Terror attack at Orly airport

A “radicalized Muslim” known to security services has been shot dead after attempting to steal a soldier’s gun at Paris Orly Airport.

The 39-year-old French citizen, identified as Ziyed Ben Belgacem, shot at police officers manning a checkpoint in northern Paris with an “air pistol” before launching the airport attack, the French interior minister said.

During a visit to the airport, Bruno Le Roux said one officer was shot during the routine check and was undergoing hospital treatment for injuries to his face.

“We can link the [airport attacker’s] identity with a check carried out at Garges-les-Gonesse by a patrol in Stains this morning,” he added.

 

Paris prosecutor Francois Molins told a news conference on Saturday evening that at the airport, Belgacem yelled he wanted to die in the name of Allah and said “whatever happens, there will be deaths”.

Mr Molins said the attacker held an air pistol to a soldier’s head and used her as a shield. He apparently wanted to use her weapon to shoot people in the busy airport.

Contrary to earlier reports by French officials, Mr Molins said the attacker did wrench away her powerful military-grade assault rifle.

The soldier’s colleagues fired three bursts – eight rounds in all – when they killed him.

Belgacem had a lengthy criminal history of violence, robbery and drug offences but was not on the “fiche S” list of terror threats, despite being investigated by the DGSI as a potential jihadi after indications of Islamist radicalisation emerged in 2015.

Mr Molins said three people were being held in police custody, and that Belgacem’s choice of target and evidence that he had been radicalised justified launching a terrorism investigation.

Belgacem is believed to have been radicalized in prison and was put under surveillance after being freed, although it was unclear when monitoring stopped.

Prosecutors said no evidence of extremism was uncovered in a search of his home, which was among scores raided in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks.

“The individual’s identity is known to the police and intelligence services.” Belgacem’s father and brother, as well as a cousin, have been detained for questioning.

France’s choice of non-Muslim to lead French Islam foundation causes controversy

The appointment of French politician Jean-Pierre Chevènement to head the newly formed Foundation for Islam in France, which aims to improve relations between the state and the Muslim community, has sparked controversy in many French circles.

Chevènement, a former French interior minister, was chosen to head the Foundation for Islam in France Monday following a meeting between current Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Muslim community leaders in Paris.

Announcing the decision Monday, Cazeneuve said the aim of the discussions was to forge “an Islam anchored in the values of the French Republic”.

But the choice of Chevènement, a 77-year-old career politician whose past posts include defence as well as interior minister, was greeted with skepticism by many activists and community leaders.

“It’s a joke,” civil rights activist Yasser Louati, whose work focuses on issues of Islamophobia and national security said. “We keep treating Muslims as if they are foreign people who need to be disciplined.”

The problem with this foundation and similar ones that came before it, Louati argued, is that it was established by the government. For such an organisation to succeed, it needs a bottom-up, and not a top-down approach, he said. The community should have been asked about how they wanted the initiative to be structured and who they wanted to head it. As it stands, “it is bound to fail,” he said.

Louati was also critical about Chevènement’s appointment. “It is like me appointing Ronald Reagan to head up African-American affairs,” he said.

Ghaleb Bencheikh, an author and expert on Islam, who will sit on the organisation’s board, said that while a Muslim president for the foundation would have been “ideal”, Chevènement is an acceptable choice in the short-term, when the main aim is to get the project up and running.

Bencheikh said there is no obvious consensus option from within the community at the time being, and that Chevènement will serve a transitional role.

Chevènenement is not without credibility within the community, Bencheikh added. He was a disciple of noted French Arabist Jacques Berque, he has travelled extensively in the Arab world, he was president of the France-Algeria Association and he resigned from his position as minister of defence in protest at his nation’s involvement in the first Gulf War.

But Chevènement has already ruffled feathers by saying that Muslims should be “discreet” and try to blend in. He also said that there were 135 nationalities in a racially diverse suburb of Paris, but one has almost disappeared, referring to French nationals.

The implication that the French nationals living in Saint-Denis, many of them of North African origin, are somehow not French prompted officials in the northern Parisian suburb to write to President Hollande, asking him to renounce Chevènement’s appointment.

Bencheikh said that in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks in the country, something needed to be done. France was faced with a choice over what kind of Islam it wanted: a tolerant, open Islam or the Islam of violence and jihad. Bencheikh believes the foundation will help promote the former.

