‘France & Orlando attacks: West failing to address root cause of radicalization’

Still image taken from video shows Police at the scene near where a French police commander was stabbed to death in front of his home in the Paris suburb of Magnanville, France, June 14, 2016. © Reuters
The West is playing into the Islamophobic narrative blaming Islam for all the recent attacks, while the real cause is political radicalization, said political analyst Catherine Shakdam. Europe opened up its borders to radicals and faces terror, she added.

A suspected Islamic extremist identified by French police officials as Larossi Abballa, 25, fatally stabbed a policeman and then his wife outside their home in a town of Magnanville, north-west of Paris. The attacker also took their three-year old son hostage. The terrorist was shot dead as police failed to successfully negotiate with him. The child was unharmed.

ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, in an online statement. French President Francois Hollande said the incident was “undeniably a terrorist act."

RT: France says the attack there was an act of terror. What do you make of the incident? Do you think the attack has Islamic State links?

Catherine Shakdam: There is definitely a desire for DAESG/ISIS/ISIL militants to exert fear and promote violence in Europe. What worries me more is the inability of the Western powers in general to do anything about it. There is no denying they have opened up the borders to all sorts of militants and they have allowed radicalization to take hold. A lot of the youth today is disenfranchised and they are looking towards ISIS and finding somehow a sense of identity and belonging with that violent rhetoric.

What worries me deeply is that we’re playing again into this Islamophobic narrative, where everything is being conveyed as if it is the fault of Islam and Muslims in general, when it has nothing to do with them. It has to do with radicalization – political radicalization. You need to understand that ISIS is a political movement, as a fascist movement, which is claiming itself to be religious, just because it helps them to gain traction within the Muslim community, because they feel that is the language that they need to hold right now. We’re completely missing the mark here. We’re failing to address the root cause of radicalization. We have opened up our borders – there is not denying it – and now we’re faced with this. How do you stop terror, once it is actually in your country?

RT: Officials say the attacker was known to police for terrorism and even convicted for planning terror attacks. How did he manage to carry out the stabbing then?

CS: France is under a state of emergency. The police have no worries arresting people, raiding houses and businesses, and yet people like [the attacker] are allowed to walk in the streets. We need to ask ourselves those questions. We need to ask all officials to be held accountable. It falls onto them, it’s their responsibility to keep their streets safe and they are completely failing. But are they failing by design, or what is it that they are trying to achieve here?

Police man a roadblock at the scene where a French police commander was stabbed to death in front of his home in the Paris suburb of Magnanville, France, June 14, 2016. © Christian Hartmann

Hollande govt destabilizing situation in France

Brian Becker from anti-war Answer Coalition said the public approval of Francois Hollande’s government is next to zero at the moment, because of the foreign policy that helped to create the refugee crisis, and pursuing a neo-liberal policy at the behest of Washington and Wall Street to drive through a labor reform bill.

RT: What kind of response do you expect from the French government?

Brian Becker: We can see that the French government has used emergency measures – the crackdown on civil rights - to ban protests, to raid predominantly Muslim neighborhoods. That won’t work, that won’t make a difference. We have a whirlwind cycle of violence that is going on. The French government will resort to repressive measures and discriminatory selective prosecution and persecutions. But again I don’t think that gets to the root of the problem that we’re dealing right now.

RT: The French government is already under huge pressure, with mass strikes over the labor reform and a state of emergency in place since November. Could it further destabilize the situation?

BB: Yes, I think the Hollande government is in a very precarious position. First of all, the French government carried out, initiated with the US the bombing of Libya. That created the space for ISIS; it helped to fuel the civil war in Syria; that created and helped fuel the refugee crisis – all of these factors are now coming home to roost in France and in the rest of Europe. The Hollande government at the same time is pursuing a neo-liberal policy at the behest of Washington and Wall Street to drive through the labor reform bill, which diminishes or detracts or lessens the rights of working people. Working people and young people are rising up in France. The Hollande government, as a consequence of these conjunctional factors, has a diminished populist standing; its public approval is next to zero at this point. So yes, I think this will create great political instability for the current government in France. 

RT: France, which hosts Euro 2016, has committed tens of thousands of police and security forces to the match venues and fan zones. Are they simply overstretched at the moment? Is there really anything they can do to keep everyone safe?

BB: Again, using the old cliché: if every problem looks like a nail the only solution is to find a hammer. So the Hollande government is using a hammer. It is pounding down using the same sort of tried and true tactics. But of course there is no possible way to use a military presence or a militarized presence to prevent any sort of terrorist action. There would always be vulnerabilities. The big problem is - France like the British and the US government has pursued a policy in the Middle East that has created this base for ISIS to grow. ISIS’s narrative is that there is clash of civilization. So every time there is a terrorist attack – whether it’s in Orlando, Paris, Brussels, or Cairo and then the West responds and retaliates – the cycle of violence continues and then the DAESH/ISIS/ISIL narrative of the clash of civilizations seems to be confirmed. So the West’s policy is a complete catastrophe.  

RT: The attacker in the French town apparently pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), while speaking to police during the hostage negotiations. Does this case bear similarities with the Orlando massacre?

BB: Yes, you can see that there will be copycat incidents. We have to say though about the Orlando case: this individual at the end of the day pledged allegiance to ISIS. But he’s been filled with hatred and bigotry towards gay people for a long time. It didn’t come necessarily out of religious conviction. You can have individuals who have extreme mental disorders, mental disease, abusive personalities, violent personalities. That was clearly the case with the individual in Orlando. In order to give their insanity a greater braininess they say: “Well, we’re affiliating with and pledge religions to ISIS.” But is this really ISIS? Is that really what’s going on; or do we see recurring problems of violence, mental illness, abuse carried out and then these individuals, lone wolfs so to speak are fixing themselves to ISIS, which then the right wing ceases on and says: “That is why we have to intensify repression against Muslim communities.” Again, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

France hit by terror for ‘taking the lead in Syria intervention

Writer Sam Husseini says France now feels the challenge posed by the spread of Islamist terror outside the Middle East more than the rest of Europe. It has been increasingly targeted because of the active involvement of French troops in the Syrian campaign.

“France is being targeted now more than England and there’s a reason for this I suspect, which is - the UK took the lead in the Iraq war along with the United States and France is taking the lead in the intervention in Syria,” Husseini said, adding that both European countries were former colonial powerhouses.

Husseini considers pulling forces out of the conflict to be the best solution to the problem. However, it is unlikely to happen. The French authorities will rather “step up civil liberties violations, escalate military involvement in Syria and perhaps elsewhere.” 

Attacks in France, US reveal ‘incoherence and contradictions of their foreign policy’

Gerald Horne, author and historian, argues that the root of the US and French security problems lies in the ill-conceived and harmful political strategies pursued by the governments on the international arena.

“These two attacks - in France and in the United States - reveal the incoherence and contradictions of US foreign policy and French foreign policy,” he said. The security vacuum created in Libya which now serves as a transit hub for jihadists into France and the United States, is one of the direct circumstances of the overthrow of Libya’s late leader Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, orchestrated by the US and French authorities.  

Although, the Magnanville attacker may not have direct ties to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) or any other terror group, it does not mean he was not influenced by Islamic State propaganda.

“Lone-wolf attacks are increasingly inspired by Islamic State, not necessarily instigated,” Horne said, calling such acts of terror “perfidiously destructive.”

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.