France’s war on radical Islam — Hafiza Nur Adeen Nor Ahmad

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NOVEMBER 19 — November 2017 marked two years since the Paris attack of November 13, 2015 that killed 130 civilian and left 413 injured in Paris and city’s northern suburb, Saint Denis. The six series of attacks between 21.16 CET to 22.00 CET resembles the urban guerrilla warfare’s strategy by the Front National Liberation (FLN) against France’s colonisation in 1966 of Italian film, La Bataille D’Alger. The film told the story of the Algerian war of independence against France between 1954 to 1962 through a series of attacks held in Casbah, Algeria by the FLN.

In this article, I argue that the Charlie Hebdo shooting in January 7, 2015, followed by the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks and the Nice attack on July 14, 2016 needs to be analysed beyond the conventional studies of the modern rise of Islamic terrorism. According to David C. Rapoport the forerunner of waves in terrorism, the fourth waves of political violence in the 21st century will be marked by the rise of religiously-motivated terrorism.

By definition, these attacks represent a classic relationship between local radical groups with their collaborator, the transnational terrorist movements such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. The attackers of Charlie Hebdo were identified as members of al-Qaeda in Yemen. Meanwhile, the ISIS claimed responsibility for the November 13, 2015 Paris attacks.

However, this conventional wisdom of the fourth wave religious terrorism limits the analysis and complexities of the growing number of violent radical movements. In fact, terrorist attacks in Paris in these recent years reflects a dreaded battle between France and its colony predecessors, the Maghreb of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

France has stepped in Algeria for more than 130 years from 1830 to 1962.

In 19th century, Charles Baudelaire wrote Paris is being haunted by its past in daylight which will continue to be visible in Paris today. Since France left its long-colonised countries, Algeria and the greater Maghreb, it is now being confronted again by its own Frankenstein. A ghost in daylight, the impact of colonisation is marched with the rise of the so-called ‘Islamic’ terrorism. These radical groups who wears an uniform of ‘Islamic’ fighter moves around the masses is a reflection of daylight ghost that will continue haunting Paris.

Napoleon III of France fantasized Algeria as its ‘French Kingdom of the Arabs’ after his first visit to Algeria in 1865. He declared the native Algerians and the French shared equal status as citizens of the French nation.

Similar political remarks by President Pierre Mendés of France on November 12, 1954, “the Algerian departments are part of the French Republic.. between them and metropolitan France there can be no conceivable secession.. Ici, c’est la France!”. And then similar statement again repeated by President François Mitterrand who declared: Algeria is France.

This colonial fantasy ended with brutality. Both sides  of France and the Maghreb trapped on the traumatic war of decolonization process. The Algeria’s Setif Massacre which lasted a year from May, 1945 to March 1946 killed nearly 40,000 according to American officials and 45,000 according to Radio Cairo. The Setif Massacre signalled the rise of Algerian nationalist of the FLN. They travelled around Paris, Algeria and Cairo and influenced by the pan-Arab nationalism and the leftist movements in France.

However, the Setif massacre only represent a miniscule of violent-end of the migration project by France in the Maghreb. In 1830, Algeria was known as the ‘new America’ and received a high influx of European migration who escaped from poverty.

Known as ‘the colons’, the European settlers drawn from poor areas in Italy, Spain and Malta. Popularised as ‘the oriental style’, the cities in Algeria extended to the larger Maghreb created on the basis of two worlds; “us versus them”. The Europeans settler rebuilds the old Algeria with ‘mission civilisatrice’, but not just with changes in architecture of housing, streets and building but as well as the superiority of Western philosophy, religion and culture (Andrew Hussey, 2014).

This turned the native Algerian into foreigner in their own land. Frantz Fanon’s the Wretched of the Earth (1967)is a classic work on the suffering and pain endured by Algerian with similar observations made in Tunisia and Morocco.

Fanon and  other psychiatrists who made an observation of victims of colonial French war concludes that the native presents these characteristics; complete or almost complete lack of emotion, credulity  and susceptible in the extreme, persistent obstinacy, mental puerility without the spirit of curiosity and tendency to accidents and patriotic reactions (Fanon 1967, 242).

But more distressing is the theory made against the Algerian associated with criminality in 1954. This theory concludes the ‘Algerian frequently kills other men, the Algerian kills savagely, the Algerian kills for no reason’ (Fanon 1967).

This theory, as Fanon challenged, is more sensible to understand in the context of the idea by vocation implanted to the Algerian mind that “we’re a rowdy, bad lot; that’s the way it is”. This soft vocation denies the fact that the Algerian were trapped and submitted to the exploitation by  the colonial project.

