Writer and Paris resident Andrew Hussey says that peoples need for answers is not are complied with and indignation is rising
The killing of Pre Jacques Hamelin his church in the Normandy town of Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray last week “isnt the first time” that the deaths among a French priest at the handwritings of Islamist activists has sent billows of sentiment across France. In March 1996 seven friars from the Cistercian monastery of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine near Mda in Algeria were kidnapped and held during two months before being killed, allegedly by members of the Groupe Islamique Arm, an Islamist group that was fighting the governments of France and Algeria. Their throats were trimmed and their severed heads were found hanging in trees or scattered by a roadside; their own bodies were never recovered. A communiqu from the gunmen simply predict: They were censured and executed because they were friars and Christians.
The French public was profoundly shaken. The slayings were announced on 26 May 1996. The next day, Whitsunday, a mass was celebrated in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. As part of the ceremony, the archbishop of Paris snuffed out seven candles that had been created from Tibhirine. Church bells rang out all over France. A era afterward a populace of 10, 000 brought together in Paris in mourning. On 2 June, under heavy-laden armed guard, a funeral mass for the main victims was held in Algiers, watched by millions of people around France.
Eventually the story of the friars was done into a film, Des Hommes et des Dieux ( Of Gods and Men ). On its liberation in 2010 the narration increased French cinema audiences not all of them loyal Catholics to tears.
There has been a similar response to last-place Tuesdays murder. First, the committee had been jolt at the raw brutality. Then skepticism that such a horrid thought could happen. Now there is a need to express sorrow and the commission has been communicated chiefly, sometimes unconsciously, in theological language.
The newspaper Le Parisien fringed its front coating in pitch-black, describing the murdered priest as a martyr. Both book and digital media exerted old-fashioned utterances, evoking the saintly sort of the man and his death as a sacrilege.
The Catholic church showed last-place Friday a era of petitionacross France; many schools were carried with non-believers as well as regular worshippers. People needed to come together; even if you couldnt understand what had happened, or find any gues solace, there was a basic need to be with fellow human beings in the face of such horror.
After a sleepless light, the morning after the murder I went to my neighbourhood church, Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge in the 14 th arrondissement in Paris. The atmosphere was sombre. People stood all over the figurehead of the church in small-scale assembles talking in low voices. Subsequently, buying milk and other requisites at a Tunisian-owned shop on the Rue Didot, the owner “ve noticed that” I was English. You are luck, he said. You can leave France if you want. If “youre staying” you will just see more of the same bad things.
This may be true, but this most recent assault are not simply more of the same bad things. In criticizing a church and killing a priest, Islamic State has once again changed the regulation of video games. This is because it has now affected something far less abstract and much more visceral in France than ideas such as democracy or secularism; it has attacked a religion an psychological bail which courses through and characterizes French history and cultural activities. This is why, even if you are not Catholic, this latest fury feels like a brand-new and much more profound wound.
The warning signs that this might happen have been there for some time. As far back as July 2015 Isis said in its French language magazine Dar al-Islam that it would target schools in France. Merely two months before this statement, a young lady called Aurlie Chtelain was shot dead in a botched attack on a church in Villejuif in Val de Marne. Since then, at minutes of intense friction, schools like synagogues have been protected by armed soldiers.
Alongside the horror and sorrow, i still have originating public indignation at President Hollandes government. When the prime minister, Manuel Valls, saw Nice shortly after the truck holocaust of 14 July, he was booed as he accompanied a instants silenceand there were placards calling for the chairman to resign. The general sense was that the government was not doing enough to stop the terrorists.
The frustration has now intensified as it has emerged that the two gunmen of 85-year-old Jacques Hamel Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean had both been known to the security services, but still managed to pas under their radar. What is more, the failings of the government and its security serviceshave been publicly highlighted in a French parliamentary commission report into last years terrorist incidents in Paris, from the gun assaults in that January on the offices of Charlie Hebdo to the bombings and fire shooting in November at barrooms and eateries and at the Bataclan concert hall. The initial impact of such reports, published on 5 July, was lost in the aftermath of the Nice assaults, but the mistakes and confusion it has identified have not ceased to exist. The heads of state of the inquiry, Georges Fenech, has said patently that Today, our soldiers are being sent to fight with soles of head. Our intelligence services have failed.
Fenech vestiges the current problems back to the 2008 reforms of counter-terrorism led by Nicolas Sarkozy. These reforms in effect reduced out the ranks of orbit men and paid too much attention to international terror radicals such as al-Qaida while discounting the rapid growth of neighbourhood jihadis. In other utterances, the French security services were searching in solely the inaccurate tack outwards rather than inwards; a big strategic error.
But the present troubles go deeper than this. One of the main difficulties is that there are roughly 11 different agencies, from the prison services through to the alternating strands of military and police , now playing with each over the same diminishing utensil of fund. Worse, they do not disseminate accurately with one another. Neither is there any plan to prevent radicalisation at grassroots level; there is no unified approach, exclusively a panicky response to misfortune the whack-a-mole approach as police officer call it.
None of this is new. A couple of years ago, I saw the prison of Fresnes, to the south of Paris. I had been invited by a senior French official who wanted an interloper to see how things in France didnt work. In her book-lined place, madame la directrice complained to me with cool indignation that she could not restrict who was coming into her prison nor afford follow-up when the prisoners left. And hitherto even back then everybody who had linked with the system was well known that the prisons were engine-rooms of radicalism teenagers recruited as petty delinquents and emerged as dedicated gunmen. But good-for-nothing “couldve been” done about this because of structural hurdles in the French administration.
