France was startled by several incidents on Thursday. For example, three people were killed in an attack in a church in Nice and not much later the police shot an armed man in Avignon. The incidents follow the death of French teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded in Paris two weeks ago. Why is it so restless in the country right now?
‘These are extreme jihadists responding to Al Qaeda call’
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“The murder of Paty was almost two weeks ago, and since that attack the ‘clash of civilizations’, as the French media write, has become very visible,” says professor of international relations and terrorism expert Beatrice de Graaf against NU .NL.
After Paty was murdered for showing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad during a lesson on freedom of expression, French President Emmanuel Macron said the right to share such cartoons will remain.
Macron then stated that ‘Islam is in crisis’. He has also indicated that he believes the right to blasphemy (blasphemy of religion, ed.) also belongs to the freedom of expression “, says De Graaf.
The Islamic world has responded with fierce condemnations, also because countries like Turkey are a good fit for their geopolitical lines, says De Graaf. For example, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wondered “what Macron’s problem with Islam and Muslims is” and said his French counterpart “needs psychological help”.
De Graaf continues: “Iranian President Rouhani felt that Muslims worldwide were offended. And now it has also become known that an Al Qaeda-affiliated news agency, Thabat, has actually called for attacks in France directly. The French authorities have therefore everywhere. called for vigilance. “
The call from the news agency affiliated with Al Qaeda was seen by the French authorities as an immediate danger, says De Graaf. “And they see that well: there was an attack in Nice. In Sartrouvelle a man with a knife was arrested near a church, who told his father that he wanted to do the same as in Nice. These are jihadists, extreme Islamists, who are independent. radicalize, and perhaps carry out their act alone, but be with many, and respond directly to the call from Al Qaeda. “
With such calls, the threat from terrorist organizations such as IS and Al Qaeda is taking the form of an “ideological and religious war against the west,” the professor sees. “Be it incidents in public schools or churches, for jihadists both are symbols of the godless West.”
The incidents are related to a political conflict, says conflict expert Luuk Slooter of Utrecht University, although he emphasizes that little is known about the motive behind Thursday’s events. Slooter sees the tensions surrounding Macron’s statements mounting. “And thus loners can find legitimacy to engage in violence.”
And although the number of direct victims of the violent acts is relatively small, they do have a huge impact. “When you talk about terrorism, violence is not an end in itself, but a form of communication. It not only affects the people who are directly physically affected by the violence, but it disrupts society as a whole.”