France has some 15,000 Salafist radicals and nearly 2,000 French nationals have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight Jihad, according to French authorities. The French government has shut down scores of radical mosques, Koranic schools and associations since the State-of-Emergency was decreed in November 2015. Today the debate focusses on the estimated five million Muslims in France (nobody knows how many for sure) who are accused, like the “good Germans” of Nazi days, of not stepping forward to denounce what they may see or hear.
The Berlin terrorist attack sparked intense debate on immigration and Islam in the French presidential campaign. The country foiled 17 planned attacks this year, according to the new Prime Minister, Bernard Cazeneuve. Yet all agree there is no fail-proof way to prevent more attacks unless French Muslims help.
The Tunisian terrorist, a rejected asylum seeker, who killed 12 and injured nearly 50 in Berlin was able to cross several borders without detection. The same for those French and Belgian born terrorists who hit Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016. That this man was able to cross so many borders over the past year would indicate there is a network of support yet to be discovered.
French socialists say there is no link between immigration and terrorism. They insist the vast majority of Muslims in France are peaceful, respect rule of law and practice their religion privately. Yet, experts tell us the attackers have complicity among European Muslims, even if this complicity is simply silence.
French far right Member of Parliament, Marion Maréchal Le Pen, the niece of the National Front candidate for president, blamed Angela Merkel and her open door policy on refugees for the terrorist attack. The French conservative candidate, François Fillion, insists on the Christian heritage of France and wants those who were “welcomed to the country” to adapt to its culture and traditions. The question they raise is can France’s Muslims be trusted to denounce jihadists in their midst?
Oumma, a French Muslim website, calls on French Muslims to pick up the French flag, identify with the ideals of the Republic and fight extremism. But so far, their call has not been heeded by demonstrations of support. The French Council of Muslim Faith is seen as just a group of dignitaries who say what the politicians want to hear at official ceremonies but have no real recognition from the flock.
Following the July 14 attack by another Tunisian in Nice which killed 86 people, the government created the Foundation for Islam in France, headed by veteran politician Jean-Pierre Chevenement, 77, with the goal of developing a French form of Islam through the state funded training of Imams. This organization is sure to have even less success. Up to now, the Foundation has spent more time trying to convince ethnic French there is no problem with French Muslims than than they have trying to convince Muslims to adapt their religion to secular France.
French security officials have warned that one more terrorist attack in France could lead to violent confrontation between French nationalists and Muslims. What is certain is that such an attack will send many more votes to the French nationalists and end up making life much more difficult for the country’s Muslims. It may be time for the Oumma to speak out before they are shut up.