Second, Algerian criminality takes place among themselves. They robbed each other, cut each other and killed each other and rarely they attack the French people of pied nior. Yet, colonialism depersonalized human and rip off humanity in both the colonized subject and the colonizer.

The exchange of human immigration began with the first wave of 120,000 Algerian were forced to come to France during the World War I for domestic labour industry. But unlike the pier-noid of the French people who settled in the Maghreb and bound together with the Maghreb societies, the Algerian were left unanchored and treated with exploitation in France (Andrew Hussey, 2014).

The most disastrous events after decolonization in Algeria is the failure of the new regime-installed in 1990s when France decided to left his colony. The FLN as a new political party failed in Algeria. But this failure is admissible by logic as the Algerian lacks of experience in running a government. This failure costs a decade of civil war from 1990s and killed more than 100,000 people.

The Algerian Islamists collaborated with the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) whose aim to Islamize Algeria. Despite FIS electoral victory in 1992, the FIS were denied to run the new government and forced to dissolve the parliament after pressure from France and the United States (Petter Nesser 2015).

This led to the rise of GIA (Armed Islamic Group), the first ‘Islamic’ terrorist movement in France in 1995. The GIA emerged from the Algerian militants between 1989 to 1992 and it has a support cells in France, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and the UK (Petter Nesser 2015).

The first deadliest attack by GIA began in summer 1995 with series of bombings in French cities, left 8 people killed and injured 200 people. They adopted similar tactics of urban guerrilla warfare which again emulated by the jihadist attackers in November 13, 2015 of the Paris attacks.

Today, France has more than 6.5 million Muslim population making it the highest Muslim population in Europe. Since 1946, the Maghrebi forms the second highest main nationalities after the Europeans in France’s foreign population. In France metropolitan, Algerian-origins make up of the highest immigrant followed by Portugal and Morocco.

The flux of migration in France yields different shades of urbanites in île-de-France(the Parisian region). Travelling between the city centre and the banlieue areas through the RER (the railway network) is like navigating between two countries within less than an hour trip.

Gare de Nord of Paris is a highly diverse areas, a bit dense with police, tourists as well as irregular rioters. La Défense is a metropolitan business district situated at the west side of Paris, encircled within the banlieues area.

The Clichy-sous-Bois is a banlieues circle situated within and outside Paris with high immigrants population. These areas are labelled as ghetto town marred with social deprivation and labelled as a breeding ground for home-grown violent radicalism. The perpetrator of the Paris attacks of November 13, 2015 which lives in the area of Clichy-sous-Bois even further alienated the banlieue areas from the metropolitan sides of Paris.

Political promises by its best sometimes are meant to be broken. The former president François Hollande promised the wake-up call to end inequalities among the marginalised banlieue because of their religion, skin colour and immigrant’s origin but nothing is changed even after 12 years since the Paris riot in 2005.

The division between the banlieue and the rest of Parisian is not only limited to the construction of city structures and housing planning. This extended as well in the hardline cultural assimilation project towards Muslim. The French authorities were criticized worldwide for its enactment on the headscarves ban including other religious symbols such as Jewish skullcaps and large Christian crosses  in 2004. This again renewed with the banning of niqab.

Riddled with poverty, lack of opportunity stemmed from discrimination on free and fair recruitment on employment further ruptured the France’s relations with its own French Muslim population.

As puts it by Khaled A. Beydoun (2016) “the rising demographic, coupled with France’s colonial history and modern ‘culture war’ with Islam, conflates fear of radicalization with Islam, manifested by and executed against its established and still growing French Muslim citizenry”.

While France is pursuing its Countering-Violent Extremism (CVE) project akin to CVE in the European countries, the UK and the US (Khaled A.Beydoun 2016) to control the elements of Islamic-inspired terrorism, it cannot run away from the possibility of home-grown radicalism particularly in the banlieues.

In recent France’s presidential election in May 2017, Marine Le-Pen who lose to recently-elected President Emmanuel Macron, made an aggressive remarks against Muslim. The far-right leader of the Front-National (FN) said “mosques, prayers in the street and the veil worn by Muslim women were threats to France’s culture and values and that no French person, no Republican and no women attached to their dignity could accept it” (The Independent, February 5, 2017). This political rhetoric symbolizes that the cultural war against French Muslim, or Islam at large, which may even disarray the already-broken relationship between France and its own French Muslim population.

*Hafiza Nur Adeen Nor Ahmad is a Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia-sponsored PhD candidate in Politics at the University of York. She is a member of the Department of International Relations, University Malaysia Sabah and a research associate at Iman Research.

**This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.

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