SO Paris is the most recent city to experience a dose of what Monash University academic and former ABC Radio National presenter Waleed Aly has termed a “perpetual irritant”. However, to everyday Parisians, the murder of Charlie Hebdo staff and two policemen was by no means an “irritant”.
The latest attack by an Islamist group on a democratic society again pointed out the difference in approach to such events taken by most members of the general public and some members of the intelligentsia. To the former, jihadist inspired murder is just jihadist inspired murder. To some commentators, on the other hand, murderers have complicated intentions along with motives that appear other than what they are. Still others decline to call a jihadist a jihadist.
On early Thursday morning news broke in Australia on the latest terrorist attack in France. In Sydney, ABC Radio 702 issued the following tweet: “Waking up and learning of the overnight violence in Paris? Here’s some of the history of Charlie Hebdo.” To which one tweeter responded: “Overnight violence? How about calling it an ‘Islamist terrorist attack’? That’s what it is.”
Good point. Since the Paris office of Charlie Hebdo had been fire bombed in 2011 by jihadists who resented its presentation of the prophet Mohammed, it was obvious that a planned attack on its staff was a terrorist attack. Not a manifestation of “violence”.
Soon after, on ABC radio RN Summer Breakfast, presenter Jonathan Green interviewed Greg Barton of the Global Terrorism Research Centre at Monash University. Barton usually talks sense on national security issues. It’s possible that, on this occasion, he was influenced by Green’s inner-city leftist agenda.
While Green did condemn the murders, he added the following comment: “Things are very tense in France, in Paris. Racial or religious divisions are strong and they have all sorts of manifestations through economic division as well. This will play out awkwardly, there is tension underlying this incident.”
Barton, accommodating Green’s line, replied: “One fears so, Jonathan. The hope is that … the better angels of French nature rise to the surface … saying — we’re not going to be provoked … we’re not going to give them [terrorists] what they want.”
Barton went on to talk about high levels of youth unemployment in France and how “it’s hard to get a job if you have a Moroccan or Algerian name”. He added that this leads to “a real sense of alienation”.
Maybe it does. But, according to available evidence, there is no causal relationship between French unemployment and the attack on Charlie Hebdo. None at all. Rather, this was a jihadist attack armed at silencing the satirical magazine. In other words, the Paris murderers took aim at freedom of expression.
Moreover, Barton’s assessment, in response to Green’s questioning, was misleading. There is no evidence that the French jihadists want to provoke French society to respond in like fashion. If this were the case, the gunmen would have stayed at the scene of the crime and attempted to kill others, rather than fleeing.
The jihadists in our midst do not want to provoke us. Rather, they want to silence us. In short, jihadists want Western democracies to submit to their demands across a range of issues — from winding back freedom of expression to changing foreign policy with respect to the Middle East and on to the eventual establishment of Sharia law.
Green added to the Barton-induced confusion when he commented “this sort of violence is almost an admission of weakness” on the part of the attackers. No, it’s not. The terrorists did not exhibit weakness but, rather, their ability to murder at will and temporarily close down a modern city. That’s a sign of strength.
Soon after the Australian-born journalist Annette Young, who works for the television news station France 24, appeared on ABC News 24. She also threw the switch to irrelevance by declaring that “the problem” with the attack on Charlie Hebdo was that “it comes at a time when there’s been fraught relations between the Muslim community and the ruling political elite; for instance … the [Muslim] veil has been banned.”
Young’s reference to the “ruling political elite” was, in fact, a comment about the French political system. Francois Hollande happens to be the socialist president of France. As such, he is a democratically elected politician — not the head of a political elite. Moreover, on all the available evidence, there is no causal relationship between the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the debate over whether the hijab should be worn in government schools in France.
Young then moved quickly to discuss the likelihood that the terrorist attack “will see a rise in support for the far-right National Front”. Later, on ABC radio’s The World Today, Young described a possible growth in support for the National Front, and its leader Marine Le Pen, as the “big worry” following the attack on Charlie Hebdo.
Once again, this is a view from the intelligentsia. The real “big worry” of the events, which occurred in France on Wednesday, is that Charlie Hebdo staff along with police were murdered and French society was terrorised. The attack had nothing to do with the National Front. In any event, Marine Le Pen does not share the anti-Semitism of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and her political position does not warrant Young’s reflex dismissal.
So much of the early commentary on the most recent outbreak of terrorism in France turned on anything but the inconvenient truth. Which is that there are jihadists within Western democracies, particularly in western Europe, who want to establish an Islamist state. This is documented by Soeren Kern in a paper, published by the New York-based Gatestone Institute, titled The Islamisation of Britain in 2014.
The recent attacks in France and Belgium (where a French terrorist murdered visitors at a Jewish museum) demonstrates why nations like Australia are correct in attempting to stop young Muslims travelling to Iraq and Syria where they will be trained in terrorism, which is much more than an irritant or a manifestation of violence.