We're all victims, so will this be the beginning of France's fight back – or our descent into hell?

Restaurant and rock-concert-goers were cold-bloodedly slaughtered in Paris– not because they were cartoonists; or Jews; or policemen; or soldiers but because they were French

John Lichfield
Normandy
Saturday 14 November 2015 12:37
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Flowers lie in front of a police cordon where concert-goers were killed at the Bataclan theatre in Paris
Flowers lie in front of a police cordon where concert-goers were killed at the Bataclan theatre in Paris

Ten months ago, a slogan swept the globe : "Je suis Charlie". A jihadist attack on a French satirical magazine was, we declared, an attack on western values; an attack on all of us.

What slogan could possibly encompass the random carnage of Black Friday, the 13th of November? Restaurant and rock-concert-goers were cold-bloodedly slaughtered in Paris– not because they were cartoonists; or Jews; or policemen; or soldiers but because they were French, or because they happened to be sitting or standing where they were.

There is no point in proclaiming our kinship or solidarity with the 121 (and counting) mostly young victims of the multiple massacres of Paris. They are already us; and we are already them.

The jihadist war against the West has entered a horrifying, if predictable, new phase. How can any government protect every bar or every concert hall or every sporting event?

President Francois Hollande spoke this morning of a “war on France” waged by a “terrorist army, the Islamic State”. He called on France to close ranks against “barbarism” to defend the “values of our country which are the values of humanity”.

The likelihood is, however, that the eight (at least) terrorist who died in Friday’s outrage were French born and educated in the humanist, universal values of the French Republic. Over 1,000 French men and women, young Muslims or Muslim converts, have joined the ranks of Isis. Some have returned, disgusted by what they have seen. Others have almost certainly returned to attack the country which reared them.

The overwhelming majority of France’s 3 million Muslims are law-abiding , hard-working citizens. The alienation of a large minority of young, second or third generation immigrants – not all of them Muslims - was expressed in suburban riots exactly ten years ago.

A minority of that minority has now – like some young Muslims in Britain or Belgium or Germany – converted their disaffection into an allegiance to the morbid, anti-western, but also anti-Islamic, ideology of Isis. The aim of Isis is manifest: to fuel the suspicion, or even hatred, of Islam and Muslims which is already widespread in France and to create the conditions for a racial, or religious, civil war..

Paris attacks: Stade de France

Far-right and hard-right politicians were already talking excitedly yesterday of the need for repressive measures to respond to Friday’s slaughter. They could hardly contain their glee at the effect that Black Friday the 13th will have on their vote in regional elections next month and the presidential election in 2017.

More repression. More alienation. More division. More violence.

The alternative path is equally clear but much harder to follow. The “majority” community must be firm with the terrorists but reject facile anti-Islamism. Muslim leaders must act more strongly against the vile perversion of their religion by jihadists.

"Nous sommes" all – whatever our race or religion - victims of Black Friday.

The 13th November – or 13/11 - could be the beginning of our fight-back; or our descent into hell.

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