President Francois Hollande of France called on Monday for constitutional amendments to fight potential terrorists at home and for an aggressive effort to “eradicate” the Islamic State abroad.
His call to arms — “France is at war,” he said at the opening of his remarks to a joint session of Parliament — came as security forces in France and Belgium zeroed in on a suspect they said was the architect of the assault that killed 129 people Friday night in Paris. The suspect, a 27-year-old Belgian, has fought for the Islamic State in Syria and has been linked to other terrorist attacks.
Mr. Hollande spoke after the French police raided homes and other sites across the country in an effort to head off possible further attacks and as the authorities in Belgium hunted for a suspected assailant in Friday’s attacks. Mr. Hollande called for quick action by Parliament on new legislation that would give the government more flexibility to conduct police raids without a warrant and place people under house arrest. He said he would seek court advice on broader surveillance powers. And he called for amendments that would enable the state to take exceptional security measures without having to resort to the most drastic options currently in the Constitution. r. Hollande is also seeking to extend the current state of emergency for three months and let the government strip the citizenship of French natives who are convicted of terrorism and hold a second passport.
“Our democracy has prevailed over much more formidable opponents than these cowardly assassins,” Mr. Hollande said a day after France conducted airstrikes against the Syrian city of Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State. It was the country’s most intense military strike yet against the radical group, which has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Paris.
The French leader said he would meet soon with President Obama and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in an effort to settle on a united campaign to wipe out the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
“Terrorism will not destroy the republic, because it is the republic that will destroy it,” he said. Three days after the attacks on a soccer stadium, a concert hall and numerous bars and cafes, French and Belgian security services were focused on the radical jihadist they believe was the leader of the plot, Abdelhamid Abaaoud. He is among the most prominent Islamic State fighters to have come out of Belgium. A French official briefed on the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss operational details, said Mr. Abaaoud had mentioned plans to attack “a concert hall” to a French citizen who returned from Syria.
Mr. Abaaoud, this official said, had also been in contact with Ismaël Omar Mostefaï, one of the Paris attackers. Mr. Abaaoud also knew another attacker, Ibrahim Abdeslam; they were tried together in 2010 in Belgium for a minor offense.
Mr. Hollande said the attacks had been “planned in Syria, organized in Belgium, perpetrated on our soil with French complicity.” The French authorities said Monday that they had conducted 168 raids across the country in an effort to root out possible terrorist threats. The raids extended from the Paris region to the major cities of Lille, Lyon, Marseille and Toulouse, they said. They also said they had arrested 23 people and detained 104 others under house arrest.
But a Frenchman believed to be involved in the Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, 26, a brother of Ibrahim Abdeslam, remained at large, eluding a series of raids conducted by the authorities in Molenbeek, the working-class Brussels neighborhood where the brothers lived.
A third brother, Mohamed, and four other men who had been detained in Belgium were released on Monday. At a news conference in Brussels, Mohamed said he did not know Salah’s whereabouts and added, “My parents are under shock and have not yet grasped what has happened.” The man believed to be the architect of the plot, Mr. Abaaoud, who traveled to Syria last year and even persuaded his 13-year-old brother to join him there, is from the same neighborhood, Molenbeek, as the Abdeslam brothers. Mr. Abaaoud was already a suspect, according to officials and local news reports, in a failed terrorist plot in Belgium in January and an attempt in August to gun down passengers on a high-speed train to Paris from Brussels. An intelligence official said the authorities feared he might be in Europe.
In Washington, Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said some American officials suspected that Mr. Abaaoud might still be in Syria. Mr. Abaaoud was most likely part of an Islamic State cell that has developed over the past year to help plan, organize and execute terrorist attacks in Europe, particularly in France, Mr. Schiff said in a telephone interview.
The cell is believed to be led by Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, who serves as an official spokesman for the Islamic State, a Defense Department official said Monday.
Mr. Schiff warned that much was still unknown about how much of the plot had been directed from Syria and how much autonomy had been left to conspirators.
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At noon, France observed a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attack, which wounded about 350 people, in addition to the 129 killed. The Métro and cars stopped and crowds gathered at a makeshift memorial at the Place de la République and at the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Hollande stood with students at the Sorbonne. Many recited the national anthem, “La Marseillaise,” after the moment passed. In other cities — Delhi; Doha, Qatar; and Dublin — crowds gathered at French embassies to pay their respects.
As France observed its second of three days of national mourning, the authorities in France and Belgium raced to track down suspects and chase leads.