Worse, right up until the November executions in Paris, the DGSI( Direction Gnrale de la Scurit Intrieure) and DGSE( Direction Gnrale de La Scurit Extrieure ), respectively the equivalents of MI5 and MI6, should not speak to each other. Most controversially, Fenech highlights the fact that the Bataclan executions could have been avoided if there had been better communications and co-ordination between agencies.
There is only one conclusion now: that it is precisely these flunks that retain standing Isis to write the write for France. This is, of course, too the argument of Marine Le Pen and the far-right Front National, who arguably stand to be the greatest government beneficiaries of the climate of crisis. Almost immediately after last-place Tuesdays killing of Jacques Hamel, Marion Marchal-Le Pen, niece of Marine and a deputy to the National Assembly, shown: They are killing our children, assassinating our police and slitting the throats of our priests. Its is necessary to wake up!
Alarmingly, this populist hyperbole is even being very much welcome voters who would not commonly think of supporting the Front National but who feel that those who are responsible are storytellers and phonies. A deeper trouble for Hollande is that Le Pen, and the even more fanatic radicals who stand behind her, have been vindicated by recent events and the damning parliamentary report which helps to explain them.
But beyond the irritable white noise, the far right has no real solutions either. It does not say this; instead it argues for more robust measures, zero long-suffering and increased militarisation. Meanwhile, Hollandes government is paralysed, locked into a ponder about how far the regime can go with individual titles versus increased police strengths, and a stalemate with Sarkozy, back again with presidential passions for 2017 and revisiting his favourite capacity as le premier flic de la France( the first policeman of France ).
Last Wednesday, Hollande, Valls and Sarkozy all accompanied a mass in homage to the murdered priest Hamel at Notre Dame. They went together towards the altar in a show of peace. But the consensus that we are all in this together, which was determined in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo executions( and interrupted exclusively by Le Pen ), has long since disintegrated. In reality, all areas are now at war with one another as well as with Isis.
The use of the word fight shall become commonplace in France, as has the seeing of heavily armed corps on seas, in city centres, in airfields and at railway stations; everywhere now is the front line. The seeing of these corps is never reassuring; often quite the opposite. There is talk, too, of the working group on the far right arming themselves, expecting misfortune, maybe seeking it out. In Corsica, an underground nationalist group has liberated a communiqu menacing Isis and warning neighbourhood Muslims to take a position against radical Islam. The message are complying with a photograph of hooded males in duel gear carrying artilleries. Its hard to believe that this is happening, but its real.
Back in Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray, the faithful are still trying to come to periods with other forms of reality; with the absurd brutality that has been seen upon them. Listening the neighbourhood mass held during Hamel, a 43 -year-old woman who did not want to be named told Le Monde : Its atrocious, I am atrocious but I cant cure thinking that it is all because of the Muslims and I cant help myself coming irritable when I consider a disguised lady or afraid of an Arab with a long beard in wall street … I know Im stupid. I know that this is what they want, to divide us.
The president of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, Anouar Kbibech, has called on all Muslims to listen mass on Sunday to show the harmony and compassion of the Muslims of France. The Catholic church at first carried official astonish but then welcomed the move as a royal and necessary routine. There have been dark mutterings about insurance but the church has said that Muslims will be welcomed.
On the internet there has been renewed interest in the friars of Tibhirine. In special the spiritual testament of one of the murdered friars, Christian de Cherg, has been catering solace to books, in Arabic and French. Portending his death at the handwritings of terrorists, he writes of his love of Algeria, Algerians and Islam and that, knowing Muslims, he knows, too, that Islamism is a caricature of Islam. If one day and it could be today I should be the main victims of terrorism, he writes, I would want my community, my church, my family to remember that life was transferred to God … Amen. Inshallah.
On reading this I was reminded of the last go I saw Algiers, clambering up to visit Notre Dame dAfrique, the church where the friars were laid to rest. On the esplanade outside, with a goal of timbered builds and the high seas, you could easily be in Normandy. Inside, the place is tended by elderly French people who survived the years of fight and terror that saw Algeria in the 1990 s. There are DVDs on sale of the film Des Hommes et des Dieux a testimony to fright, religion and lose. The rubric above the altar carries a message: Pray for Us and the Muslims.
Andrew Hussey is the author of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs( Granta ) em >.
EIGHTEEN MONTHS OF TERROR
7-9 January 2015
Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 beings at Charlie Hebdo s Paris offices. An identify of the brothers afterward shot dead a police officer before taking captives at a Jewish supermarket, killing four more people.
3 February 2015
Moussa Coulibaly affected and injured three soldiers patrolling a construct dwelling the Jewish Consistory of Nice.
26 June 2015
A delivery driver decapitated a “mens and” attempted to blow up a gas mill in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier.
21 August 2015
Ayoub el-Khazani opened fire inside a study tripping from Amsterdam to Paris before being staggered by passengers.
13 -1 4 November 2015
Suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Paris. Shootings and bombings at restaurants and barrooms across the city, and inside the Bataclan concert hall, left 130 beings dead and 300 injured.
13 June 2016
A police officer and his wife were pierced to fatality at their home in Magnanville.
14 July 2016
Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a truck through a hectic promenade in Nice on Bastille day and shoot into the crowd, killing 84 beings, including 10 children.
26 July 2016
Adel Kermiche and an associate pussy the throat of an octogenarian priest as he said mass in Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray.