Political sniping despite President Hollande’s call for national unity
2015-12-01 14:58:42 -
World News

By Margot Garnier


The terrorist attacks in Paris on the night of 13 November have already begun to influence debates ahead of France’s upcoming regional elections, even if the country’s politicians have nominally suspended their electoral campaigns.


President François Hollande declared three days of national mourning after the co-ordinated attacks that killed 130 people across the French capital, many of them at a rock concert in the Bataclan some 7km south of the Stade de France, also targeted by a suicide bomber, and where the president himself was attending a soccer friendly.


Six of the seven suicide bombers involved in these attacks have since been identified, four of them are French: Brahim Abdeslam (31), Bilal Hadfi (20), Samy Amimour (28) and Ismaël Omar Mostefaï (29).


In the hours following these horrific events, a state of emergency was declared across France for the first time since 2005’s civil unrest, and police searches led to a raid on an apartment on the Parisian suburb of Saint-Denis.


Three people died in the subsequent assault, among them Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud who is suspected of co-ordinating the attacks, as well as his cousin Hasna Aït Boulahcen and another man who has not yet been identified.


One other suspect, Salah Abdeslam, is still at large and the subject of a manhunt in neighbouring Belgium, whose capital Brussels was subject to a weekend-long lockdown in late November.


In the weeks since the atrocities, Hollande has called for national unity just like he did in January after the Charlie Hebdo and kosher supermarket attacks. But while political parties across the spectrum observed that unity earlier this year, this time out the political truce lasted no longer than a few hours.


The first party to take advantage of the attacks was the far right Front National (FN). Even while the attacks were still ongoing, secretary-general Nicolas Bay tweeted: “While Hollande and Valls were fighting the FN, bloodthirsty killers where organising their attacks. Shame, shame, shame on them.”


FN deputy Gilbert Collard, a close confidante of party president Marine Le Pen, echoed those sentiments with a statement on his website declaring that the current French government are “traitors to our nation and now to our lives”, and calling for Hollande to be dismissed from the presidency.


For her part, Marine Le Pen waited till barely a day after the attacks to tell the government what needs to be done according to stop terrorism, sticking with her favourite topics of security and immigration. 


“France and the French people are not safe anymore,” she said, calling for stronger border controls, the deprivation of French nationality for bi-national citizens for participating in “Islamic movements” and the closure of Salafist mosques in France.


Moreover, she called for an immediate halt on the welcoming of refugees from crisis-hit regions like Syria and their settlement in cities, towns and villages throughout the country.


While President Hollande has engaged France to welcome refugees, Le Pen has long complained about the possibility of terrorists travelling to Europe among their numbers. Despite Syrian passports being found next to the bodies of two suicide bombers, at least one has been determined as a fake – though the fingerprints of one attacker appear to confirm he crossed into Greece among refugees.


The FN is not the only party to make noises against the government’s approach to reconciling the reaction to the refugee crisis with national security. 


On the Monday following the attacks, during question time in the National Assembly, members of the opposition Les Républicains booed Minister of Justice Christiane Taubira and Health Minister Marisol Touraine.


This came after the party leader and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Hollande and declared that he was not in favour of cross-party national unity, but rather “solidarity” – provided “drastic change” was made in security politics.


In this tense climate, suspicion and fear against France’s Muslim communities and other foreigners is growing, especially with public figures such as the Viscount Philippe de Villiers, who ran for the presidential election in 2007, tweeting about the “mosque-isation of France”.


According to the French Council of Muslim Culture’s (CFCM) Observatory Against Islamophobia, 24 anti-Muslim attacks have been recorded since the Paris attacks, including vandalism of mosques, physical violence and letters of harassment. 


It’s prompted a number of demonstrations by Muslims and non-Muslims alike throughout the country to underscore the difference between Islam and so-called ‘Islamism’ as a reminder to the French public and politicians alike that terrorism is not their religion.

TAGS : Paris Paris Attacks Francois Hollande France Front National FN French Council of Muslim Culture
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