Could it be that France, in the wake of the beheading of a schoolteacher for the crime of showing his class a Muhammad cartoon, is actually going to get tough against jihad violence?
There are some indications that it might actually take decisive action this time: AFP reported Monday that French police had “launched a series of raids targeting Islamist networks.” Meanwhile, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin vowed that there would be “not a minute’s respite for enemies of the Republic.” At least fifteen people have been arrested in connection with the murder of teacher Samuel Paty by Muslim migrant Abdullakh Anzorov, including Muslim leader Abdelhakim Sefrioui (who issued a death fatwa against Paty), four students whom Anzorov paid to point out Paty to him, and four members of the jihad murderer’s family. More arrests may be in the offing.
The arrest of Sefrioui is particularly significant. He is, according to AFP, “well-known to French intelligence, whose agents have monitored his statements and activities for nearly 20 years.” He has expressed “virulent anti-Zionism and antisemitism. In 2006, he campaigned on behalf of the presidential campaign of the comedian Dieudonné — who was recently banned across a host of social media platforms for his Holocaust denial and his crude antisemitism.” Not only that, but he has threatened to kill the imam of the Paris suburb Drancy, Hassen Chalgoumi, for not being bloodthirsty enough for Sefrioui’s taste.
Yet until now, all French authorities have been doing is “monitoring” Sefrioui. For twenty years! Twenty years while Sefrioui preached jihad hatred; how many people has he influenced who are walking free in France today?
But now things are different, or at least appear to be. “We want to harass and destabilize this movement in a very determined way,” said an Interior Ministry source. Darmanin himself, meanwhile, “said the government would also tighten its grip on NGOs with suspected links to Islamist networks, including the Anti-Islamophobia Collective, a group that claims to monitor attacks against Muslims in France.”
President Emmanuel Macron affected a tough-guy pose, declaring: “Fear is about to change sides.”
Is it, now? All too many jihadis in France don’t seem to be taking the swaggering President seriously. On Wednesday, according to LaProvence, “an Avignon man” was arrested after “strolling drunk on the public highway, the man annoyed passers-by and residents, who alerted the police. A police patrol arrived at the scene and the troublemaker began to threaten and insult them and even shouted ‘Allah Akbar,’ threatening them with death.” The following day, Reuters reported that the Part-Dieu railway station in Lyon was evacuated after “ a woman carrying several bags had threatened to blow herself up and had shouted ‘Allahu Akbar.’”
Meanwhile, Marianne, a teacher in France says: “The death of 47-year-old colleague Samuel Paty is a loss on the front lines, at the front. Suddenly, we understand that we are doing a dangerous job. The day before yesterday, I didn’t think about it, and today it jumps out at me: we are potential targets.”
Another recounts: “Naively, last year, for my very first class on this subject [the freedom of speech], I decided to put my foot in the dish and broach the subject of the Muhammad cartoons. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out the way I imagined….Whatever the profile of the students, there was an immediate consensus to say that we cannot touch religions. It hit me.” A Muslim student declared: “For several years, freedom of expression has been threatened because some journalists lack respect for religions and do not take into account the laws… If we go beyond the limits, there will be attacks.” What’s more, “faced with a video of French flags being burnt in Pakistan, most of the students applauded.”
Still another teacher in France stated that some Muslim students, even as young as sixth grade, “defend terrorists.” When a teacher brought up Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons, Muslim students “exploded. They immediately insulted the newspaper; some even explained that they wanted blasphemy to be prohibited by law … And when I tried to argue with them, they tried to make me say certain things to trick me. I was no longer in control of anything.” When he showed a video of Muslims burning the French flag in response to the cartoons, “I thought I would make them think, but most of the students stood up and clapped….For many, Charlie is the symbol of what they see as a persecution of Muslims and that they call it ‘Islamophobia.’ They have a very confused political vision. To them Charlie is the far right. So, to fight against them, all means are legitimate. Insults are like violence. To disagree with them on this issue is to side with the ‘racists.’”
“Fear is about to change sides”? Really?
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.