At one house in the Rhône department in the southeast, around Lyon, the police found a Kalashnikov rifle, three pistols, ammunition and bulletproof vests. Officers then obtained a warrant to search the home of the parents of a man who lived in the house, where they found several automatic pistols, ammunition, police armbands, military clothing and a rocket launcher.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve promised to keep up the search. “We are using all the possibilities given to us by the state of emergency, that is to say administrative raids, 24 hours a day,” Mr. Valls said. He vowed to keep intense pressure on “radical Islamism, Salafist groups, all those who preach hatred of the Republic.” The authorities also confirmed on Monday that one of the attackers entered Europe through Greece on a Syrian passport last month, posing as a migrant. The man was identified on his passport — found at the soccer stadium north of Paris where he blew himself up Friday night — as Ahmad al-Mohammad, 25, a native of Idlib, Syria. The holder of the passport passed through the Greek island of Leros on Oct. 3 and the Serbian border town of Presovo on Oct. 7, according to Greek and Serbian officials. It remained unclear whether the passport was authentic.
All told, at least four French citizens were among the seven attackers: Ibrahim Abdeslam; Mr. Mostefaï, who met with the man suspected of planning the attacks; and two men identified on Monday as Samy Amimour, 28, a Paris native who lived in the suburb of Drancy, and Bilal Hadfi, 20, who lived in Brussels.
Mr. Amimour was known to the French authorities, having been charged in October 2012 with terrorist conspiracy, according to the authorities. He was placed under judicial supervision but violated the terms of that supervision in 2013, prompting the authorities to put out an international arrest warrant. Last December, the French newspaper Le Monde interviewed Mr. Amimour’s father — it did not identify him by name at the time — who had gone to Syria to try to bring back his son. Three members of the Amimour family were detained on Monday.
Turkey confirmed on Monday that Mr. Mostefaï, 29, entered Turkey in 2013, but it said that “there is no record of him leaving the country.”
A Turkish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the government flagged Mr. Mostefaï twice — in December and in June — but that “we have, however, not heard back from France on the matter.”
He continued, “It was only after the Paris attacks that the Turkish authorities received an information request about Ismaël Omar Mostefaï from France.” The official added that “this is not a time to play the blame game,” but that governments needed to do better at sharing intelligence to prevent terrorism. The United States has provided logistical support for the French airstrikes in Syria, but Mr. Obama on Monday again ruled out a ground intervention.
“Let’s assume that we were to send 50,000 troops into Syria,” he said at a gathering of leaders of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market economies in Antalya, Turkey. “What happens when there’s a terrorist attack generated from Yemen? Do we then send troops into there? Or Libya, perhaps?”
Elsewhere in Europe, the authorities tightened security. Britain announced Monday that it would pay for an additional 1,900 intelligence officers, and review aviation security.
In Washington, John O. Brennan, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said Monday that the Paris attacks and the crash of a Russian jet over the Sinai Peninsula bore the “hallmarks” of the Islamic State.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Brennan called the group an “association of murderous sociopaths” that is “not going to content itself with violence inside the Syrian and Iraqi borders.”
Wading into the debate over surveillance, privacy and encryption, Mr. Brennan said he hoped the Paris attacks would be a “wake-up call,” adding that “hand-wringing” had weakened the ability of Western intelligence services to prevent attacks.
The annual CRIF dinner on February 23 was marked by absences of Muslim representatives, who decided to boycott the night following Cukierman’s remarks on Europe 1. “All violence today is committed by young Muslims,” even if “of course it’s a little minority of the Muslim community and Muslims are the first victims,” he had previously stated. Cukierman later clarified his statement, “I only shed light on the fact that all the terrorists who committed murders recently claimed Islam [as their religion], and that the first victims of these terrorists, are Muslims.”
Mohammed Mossaoui, President of the Union of Mosques in France and Dalil Boubakeur, President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, decided to skip the dinner. “I learned of this decision with deep regret,” said Mr. Cukierman before stating, “I called Mr. Boubakeur to try and change his mind…It was neither to amalgamate or to stigmatize. It had to do with the facts…I told Mr. Boubakeur that our long and sincere friendship must overcome this problem because what matters, it’s living together in harmony…Jews, Muslims, we are all in the same boat, I hope that contact will be quickly restored.”
The CRIF President was also criticized for stating in the same interview that Marine Le Pen was “irreproachable.” Cukierman later explained that Marine Le Pen was “irreproachable” from a legal standpoint. “But she is someone we don’t want anything to do with, for she has never distanced herself from her father’s remarks,” he concluded.
