The recent November attacks in Paris have made an element of the fight against ISIS very clear: the battleground is not exclusively reserved to Syria or Iraq. Civilians in the West have a glimpse into the terrifying reality engulfing many nations of the Middle East. France has responded to the November 13th attacks by instating a national state of emergency. Many worry about what this document will decree, and how much of their personal liberties they will be forced to sacrifice. Lots of loaded terms are being thrown around, and many are confused. Here is what this state of emergency act will entail:
- Large public gatherings are prohibited by the police headquarters in Paris, and in three specific suburbs of Paris. Some concerts and state visits were cancelled or postponed.
- Public facilities, such as the Eiffel Tower or Disneyland, will be closed.
- Some cinemas in Paris will remain closed.
- Parks will close earlier in the day (at 4 PM).
- Private museums and institutions are recommended to heighten their existing security levels.
President Hollande is also petitioning for the ability to inflict harsher punishments on those involved in terror -- whether that is expediting arrest and sentencing, or allowing police to shoot offenders more quickly. 5,000 new police posts have been created, in addition to 1,000 new customs officers. 9,200 army positions, which were meant to initially be scrapped, are being preserved.
Despite the killing of the possible ringleader, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, in a recent police raid, France (and Europe) have not ended their evident terror problem. Many have called for blocking the refugee flow from Syria. Although a more rigorous filtering system would be a good idea, blocking people fleeing for their lives from a dominant ISIS presence should be less understandable to Western powers now more than ever.
I spoke with Yigal Carmon, a former counter-terror advisor to Yitzhak Rabin and current head of the Middle East Media Research Institute. In an interview over the phone, he said this on the growing Western response to halting the influx of refugees: "ISIS is ideologically and strategically against the fleeing of refugees. They want all Muslims to do hijra (immigration) to the Islamic State. Most of the refugees are running away from ISIS. The terrorists of Paris were not refugees. The problem is with longtime residents of European countries of Muslim origins. Therefore, it would be morally wrong and strategically baseless to view the refugee issue as a terrorism problem."
The neighbourhoods outside of Paris, where the longtime Muslim European residents live have become a security problem. They have become slums which the central government actively avoids. Due to a lack of government involvement, a growing detachment from the State grows within the local Muslim youth. French historian Georges Bensoussan refers to these neighbourhoods as "the lost territories of the Republic", meaning they are lost to sovereignty of the state of France. And they are lost in many aspects of urban life: security, safety, serving the economy, etc.
In these lost neighbourhoods, the terrorists of today and tomorrow are raised. These are the areas were ISIS operatives look to recruit new foreign fighters. The recruited do not identify as French. There are videos of these ISIS foreign fighters burning their own French passports, in addition to calling for international attacks.
There was a motion in France to revoke citizenship from those involved in Jihadi activities, who also had two nationalities. This idea was reintroduced to the French courts. Although removing those with a criminal past, and who are inciting future generations to be violent, should be removed for sustaining a comfortable, multicultural peace. This motion will not target French Muslims with dual citizenship, but it will prevent someone with dual nationalities, who present a terrorist risk, from entering France as easily as they have been able to enter in the past. In addition, there is an embedded threat to those who wish to bring harm to the innocent: do not hurt our people, or you shall be stripped of our European rights and freedoms, and will be forced to return to the people you are fighting for.
Hollande spoke on the new motion, saying, "The removal of nationality must not have a result to render someone stateless. But we must be able to remove someone's French nationality if they have been convicted for an attack against the fundamental interests of the nation or a terrorist act."
Many worry about a French decision to shut down, whether temporarily or permanently, certain mosques. This decision is also not made rashly, much is being said in certain European (not all or even most) mosques encouraging violence and dysfunction. Here is an example of an extremely sexist sermon in a French mosque, where the imam states that a woman has no right to remove her hijab, and is an unchanging obligation. This video is one example of many.
But in the interest of preserving privacy and individual freedom, what else can be done to alleviate Europe's Jihadist problem? Maybe action -- a display of political vitality which will cause security changes locally, and internationally. Those who have ministerial offices at the Elysee should go to the neighbourhoods of the Muslim immigrants, and make them feel welcome, make them feel that they too are children of France. Make the effort to let these immigrants feel that they are citizens. Maybe then, in the same turn, the ministers will see what those neighbourhoods need to be revitalized, what can be done for the local youth.
The Institute Montaigne released a study that found Muslim men were only a quarter as likely as Catholic men to be called for a job interview. In 2014, the government began enforcing a law from 2006, which required companies with more than 50 employees to make hiring decisions from anonymous resumes.
If young people have no stimulation, no hopes, they create their own opportunities. Pending where they come from and where they want to go, these opportunities can be great or terrible. Many of the jihadis from Europe had attempted at one point to be rappers, with many writing lyrics envisioning their own potential future greatness, and making the world realize how great and complicated they themselves are. A Canadian recruit to ISIS, who ended up becoming a suicide bomber, made a video testimonial where he complained of a life in Canada as a janitor. He moved to the Islamic State, seeking opportunity and brotherhood.
The French government is wasting it's time on a long winded campaign in Syria. They needn't look so far, what needs to be fixed is a couple of RER stops away from the Elysee.