1-11-15 – Paris Terror Reflects Deeper Malaise

By John J. Metzler

UNITED NATIONS–The appalling attack on the offices of a satirical magazine in Paris by Islamist militants which killed twelve, was a deliberately focused and targeted hit not only to stun and intimidate a free press but a free society as well. In recent months France has seen a spate of attacks not only on the media, but on Christmas markets, and Jewish synagogues. Ten journalists, among them cartoonists, and two police officers died in the fusillade which President François Hollande called a terrorist attack “of exceptional barbarity.”

Charlie Hebdo, a satirical left-wing weekly, is hardly a mainstream French publication. The journal has used a broad brush to criticize and satirize all aspects of French society, religion and politics. It has often published irreverent cartoons on Islam, vulgar depictions of Orthodox Jews and mocked the Catholic Church as well.

Political cartoons still form a vital and vibrant part of the French political discourse, much more so than in the USA.

The publication courts controversy by choice. Yet the heinous attack, recalling threats against a Danish newspaper a few years ago for satirical cartoons against Islam, is in no way remotely justified.   The jihadi terrorists were the emissaries of hate. This was not senseless violence but targeted barbarism.

Mainstream French Muslim religious groups have soundly renounced the violence.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon labeled the media massacre at Charlie Hebdo a “horrendous, unjustifiable and cold blooded crime…it was also a direct assault on a cornerstone of democracy–on the media and freedom of expression.”

Christophe Deloire of the French media watchdog Reporters without Borders stated, “This terrorist attack marks a black day in the history of France.”

Now the gruesome staccato of violence follows a predictable tone: Horror, Outrage, Rationalization, and Forgetfulness. In other words, the initial horror stemming from an attack spurs righteous outrage. But before long, rationalization seeps into the mix, the soufflé rises with moral relativism, and the matter is quickly blurred. That is until the next attack.

Over the past year there has been an uptick in violence from radical Islamic factions; some are formal groups, others are lone wolf operatives. The common thread is an assault on a tolerant society, which while initially stunned by the action, soon falls into a pattern of rationalization as to why it actually happened.

Syria’s civil war has served as a catalyst for some of the troubles as much as did the sanguinary conflict in Algeria in the past. Syria has become a magnet to foreign fighters, thousands from Western Europe, who have flocked to the Middle East to fight the authoritarian Assad regime.

The two suspect Kouachi brothers who attacked the magazine fit a predictable pattern; though born in France of Algerian origin, the brothers were involved with radical mosques, having supported fighters going to Iraq to join Al Qaida, going in and out of prison, only then to simmer in the quiet hatred and disenchantment with Western society.

Increasingly we see the development of a religious/ideological/fantasy template for many disenfranchised European Muslim youths who are supporting or joining the “International Brigades” in the Middle East. The fighters range from the fantasists, to the crackpots, to the deadly serious. This fraternity of jihadis has become a cult of intolerance and death. They represent a fringe trying to hijack a religion.

Many of these radicalized Europeans who return to Western Europe are filled with the white heat of hatred not so much for flawed Middle East lands, but rather for the comfortable and secular European societies where they live. France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the USA have seen this morbid backlash.

While the violent minority carries out such attacks, there has been a growing climate of Islamic militancy in France, reflecting political disenchantment.

Then there’s a spark. The Gaza conflict this past summer provided the political ignition point where pro-Palestinian protests saw simmering anti-Semitism and equally anti-French sentiments spill over into the streets of Paris. In Sarcelles, a suburb of Paris, Jewish businesses and a Synagogue were attacked to the polite aversion of the public’s attention.

Importantly there were vigils across France and Europe in support and solidarity with the free press. The majestic bells of Notre Dame cathedral have signaled a respectful remembrance with those who have died in this latest outrage.

Days later, three million people, among them forty world leaders, marched in France   in support of the free press and to honor the seventeen people killed in the attacks.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated succinctly, “ We face an unprecedented terrorist threat.”  Given this grim reality we express solidarity with the Free Press and Solidarity with France.   The threat has not yet past.

*****************

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism The Diplomacy of Separated Nations; Germany, Korea, China (2014).

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

jim bulmer January 16, 2015 at 6:57 pm

And where was Obama? Playing golf, fund raising or giving a speech. No one seems to know including his press secretary.

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Doug Richmond, Underhill January 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

I can’t defend Obama.

But the front row of international leaders marching in protest, did NOT occur after the trade towers here in the USA. Critics of the US President for not racing to Paris for 17 killed, are hypocritical when they did so little for us with 3000 deaths from the same maniacal barbarians.

Best part of this report is “Mainstream French Muslim religious groups have soundly renounced the violence.” This MUST become the standard reaction if Islam is to retain any credibility – even as they flock to Western countries to live in freedom!.

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