“To equate all Muslim with jihadists, it’s an enormous injustice, to equate all religions with problems of fundamentalism, it’s an enormous injustice,” declared former president Nicolas Sarkozy on Europe 1. “We must therefore create the conditions that allow for an Islam of France…an Islam that would have societal practices that are compatible with what we want,” he stated. “Those who join us must adapt our way of life and our culture and not impose theirs on us, for me, that’s called assimilation more than integration.”
Sarkozy had previously discussed the issue on February 7 during a speech to his party’s national council, when he announced that the UMP should organize “a work day dedicated to the question of Islam in France or Islam of France.”
While speaking on Europe 1 he affirmed: “We don’t want veiled women, not for religious reasons, not for reasons concerning an interpretation of Islam,” but “simply” because “in the Republic, women and men are equal.”
In 2010 Sarkozy enacted a law prohibiting any covering of the face in a public space, which therefore restricted women from wearing the niqab and burqa. Violators are subject to a 150-euro fine and/or citizenship training. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2014, after it was challenged by a French woman of Pakistani origin.
“Secularism was built on our country’s hardship and there are a certain amount of societal practices that we don’t want,” he stated, citing the veil and prayers in the streets.
By Mabel Berezin
Responding to the massacre at the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, President Barack Obama and other public figures such as John Kerry, author Salman Rushdie — even the far-right nationalist French politician Marine Le Pen — have defended the right to freedom of expression as a core democratic value. Huge demonstrations in solidarity with the victims are occurring throughout France and in many European capitals.
The slogan “Je suis Charlie Hebdo” is circulating widely in social media. Twitter is inundated with tweets about the political power of satire. Pictures of demonstrators holding pens in the air abound.
The political mood in Europe has been growing dark. Volatility is becoming more and more constant. In December, the Swedish government went into a crisis triggered by the right nationalist Sweden Democrats, which are vehemently opposed to more immigration and whose leader recently proclaimed that Jews, Kurds and Sami were not Swedish unless they assimilated. A last-minute compromise among the major parties saved the day in Sweden, but the Sweden Democrats — whose electoral share went from 6% in 2010 to 13% in 2014 — are not leaving the scene.
In Greece, where the openly neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn has been in the parliament since 2012, the pro-Europe government came apart and the Prime Ministerhas called snap elections for January 25. In Germany, a group called Pegida staged large demonstrations in Dresden against the “Islamification of Europe.” Prime Minister Angela Merkel in her New Year’s address told the group to stop its demonstrations, but Pegida staged another one in Dresden anyway.
And now France.
Le Pen’s goal since she became head of the National Front in 2011 has been to make it a mainstream party. In 2014, it moved from one electoral breakthrough to another. In March it won mayoral races in four French municipalities, including the traditionally socialist city of Hénin-Beaumont. In May, it came in first place in the European parliamentary elections — which saw an uptick in the fortunes of right nationalist parties throughout Europe.
Le Pen has consistently polled well as a contender in the 2017 French presidential elections. Even before the Charlie Hebdo attack, it was more than likely that she would make it to the second round in 2017. In an October public opinion poll, she outpolled French President François Hollande by 15 percentage points. Her closest rival was former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and she outpolled even him.
The international media often present her as a single-issue candidate around xenophobia and immigration, but Le Pen’s and the Front’s positions have expanded considerably. Her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former head of the party, began a strong push against further European integration and French involvement in the Economic and Monetary Union. Unemployment outpaces immigration as the leading problem in public opinion polls.
But politicians take opportunities where they see them, and voters tend to remember dramatic events as well as everyday grievances. Nothing could be more dramatic than the public killings of 12 persons in the center of Paris.
They may well become a tipping point — Europe’s 21st-century version of a Sarajevo moment. Europe has been convulsing for the last few years. The sovereign debt crisis, the high youth unemployment rates, the failure to come up with a just and reasonable refugee policy — all these issues may crystalize around of the event in Paris whether they are directly related or not.
The nationalist right has been gaining strength all over Europe on just these issues. The Charlie Hebdo massacre will not only help Marine Le Pen but will be a boon to nationalist parties throughout Europe. From north to south, ordinary European citizens are already voting for parties that they had shunned in the past. If this trend continues, there will be no guns of August — just the silent assault of one nationalist electoral success after another.
Two Muslim charities have lost their government grants following allegations of links to Islamic extremist activities.
Birmingham based ‘Islamic Help’ and the London based Muslim Charities Forum (MCF) protested the government’s decision, after the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) revoked their grants. The government informed the charities it did not want to support groups “linked to individuals who fuel hatred, division and violence.” The decision could affect a number of Muslim charities across the country, particularly those working with groups in Syria and Iraq.
