A year after Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in Toulouse and its surroundings, the domestic anti-terrorist initiatives of the French intelligence services comes under criticism for the failures in the case. With problems in information sharing, lack of coordination and rivalries, French attempts to combat terrorism are criticised in front of the Committee of Inquiry which assesses the state’s intelligence operation a year after the Merah incident.
The tension between a variety of intelligence organs such as the police and military intelligence, who are all in charge with the monitoring of radicalization amongst Muslims in France, have according to the Committee of Inquiry contributed to failed discovery of Merah’s radicalisation and assassination plans.
As a result, the Central Directorate of Interior Intelligence (DCRI) assured last month in front of the Defence Committee of the French National Assembly to have reformed its services and widened its scope. In order to ease the coordination between intelligence cells, the position of a cross coordinator was created. Internal investigations have simultaneously led to the dismissal of several members of the intelligence service.
The case of a broader reform of the intelligence apparatus is expected to come to a conclusion by the end of March. Whilst reforms were introduced after the Merah incident, the judicial apparatus operated in full swing: accordingly, in 2012, 78 people were arrested in connection with the combat against jihadism in comparison to 47 in 2011. Thirty of them were referred to the public prosecutor in comparison to 21 a year before.
With transnational networks of jihadists rising, the fear of the intelligence apparatus to miss out on another case leads to increased scrutiny and harsher as well as quicker sentences being made.
The French National Assembly, with the support of President Nicolas Sarkozy, recently formed a special commission on the niqab . Its first hearings will be held next week and continue throughout the month, with recommendations expected before the end of the year. Parliamentary hearings are not generally open to the public, but no decision has been made on whether the inquiry will be closed. Like the debate over the 2004 law that outlawed Muslim head scarves in French public schools, the question of the niqab broadly pits the ideal of a secular state against the equally treasured guarantees of freedom of religion and expression.
Burqa-wearing women have responded in a great deal of media. Mohammed Moussaoui, president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) has said that he prefers a “middle-road” Islam, and that “We are not asking French society to accept the burqa.”
CLICHY-SOUS-BOIS, France – In the United States, the word “suburb” may conjure up images of bedroom communities with neat, tree-lined streets and good schools – a haven from the hustle and flow of city life. Not so in France. This Paris suburb ( banlieue ), a tinderbox of crime, sky-high youth unemployment and minority disaffection, spectacularly burst into flames last fall as riots gripped hundreds of ghettoes across France. Unrest, though less severe, again plagued Paris suburbs last week. Among other issues, the fury in the streets among the mostly Muslim youth has underscored the lack of political representation for this growing segment of French society. The National Intelligence Council estimates that Western Europe’s Muslim population, which is now as high as 20 million, will more than double by 2025. Coupled with a graying indigenous population, that would mean the continent’s largest population shift in centuries. France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe at 6 million (out of a population of around 60 million), although precise figures are hard to come by because the state officially does not tally ethnicity or religion. Yet, none of the 555 deputies in the French National Assembly is Muslim. […]