By MICHAEL FREUND, JPOST—
For the past few days, the world’s attention has been focused on Paris, where a band of Islamic terrorists went on a rampage, attacking the offices of a satirical magazine and a kosher market and brutally snuffing out the lives of 17 innocent people. Millions of people took to the streets on Sunday, together with dozens of world leaders, in a “unity march,” as cries of “we are not afraid” echoed down the avenues and boulevards of the City of Lights.
It was an impressive display, with all the theatrics and emotion of a Victor Hugo novel, and for a brief moment it appeared that perhaps, at last, France was awakening to the threat posed by Islamic extremism.
But don’t let the remarkable optics fool you. For, judging by the remarks and behavior of French President Francois Hollande, France has learned little, if anything, from the horrific events of last week. Take, for example, Hollande’s remarks in a speech to the nation on Friday night, just hours after four Jews had been murdered by Muslim terrorist Amedy Coulibaly in the kosher store. Even though Coulibaly reportedly told his hostages, “I am Amedy Coulibaly, a Muslim from Mali. I belong to the Islamic State,” Hollande nonetheless asserted that, “Those who committed these acts have nothing to do with the Muslim religion.”
Who does he think he is kidding? Hollande’s stubborn insistence that terrorism committed by Muslims in the name of Islam and sanctioned by Muslim clerics has nothing to do with the Islamic religion is not only patronizing, it is patently absurd. It is wishful thinking parading as policy, which is nothing less than a recipe for disaster. After all, by what right does Hollande deem himself fit to opine regarding what constitutes “real” Islam and what doesn’t? He may be France’s commander-in-chief, but that doesn’t make him theologian-in-chief.
Moreover, the fact that so many attacks in so many different parts of the world are carried out by Muslims in the name of Islam suggests that the problem goes much deeper than Hollande is willing to admit. Consider the following: Who kidnaps schoolgirls in Nigeria? Muslim terrorists.
Who beheads Westerners in Iraq and Syria? Muslim terrorists. Who fired thousands of rockets at Israeli towns and cities this past summer? Muslim terrorists. Who stormed a Jerusalem synagogue and murdered four rabbis at prayer? Muslim terrorists.
Who threatens people with death for converting from Islam to another religion? Muslim terrorists. Who has forced Christians to flee parts of the Middle East they have lived in for 2,000 years? Muslim terrorists. Who crashed airplanes into the Twin Towers on 9/11? Muslim terrorists.
See a pattern here? The list, of course, goes on and on.
Indeed, in November 2014, the Institute for Economics and Peace released its Global Terrorism Index, which found that four Muslim terrorist organizations – Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaida and Islamic State – were responsible for a whopping 66 percent of all terrorism-related deaths in 2013.
According to the index, six of the top 10 countries with the most terrorism are Muslim: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Somalia and Yemen. The other four – India, Nigeria, the Philippines and Thailand – all have large Muslim minorities.
Does Hollande perhaps think that this is all a coincidence? Adding insult to injury, the French president reportedly opposed the idea that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would attend Sunday’s rally in Paris, with unnamed French sources saying that such a move would be “divisive.” It was only after Hollande learned that Netanyahu planned to come anyway that he is said to have picked up the phone and called the Israeli premier to issue him a formal invitation.
Not content to insult the prime minister of the sovereign Jewish state, France then went out of its way to invite Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to participate in the march as well as to announce that he would be given a special audience with the French president.
What kind of message does that send? Surely Hollande is aware that Abbas forged an alliance last year with Hamas, the terrorist organization that calls for Israel’s destruction, and that he has encouraged Palestinians to use “all means available” against Israelis in recent months, which is code for violence and terror. Anyone seriously committed to combating extremism would not have dared to ask Abbas to join Sunday’s rally, let alone confer on him the honor of a private meeting at the Elysee Palace.
Doing so was not only a desecration of the memory of the victims of terror, it was an act of sheer chutzpah, the gall of the Gauls.
It demonstrated clearly that France’s stand against terror is neither firm nor resolute. It is, instead, flimsy and selective. France won’t acknowledge that the problem is Islamic terrorism, rather than generic “extremism,” whatever that means, nor will it stand forthrightly with Israel in its own war on terror.
I pray that there will not be any further attacks in Paris or anywhere else, and that French Jews and non- Jews will not have to live in fear.
But with a myopic leader such as Hollande at the helm, France most likely has some very difficult days ahead.