By Ali Younes
It is reasonable to question why the Paris gunmen and suicide bombers choose to attack Paris to punish France but not London or New York or Washington. One would think that the “Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIS) would attack in retaliation for their bombing of their “Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.
In its statement of responsibility issued on Saturday ISIS claimed that it attacked France because it “insulted the prophet” and “for boasting about attacking Islam.” While the last reason the statement gave was “France participation in the attacks against ISIL strongholds in Syria and Iraq.”
The statement sheds light on parts of ISIL’s thinking in this regard which shows that it intends to still punish France for the satirist magazine Charlie Hebdo cartoons it drew depicting the Prophet Mohammad. Charlie Hebdo drew cartoons of Prophet Mohammad 2011 which enraged many Muslims around the world.
That kind of satire promoted ISIS-affiliated attackers the brothers Said and Cherif Kouachi to storm their way into the Magazine offices on January 7, 2015 killing 12 people including its editor.
ISIL’s statement of responsibility the Paris attacks also alludes to France’s ultra secularist domestic laws that prohibit Muslim women from covering their hair or wearing a Hijab which appears to be one of the main reasons for the Paris attacks.
The third and last reason given in the statement was France’s participation in the war on ISIS in Iraq and Syria and led by the United States.
This last reason is rather peculiar given that France, until the Paris attacks, was not as vigorous as the US or Britain or even some of the Arab countries in their air bombing campaign against ISIL targets in Iraq and Syria.
What makes it even stranger is that France, of all countries, have stood almost alone in Europe in its opposition to the US war on Iraq in 2003. France was vilified and attacked by US conservatives for opposing the war that eventually led to the destruction of Iraq as a viable unified state. The destruction of Iraq created an environment for sectarianism, extremism and terrorism to grow and flourish.
So it is clear from what we know now that France is not really being punished for its participation in the alliance with the US in attacking ISIL. Otherwise, ISIL would have logically chosen to attack the US or any of its Arab or western allies for that war.
ISIS have a large contingent of French citizens and other European nationalities in its ranks that can plan and execute such a complex operation on French soil. Fueled by anger and resentment against their homeland, The French ISIL members relied on their contacts and sleeper cells inside France and other countries in Europe.
The attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine was carried out by angry, young and disfranchised men often with criminal background found in ISIL’s terrorism a vehicle to extract revenge on what they perceives as their country’s “insults” on their religious convections.
Similarly the Paris attacks were carried by exactly the same profile of men who attacked their country for its “insults” and “boasting of its attacks on Islam” according to the statement of responsibility.
ISIL in this case is actually exploiting the anger of these young men and retooling it to its advantage to make a bigger statement as a “defender of Islam”.
The same social and political dynamics do not exist in the US where ISIS would find it very difficult if not impossible to recruit Muslim Americans to do the same thing in France. The US and to a lesser extent Britain, is a very open society and does not treat expressions of religious symbols or individual religious convections such as “Hijab” as illegal or a threat the way it is treated in France.
Muslim Americans are also largely successful, highly educated and fairly integrated community within the American society and culture. Other than recent disturbing anti-Islam statements by conservative right wing politicians and other extremists, Muslims Americans feel as much Americans as anyone else, something France and some countries in Europe are lacking.
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Ali Younes is a Senior Political Analyst for The Arab Daily News online newspaper. He is a veteran news-editor, Journalist, and a Middle East analyst working for major American news network . He is based in Washington, D.C.
Reach Ali at firstname.lastname@example.org
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