The action follows a report produced by the think tank Claystone, which earlier this year found that more than a quarter of charities being investigated by the government were Muslim advocacy organizations. The think tank criticized what it saw as the “targeting” of Islamic organizations, particularly following the appointment of Sir William Shawcross as head the Charity Commission. Shawcross has also been criticized by Muslim groups for claiming “Europe and Islam” are among the world’s most “terrifying” problems, and that Islamic extremists were infiltrating British charities.
In the last decade online dating became a mainstream activity, in Europe and North America at least. It is therefore not surprising that Western Muslims adapted the idea to their needs. For many, online dating offers a low-stress solution to the daunting challenge of finding a partner for marriage in countries where few share their faith, and in communities where matchmaking is considered a family affair.
Adeem Younis, founder of the matchmaking site SingleMuslim.com, which he created above a fast-food shop in Wakefield while still a lowly undergraduate, now boasts more than a million members. However, the young entrepreneur stresses that the term “Muslim online dating” would be inaccurate. The goal of such sites is often far more ambitious than the average hook-up website. Instead of hazy morning-after memories and hopes of receiving a follow-through text message, sites like SingleMuslim.com aim to provide clients with a partner for life. It is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. “In Islam, marriage is equal to half of your religion,” he says, quoting a saying thought to have been uttered by the Prophet Mohammed, “so you can imagine how important it is… Islam teaches us that marriage is the cornerstone of society as a whole.”
SingleMuslim.com now claims a success rate of about four matches per day. But the site is just one example of a booming market serving Muslims of all ages and degrees of religiosity.
A review of Jocelyne Cesari’s new book from the Journal of Muslims in Europe. [PDF DOWNLOAD]
A recent Pew Study revealed that Muslims in America fare better than Muslims in Europe. The results of the study illustrate American Islam as diverse, integrated, well-educated and economically successful. Additionally, American Muslims are more tolerant of other sects within Islam. Their experience and situation in America is in stark contrast to the experiences of Muslims in Europe like the Turks in Germany and North African immigrants in France. As a community, they overwhelmingly reject terrorism and identify as first as Americans and then as Muslims.
August 29, 2014
Counter to the common interpretation, the appeal of radical anti-Western groups like ISIS among European Muslims is not driven primarily by socioeconomic deprivation. In fact, three interrelated factors play a more significant role.
The first is the powerful presence of the Salafi version of Islam in the religious market of ideas. This is problematic because even as most Muslims in the West are not Salafis and the majority of Salafis are not jihadists, it happens that groups like Al Qaiada and ISIS have a Salafi background. It means that their theological view comes from a particular interpretation of Islam rooted in Wahhabism, an eighteenth century doctrine adopted by the Saudi kingdom. In the West, Salafis incite people to withdraw from mainstream society, depicted as impure, in order to live by strict rules. These reactionary interpretations do contain similarities with jihadist discourse.
The second factor in the radicalization of Muslim youth is the increase of discriminatory policies vis-à-vis Islamic practices in Europe, including the use of the hijab and regulation of mosque minarets, circumcision and halal food. All contribute to a growing sense among Muslims that they are not accepted as full members of European society. Anti-immigration and anti-Islamic discourse translates into discriminatory practices in employment, housing and political activities. It can be a factor in strengthening a defensive identification within Islam and therefore gives more leverage to any ideology that pits the West against Muslims.
Third, the collapse of all major ideologies in Europe — nationalism, Communism, and liberalism — has left room for new radical options. For some young Europeans, adherence to radical Islam provides a viable alternative ideology, comparable to that of radical leftist groups in the 1970s.
These factors reveal a lack of true integration of Muslims as European policies have prioritized socioeconomic measures. In other words, political efforts are needed to put an end to the ‘ghettoization’ of Islam, which is often depicted as alien and incompatible with Western core liberal values. It means that geopolitical issues like the “war on terror” should be disconnected as much as possible from Islam and its adherents and their practices. Europe, and to a certain extent the U.S., face a major political challenge, which is the inclusion of Islam within their respective national narratives. It is a huge symbolic task, equivalent to the undertaking that led to the integration of the African-American past and legacy into the dominant American narrative.
**Jocelyne Cesari is senior research fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University, and director of the Islam in the West Program at Harvard University. She is the author of “Why the West Fears Islam: An Exploration of Muslims in Liberal Democracies” and “The Awakening of Muslim Democracy: Religion, Modernity, and the State.”