CHARLOTTE, NC, July 19, 2016 – What has made France such a magnet for terror attacks?
Since New Year’s Eve 2016, Western countries have suffered 16 terrorist attacks. Of those 16, five have taken place in France.
Two factors play a key role in why France has become such an attractive “killing field” for Islamists. The first is the French history of colonization and its failure to integrate immigrants, primarily North Africans, into its society. The second is inadequate intelligence and policing.
As Patrick Calvar, the head of France’s domestic intelligence, sees it, “We must no longer think in terms of French or French-resident people, but in terms of francophones. Thousands of Tunisians, thousands of Moroccans and Algerians can be dispatched into our territory.”
France, especially its larger cities like Paris, has a problem assimilating Muslims into their society. Such groups have established enclaves at the edge of major metropolitan areas which have extremely high levels of unemployment that become breeding grounds for crime and terrorist activity.
Statistics show that many, if not most, of the root causes of France’s predicament with Islamic jihad arise in its prisons.
Some 60-percent of French prisoners are Muslims while only eight percent of the country’s total population is incarcerated. Such percentages lead to a ready-made incubator for converting disenfranchised prisoners into Islamic fanatics.
One recent report says that French law enforcement agencies have prevented nine terror attacks since the beginning of 2015. Given that France has been a victim at least five times during that period, the record of prevention is hardly noteworthy or a source of pride.
The remnants of France’s cultural and linguistic heritage in many of its former colonies is another source of hostility between French and Muslim communities. Combine that with the percentages of converts to Islam who are in prison and the picture of why France has become a favorite target for terror quickly comes into focus.
It is not that French law enforcement has been overwhelmed by a lack of resources to monitor terrorist activity so much as it has been a matter of inadequate policing to handle the situation. In that sense, the French example becomes more frightening, even in the relative isolation of the US thanks to a similar attitude by the Obama administration.
According to a report on terrorist activity in France last year, every perpetrator was a known entity by at least one of the country’s intelligence services. “They have all been on file, watched, listened to or incarcerated along their path of delinquency toward violent radicalization,” says the report.
Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhjel, the 31-year-old Tunisian resident of Nice who drove a rented truck into a Bastille Day crowd last Thursday, was known to police for a variety of minor acts of violence, but he was never investigated by police.
While it is impossible to monitor every misdemeanor undertaken by any outcast of society, there must be a mechanism to more closely observe that behavior.
France, as well as other Western nations, lag far behind in resolving the problems of international terror. The fixes will be difficult and often painful. Furthermore, they will not happen quickly. It has taken 1400 years for Islam to reach this point in time, and it will also take considerable time to end the tragedy of global terror.
That said, eliminating complacency, becoming smarter, better educated and more vigilant while admitting there is a problem and identifying what the problem is, can go a long way toward reducing the horrors of terror.
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Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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