France needs some reality checks

Friday 20/11/2015
Tossed but never sunk — Paris’s eternal motto sticks!

Fluctuat nec mergitur – Tossed but never sunk — Paris’s eternal motto sticks!
Not long after the cowardly carnage, people in Paris were back on the streets, in the cafés, the terraces and even concert halls. And my son returned to school.
He was born in Paris, on Novem­ber 14, 2001, the day after Kabul fell. He turned 14 in Paris, the day after young fanatics, some French, killed 129 civilians in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Fourteen years after 9/11, my son can legitimately ask me why noth­ing seems to have been achieved. Neither by diplomacy nor bomb­ing. France joined an international coalition in Afghanistan but was wise enough not to follow George W. Bush into Iraq in 2003.
Now why has France — ahead of the United States — emerged as the Great Satan and become the privileged target of ISIS? There are several immediate reasons.
First, President François Hol­lande’s France moved forces quickly to prevent jihadis toppling our African friends in Mali. Now, France is back in the coalition bombing ISIS in Iraq and Syria. A marginal air power by comparison to the massive air strikes carried out by Russia in Syria and the United States in Iraq, but France’s Euro­pean borders are so much easier to cross than most and such a closer target than the United States.
It is also a fat ideo­logical target: France, a Christian country, is a secu­lar nation sheltering the biggest Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe. That is profoundly abhorrent to ISIS. For ISIS is not really a “state” but firstly a state of mind. A combination of traditional Wahhabi faith nurtured for years by the imams and the dollars of the West’s best friends, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, grafted onto a new frus­trated generation mastering digital cultures.
Not only in Arabic and English, but also successfully in French. France has been too slow to under­stand.
That France has failed to inte­grate Muslims into the mainstream is the first reason the apocalyptic jihadi message has been permeat­ing some of the jobless Muslim youth in poor tenements with both their French and North African identities in doubt. Young people in a void and who remained ignorant of the Sufi Islam of their parents and are incensed by the Israeli oc­cupation and events in Gaza. They are fair game for moneyed radical preachers and jihadi underground networks.
So far counterintelligence has not been able to stop jihadi terror. France has failed to help its moder­ate Muslim population assert itself. Either by being reluctant to appear discriminating against the “beard­ed ones” or because of the lasting distrust towards Muslims inherited from the colonial war in Algeria.
France has also failed to publicly distance itself from the very same oil monarchies that buy expensive weapons from the West and toler­ate those in their midst who keep financing radical Islamist terrorism.
Reality checks that have been too long coming.