 

French Interior Minister says, “It’s easier for immigrants to integrate if there are less of them”

News Agencies – November 30, 2011
As he presented his party’s campaign platform ahead of next year’s presidential and legislative elections, French Interior Minister Claude Gueant laid down the gauntlet to the far right by hardening the government’s position on immigration.

“It’s easier for immigrants to integrate if there are less of them,” Gueant told Europe 1 radio. “It’s obvious that we need to better manage the flow of immigrants. For immigration to work, we need to be welcoming fewer immigrants each year.”

Between 100-150 mosques being built in France

News Agencies – August 2, 2011

According to the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, Mohammed Moussaoui, 100-150 mosques are currently being built in France. Moussaoui said that most are financed by the worshipers and very few from abroad. French Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, has said that in the past decade the number of mosques increased from 1000 to 2000 in the French territory.

According to Moussaoui, 17-23% of French Muslims go to Friday prayers, which he says distinguishes between the practicing and non-practicing Muslims. He repeated that prayers in the streets were outrageous, but stemmed from lack of places in mosques. Guéant wants to stop Friday prayers in the streets. According to a senior official, there are 17 mosques in Paris, all filled up, and they can’t accommodate more than 13,000 people, which is insufficient.

French Interior Minister tells police not to arrest Muslim women covering up near mosques

Daily Mail: April 4, 2011

Women wearing burkas in France will face fines – but the areas around mosques will be exempt
Police in France have been warned not to arrest any women wearing Muslim veils ‘in or around’ mosques. The strict instructions, from Interior Minister Claude Guent, are contained in a nine page circular issued to officers prior to a full-blown burka ban coming into force next week.
With tensions running high within the country’s six million strong Muslim community, people have already been warned not to perform ‘citizen’s de-veilings’.
This means that members of the public will not be allowed to take the law into their own hands when they see a woman hiding her features in a public place.
Instead they will have to call the police, who will in turn consider whether the offender should be fined 150 euros. This will apply to all garments which cover the eyes, although scarves, hats, and sunglasses are excluded.
As well as a mosque, Muslims will also be able to put on a veil in the privacy of their own homes, a hotel room, or even a car, as long as they are not driving.
The new ban, which came into effect on April 11, will mean France is officially the second country in Europe, after Belgium, to introduce a full ban on a garment which immigration minister Eric Besson has called a ‘walking coffin.’

French interior minister apologizes for likening Libya intervention to a crusade

News Agencies – March 23, 2011
Claude Guéant, France’s new interior minister, has been forced into expressing regret for having likened his country’s diplomatic drive for international military intervention in Libya to a “crusade”. Mr Guéant had praised Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, for having “headed the crusade to mobilise the United Nations Security Council, and then the Arab League and the African Union.”
In spite of raising hackles in the Middle East and Russia, Mr Guéant had earlier been unrepentant, telling fellow right-wingers that the modern usage of the term “crusade” did not necessarily have religious overtones. Mr Guéant was named interior minister in a cabinet reshuffle sparked by the resignation of former Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie. She was discredited after taking a holiday in Tunisia over Christmas, just as a popular revolt erupted there. Nicknamed “The Cardinal” during his time as the Elysée’s secretary general, Mr Guéant was admired for his diplomatic skills. But since taking a ministerial post, he has been pilloried for his lack of tact.

French Interior Minister Works with CFCM to Combat Racist Acts

French Minister of the Interior Brice Hortefeux and French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) president Mohammed Moussaoui have signed an agreement to better follow-up anti-Muslim acts and threats in France. 314 such acts were reported in 2009. Moussaoui called on the French to “combat together” this “menace against national cohesion.” Ironically, Hortefeux was fined 750 Euros at the beginning of June for having publicly slandered people of Arab origin. The comment was caught on tape and spread quickly over the internet.

French interior minister fined for making racist comments

A French court has fined Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux for making racist comments about a young party activist of Algerian origin. The court fined Mr Hortefeux 750 euros (£622) and ordered that he pay 2,000 euros to an anti-racism group. The comments were made in September 2009 and were broadcast in a video clip that circulated on the internet.

The court ruled that his remark was “incontestably offensive, if not contemptuous”. The court did not issue a criminal conviction, judging that Mr Hortefeux had not intended the comments to be heard in public. It found him guilty instead of the lesser offence of racial insult.