Bastille Day on July 14th is a celebration of independence, a day of red, white and blue revelry, a herald of all things French. In Nice, this celebration was ravaged by a terror attack. As the information gathered grows and the death toll climbs, the aggressive and horrific attacks weathered by France in recent years begs the question why the French way of life is so offensive to terrorists the world over. Freedom and their joie de vivre – passion for life at the heart of their offence.
ISIL has called France “the capital of prostitution and vice” and their rhetoric focuses on spewing the vitriolic notions of alienation. France is a symbol of everything ISIL detests, a free open society. “The West in not your home” is a core preaching of the extremist Islamic sects, preying upon the young Muslim population that have to deal with the growing backlash against foreigners particularly Muslims in France at this time. A campaign targeting the vulnerable, the marginalised, the outsider and with each attack adding to the Islamophobia, a growing culture of fear.
Although France is a majority Christian nation, the second largest religion is Islam. This religious friction has created a divide between them and us. Ghettoisation of immigrants into poorer neighbourhoods that have been labelled incubators for terrorism. There are plenty of words in the French language to refer to suburbs but the choice use of the word banlieues – meaning slum or ghetto speaks volumes about how these neighbourhoods have become sites of social isolation.
France has been active in Muslim affairs since colonial times, from conquering Algeria to taking control of Syria and Lebanon post the first World War. These movements and involvement in these regions established a steady flow of migrants between France and their territories. The residual tensions between immigrants from these colonial conquests and the homegrown French has continued to build. Unlike other colonial powers the French never withdrew entirely from former colonies, their presence today still, has meant they are forced on to the forefront, with the French military fighting the war on terror in the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Almost 10% of the population in France is Muslim, conflictingly Islamic women are banned from wearing an item of religious dress the niqab – the total face covering head scarf. These symbolic acts of retaliation in conjunction with the physical airstrikes and presence in conflict zones, have incited greater disdain for France by terror organisations and Muslim individuals living amongst the fear.
To speculate is to exacerbate, and feeding into the hyper aware rolling coverage only spreads untruths.
Enemy number one for ISIL is the U.S., the American’s immense value on free speech, consistent involvement abroad and meddling in the Middle East position it primly in first position. However France’s intelligence failings, proximity and social tensions make it more accessible to radical extremists and terror attacks. In this year alone four attacks in France have attempted to use a vehicle as a weapon, as specified by Al Qaeda and ISIL rhetoric. This tactic has proved successful in exploits in the Middle East, with car bombings in Iraq and Syria now, sadly, a news fixture.
French intelligence has focused its efforts recently on the Euro Football Tournament and the Tour De France as prime targets. Today in the wake of these attacks terrorist experts suggest that terror cells that had been working towards an attack at the sporting events of the summer redistributed their efforts to other more accessible targets as seen as Nice. The events of 14th July 2016 is likely to have claimed a number of police casualties, a human barricade before the truck careened onto the promenade.
Far right political parties in France have bloomed in the wake of tensions and a growing list of mass casualty events. Marine Le Pen runs her Front National Party on a bed of Anti-Islam vitriol and an exclusive nationalism that expels the unwanted. Le Pen loudly associated immigration with terrorism and her anti-immigration stance has spread Europe wide like wild fire. See Brexit. These nationalist movements come at the cost of human casualties, the people left on either side of national boundaries are cast as homeless and without identity.
In the face of these nationalist agendas the young French are saddened, “liberty, equality, fraternity, that speaks to you? Your hatred of others, you believe you are higher ?… It is not Muslims destroying France, it’s your intolerance,” noted Justine, a French university student.
This was not a Muslim attack on the French, from the scarce amounts of footage we do have of the events in Nice, French Muslims were within the crowd targeted. One Iranian journalist Maryam Violet at the scene reported women in hijabs among the bodies scattered along the street in the aftermath. Blaming a whole religion for the hateful acts at the hands of some is media framing at its most belligerent and serves the direct narrative of the terrorists themselves.
The choice of location was chosen to strike across the world, with tourists with varied passports soaking up the sun in the French Riviera. The selection of day a choice made to strike at the very heart of French values, liberty stolen away indiscriminately. As the fireworks peppered the sky the sounds of bullets melded together, an awful desecration of independence.
To speculate is to exacerbate, and feeding into the hyper aware rolling coverage only spreads untruths. Blame is laid haphazardly, anger misdirected and the human beings stolen by these tragedies forgotten. Beyond France the wave of terror and radicalised behaviour is at risk of being normalised, whether in an Iraqi marketplace, a cinema, a concert venue, a nightclub, a restaurant, a Turkish airport or a national parade.
Geography should not provide an exclusion, all attacks of terror whether in a country we recognise or further afield demand our condolences. So rather than turning pointed fingers to the immigrants, the asylum seekers, the foreign, our gaze should be directed astutely at the systems that foster a hate of others. Fear can weary but it should instead embolden a coming together of people, standing up unafraid. A fraternity, seeking equality and an overarching liberty looking beyond the awful acts of the few.
If you’re worried for any family or friends abroad you can contact the Australian Embassy in France. +33140593300
Image Source: NBC