French Fighters In Iraq Puzzle Paris

Confirmed reports of French-born Muslims leaving the country to fight the US-led occupation forces in Iraq are puzzling the European country, which fears a future backlash. “There is confusion as to what is motivating young French to travel to Iraq to join the fighting,” a French judicial source told IslamOnline.net Tuesday, November 29, on condition of anonymity. “A possible scenario is that they are being recruited by non-French individuals on ideological grounds.” He stressed that the issue is causing a major headache for French security authorities. “Paris fears that such young people might carry out operations inside France or other European countries once the Iraqi war is over,” he added. A recent study put at 22 the number of French fighting with the Iraqi resistance, seven of them were confirmed killed in attacks and three in US custody. Vanishing Hajj Aziza, a French Muslim mother, recalled how her 20-year-old son, Mohammad, disappeared last summer. “He called me from Istanbul saying he was embarking on a short trip to learn Arabic in Syria,” the mother, who lives in Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, told IOL. “Later, he phoned me saying he was in a Baghdad district, and was ok,” she said, adding he promised to return home soon. Heart-broken Aziza has not heard from her son ever since and is dying to know if he is still alive. Her story is similar to that of many Muslim mothers in France whose sons have disappeared into thin air over the past two years, only to discover later they were fighting against the US forces in Iraq. Most of the young French believed to be fighting in Iraq hail from districts mostly inhabited by immigrants of north African background. Why? French experts well versed in Islamic movement affairs have given different accounts as to the possible motives for joining the Iraqi resistance. Analyst Olivier Roy believes this has to do with “globalization of the Islamist phenomenon” which trespasses borders and cultures. “There is also the feeling of marginalization and identity crisis experienced by the second and third generations of French Muslims,” he told IOL. This argument was contradicted by Gilles Kepel in the introduction of his book Al-Qaeda dans le texte. He refuted any link between joining the Iraqi resistance and the identity crisis, saying Al-Qaeda was playing the religion tune. A study by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said the US occupation of Iraq has radicalized Arabs and Muslims to join Al-Qaeda network of Osama Bin Laden. Saying that foreign fighters represent less than five percent of the Iraqi resistance, the study said most of them were motivated by “revulsion at the idea of an Arab land being occupied by a non-Arab country.” The London-based Royal Institute of International Affairs has also said that the Iraq war gave a momentum to Al-Qaeda’s recruitment and fundraising and made Britain more vulnerable to terror attacks. Patrick Cockburn, an award-winning British reporter, has also charged that the Anglo-American “ill-considered venture” of invading Iraq has turned into a “mess” fueling attacks around the world and providing Al-Qaeda with sympathizers it did not possess before the invasion of 2003.