• Yonah Josse ('22)

Terrorism in France


For centuries, France has been widely acclaimed as a center of advanced society and democracy. However, in recent years there has been backlash against the rise of radical Islamism and terrorism in the country, esspecially after the notable recent incident in which Samuel Paty, a French teacher, was killed by an eighteen year old Muslim student originally from Chechnya. Paty had discussed cases of caricatures of the Muslim prophet, Mohammed. The student, offended by the caricatures, then beheaded the teacher.


These events have led to many protests by the French, demanding an end to Islamic extremism and the preservation of freedom of speech. French President Emmanuel Macron has called for the UN to reinforce Europe’s border as a surge in terrorism by migrant radical Islamists has risen in the past decade. Even as recent events have called into question French security concerns, the question must be asked: Why has it taken so long for France to recognize and fight back against terrorist migrants coming through its borders? Terror attacks have become prevalent since the 1970s, when French borders were first opened up by President Georges Pompidou. Decades ago, on October 3, 1980, a man of Arabic origin set off a bomb which exploded outside a synagogue on the Rue Copernic, Paris, killing four and wounding forty six others. Another incident was the August 9, 1982 shooting in the Goldenberg restaurant on Rue des Rosiers, by the Radical Islamic association ANO, in which six died and twenty two were wounded.


Until recently, French terror attacks were simply acknowledged but not properly assessed by the French media, which simply gave ill justifications for these attacks. The French seemingly wanted to deny the fact that the terrorism was coming from radical Islamists who had come through the open borders. Its likely that these media organizations acted this way from fear of backlash. But why, many wonder, are they now not afraid of this? The answer is simple. Previous terror attacks mainly targeting Jews and Jewish establishments. The French media had no issue swerving the narrative of these attacks toward conflict in the Middle East regarding Israel. The unfortunate reality is that these were also Anti-Semitic attacks which continued into the twenty-first century as levels of terror in France skyrocketted. According to French police, 70% of hate crimes in France are committed against Jews ( a group that comprises less than 1% of the French population), with the vast majority of these attacks carried out by Islamic extremists. As an example, in March 2012, Mohamed Merah, a man of Muslim-Algerian origin, attacked a Jewish school, killing a Rabbi and three Jewish students. This is just one example of the many attacks against Jews throughout the century. These attacks have led to a huge rise in French Jewry making Aliyah, with estimates 50% higher rates than the last century, according to the Jewish Agency for Israel. Only now that extremists are targeting non-Jewish French citizens, French media and government is taking action.


The issue of terrorism in France should be a lesson to American. When opening borders, we must be cautious of who we are letting into our country, as people often bring and keep their culture, even in a new setting. France has shown that sometimes people cannot simply be integrated into society, but rather, these people often keep to their own morals and bring their own radical ideologies.


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