrender, as well as an admission of complete failure. In their eyes, politicians who engage this chicanery should step aside; hence the calls for Valls to resign.
Another source of outrage is the weak measures successive French administrations adopt to combat jihad - measures that are demonstrably ineffective. The most recent, and most conspicuous, is the unsightly security wall and concrete blocks placed around the Eiffel Tower, as well as the thousands of combat soldiers patrolling the streets. Both are symbolic of government failure.
“One knows only how to submit rather than treat the causes,” said one critic of the Eiffel Tower’s shameful, new look.
Some in France however, refuse to submit and want to treat terror's root causes by first having the legal authorities name the enemy, confront underlying religious motivations, and then have security forces preemptively attack - in full force. French writer Pascal Bruckner perhaps expressed this sentiment best when he told Le Figaro: “We are at war; it will be necessary to be pitiless.”
Instead, the French are told their jihadist attackers are simply “mentally ill” and that all ideological and political debates about Islam and the murderers’ self-proclaimed religious motives are “Islamophobic” and akin to racism.
French security forces are certainly capable of neutralizing the jihadist menace if allowed. But French politicians, whose concern is only the next election and not the future, are worried what effect such action could have on Muslim voters, a significant voting bloc among France’s six million Muslims.
“Here is the new France, the one which is emerging, the one which is beginning, the one of the future. You the inhabitants, Islamic or not, of the housing projects, you are the future of France…,” said former socialist French President Francois Hollande to residents of an immigrant ghetto in 2012, showing both his bias and where the socialists intend to get their future votes.
However, in pointing out his government’s apparent refusal to go over to the offensive, French professor Shmuel Trigano of Paris Nanterre University sums up the devastating consequence of this failure for the French people: “They are sacrificing the victims in order not to have to give battle to the executioners,” he stated in Le Figaro.
Private vigilante groups and citizens taking the law into their own hands have no place, naturally, in a democracy. But many French do want their government’s passivity to end. They know from experience that Maginot Lines don't work.
Instead of waiting to be slaughtered like sacrificial sheep - “pitiless” - aggressive state action against the jihadists is what French people demand and deserve. Besides, such a corrective course is the best antidote to avert the impending clash of communities or even civil war, in France.