Normandy church attack ‘symbolic’, attempt to ‘cultivate war between West & Islam’

French police officers and fire engine arrive at the scene of a hostage-taking at a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, northern France, on July 26, 2016 that left the priest dead. © Charly Triballeau
The murder of a priest in a church in the Normandy region of northern France is very symbolic and is part of terrorists’ psychological warfare aimed at demonstrating nowhere is safe and creating a gap between Christians and Muslims, experts say.

French President Francois Hollande said the attack on Monday was “a terrorist act” and the terrorists claimed to represent Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).

Prof. Bruno Drweski from the National Institute of Languages and Eastern Civilizations says the objective of terrorist groups is to make people feel endangered all over France.

“In a certain sense to organize such [an attack] in a little village is much more efficient than to do it all the time in big cities. And that is the main problem to deal with,” he told RT.

“I think they have different scenarios and methods and they use different methods at different times so the police will never be sure what will happen next. That’s part of their psychological warfare. It can be aimed to create a gap between Christians and Muslims - especially between the French Catholic Church and Muslim organizations,” he added.       

Dr. Simon Mabon, lecturer in international relations at Lancaster University in the UK said the site of the attack – a church – is “hugely symbolic”.

“If indeed it is ISIS affiliates or sympathizers, this is clearly a symbolic point that says: ‘No matter where you are in France, you are not safe. And we will strike to try and cultivate this war between Islam and the West. When the West having these Christian values, even in France obviously with its secularism, the church is symbolic and as the antithesis to Islam,’” he said.

“Cutting the throat of a priest is basically modus operandi of what ISIS soldiers used to do in Syria against the Christian priests in Syria,” said Alexandre Mendel, journalist, author of La France Djihadiste. “It might be something from ISIS. Actually, it is also very symbolic because French President Francois Hollande was born [just about 9] kilometers from the place where the slaughter happened. So, this is very symbolic,” he added.

‘People of faith & no faith – we all stand together’

The resent string of attacks in Europe – including Nice and Brussels - has shown we are facing a threat from terrorism and it should be tackled, says Mohammed Shafiq, Chief Executive of the Ramadhan Foundation.

“We’ve got to really look closely at how we tackle this threat. There is also an increased risk of far-right extremism and terrorism as well and so we can’t have them in isolation - they are two cheeks of the same backside, the same sort of divisive politics of division that they are trying to vest in communities. That is the narrative of ISIS which is the clash of civilization between Islam and the rest of society. We’ve got to put that to bed; that is not the case here,” he told RT.

“Actually, Muslims, Jews, Christians, people of faith, people of no faith - we all stand together in unity against this abhorrent attack against a place of worship. Any place of worship should be a place of peace. Whether this is an attack against a church or against a mosque, we stand together,” Shafiq added.

David Coburn, UKIP Member of the European Parliament for Scotland, stressed the necessity to encourage immigrants to integrate, adding that currently there’s too much separation.

“That is worrying; it is a lovely place out in the countryside. It is an easy target for these people. So, that is probably why they did it. I think this is appalling that these people cannot behave themselves properly in France. This is one of the reasons people wanted to Brexit, we want to get a control of our own borders to make sure this sort of nonsense doesn’t spread any further. We must encourage people to integrate. I think there is too much separation… People who come in here really do have to try and fit in where our culture goes…”

‘These attacks are a reflection of conflict in Iraq & Syria’

There is no way of stopping these attacks for now, according to writer and political commentator John Wight.

What we are seeing is a reflection of the extent to which ISIS is being defeated in Iraq and in Syria. Obviously, they are now seeking to broaden the conflict to Europe by calling for supporters to undertake these vandal attacks whenever the opportunity arises,” he said.

And of course, we live in an open society, there are many opportunities to carry out these attacks if you can combine that with a fact that this is an ideology of death, its adherents find meaning in death whereas people who oppose that find meaning in life. And you have all the conditions for a proliferation of these attacks. Unfortunately, there will be many more before this conflict is over,” Wight added.

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