By Madame Le Cerf
Part one. The Undeniables.
The most accurate English translations I can come up with for “faits divers” are “Miscellaneous news”, “Miscellaneous events” or “Anecdotes”. Here in France it is a news classification for stories which do not fit under headings such as politics, economics, health and well-being, foreign news, sport, etc. Under “faits divers” you get stories of murders, rapes and other crimes, minor earthquakes and tornadoes (yes, we have those here!) road traffic accidents that result in death or serious injury, floods, mudslides—you get the picture. What categorises these stories is they are, on the whole, random and unconnected.
The same cannot be said for jihadi attacks—but there is a desire and a great deal of effort expended on trying to minimalise these attacks by classifying them as mere “faits divers”. Anybody who contests this and says that these are not “faits divers” but part of a concerted effort to destabilise and Islamicise our society is castigated as an Islamophobe, a stigmatiser of the Muslim population and “playing the game of the far Right”.
Jihadi attacks are acknowledged as such only if the perpetrators are heard by several witnesses yelling “Allahu Akbar” as they commit their crimes and/or if they are found to have pledged allegiance to ISIS or Al Qaeda or have undeniable connections to other jihadis. For the parquet (prosecution service) to bring a charge of terrorism there has to be no doubt (or way to avoid the obvious conclusion). Even then, the word “désequilibré” (unbalanced) often crops up in an evident desire to label the perp as a common or garden nutter who can safely be bundled off to an asylum. And his crime can then be classified as a “fait diver” and not a manifestation of the long term aim of the Muslim Brotherhood to ensure that in the Western world Koran 9.29 should be fulfilled: “Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the last day and forbid not what Allah has forbidden by his Messenger and follow not the religion of truth, until they pay the tribute readily and feel themselves subdued”.
Unfortunately for the “bien pensants” whose worst fear is to be called racist or Islamophobe and who are desperate not to acknowledge what is under their noses, we have a long and ever-growing list of attacks where the terrorist intent has been acknowledged and the event has not been successfully swept under the “faits divers” carpet.
On 11th March 2012 Imad ibn Zlaten, a soldier, was lured to a meeting in Toulouse and killed. Two days later two more soldiers, Abel Chennouf and Mohamed Legouad, were killed in nearby Montauban. A third soldier, Loic Liber was shot and left tetraplegic.
On 19th March Mohamed Merah continued his killing spree at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse, part of a national chain of at least 20 Jewish schools throughout France. Outside the school gates he killed Jonathan Sandler, a rabbi and teacher at the school. Then he shot Sandler’s two sons, Arié, 5, and Gabriel, 3. He walked into the school yard, shooting at staff, parents and pupils and grabbed Myriam Monsonégo, 8, by her hair and shot her point blank in the head. A 17-year-old was shot and seriously injured but survived. Merah filmed all the killings on a GoPro camera and the film was interspersed with verses from the Koran invoking jihad and the glories of Islam. He mailed the film to Al Jazeera. Our government had to ask them not to broadcast it. Despite the obviousness of the fact that Merah was a “fou d’Allah” there were many attempts to deny it. Broken family and psychiatric issues were advanced as reasons for his murderous spree. Before Merah was identified, Nicholas Sarkozy said that the anti-semitic nature of the school attack was obvious and later tried to make out that the school killings had nothing to do with Islam. As more information came out, it became undeniable that Merah’s motivations were Islamist. His older brother, Abdelgani (the black sheep of the family) testified that they had been brought up to hate Jews. In 2003 Mohamed had stabbed Abdelgani in the face seven times because he had refused to dump his Jewish girlfriend. Mohamed’s support for Al Qaeda came out as did the fact that he had made several trips to Afghanistan and the Middle East, thus casting doubt on the idea that he was a lone wolf.
Merah was killed in a police stand off and siege on 22nd March. When his body was brought home for burial, some of the local Muslim community celebrated him and his acts and expressed regret that he had not killed more Jews. He is regarded as a hero in many such communities all over France.
Jihadi publications such as those put out by ISIS and Al Qaeda customarily refer to us as “the vile and filthy French”. It seems that, in their eyes, the French nation is worthy of particular opprobrium. There are several reasons for this. One is our adherence (despite the efforts of useful idiots to chip away at it) to the principle of “laicité”. Basically, according to the French government website, laicité guarantees liberty of conscience for all and imposes equality before the law regardless of the individual’s religion or beliefs. It also imposes strict state neutrality with regard to religion which leads to the prohibition of any display of religious affiliation while working in an official capacity. That means that nobody can wear hijab while working as a public servant in e.g. a school, hospital, civil service office, local government office or as a soldier or police officer. Equally pupils in public schools are prohibited from displaying ostentatious religious symbols while in school. To be fair, ostentatious religions symbols include large crosses, kippas, Sikh turbans and, doubtless, orange robes, although I have yet to learn of the last of those actually being worn. But the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t care about fairness as the expansion and normalisation of Islamic dress in the public sphere (particularly for us impure women) is one of the key components of their drive to Islamicise Western societies.
In France, this push back against religious symbols at work bleeds over into the private sector. I have never seen a supermarket cashier, bank teller or shop assistant working in a hijab. I have had treatment in two private clinics and none of the personnel, from surgeons to cleaners have worn hijab. My experience with the NHS was quite different. To add insult to injury for the Islamists, it has been illegal since 2010/11 to wear niqab in public. People have been arrested and sanctioned for doing so.
But, probably worst of all, is the fact that we “vile and filthy French” allow publications to flourish that actively mock Islam and its prophet (and all other religions and their sacred cows). Perhaps the most prominent of such publications is Charlie Hebdo. During the night of 1st/2nd November 2011 Charlie Hebdo’s offices were attacked with a Molotov cocktail causing some damage. Its website was hacked and its front page replaced with a photo of Mecca and verses from the Koran. The editor in chief, Charb, was asked whether they were going to stop mocking Islam and responded that he would prefer to die on his feet rather than live on his knees. Tragically, he got his preference. On 7th January 2015 jihadi brothers, Chérif and Said Kouachi forced their way into Charlie Hebdo’s offices and opened fire with AK47s. They killed 12 people and wounded 11 others. The cartoonists Charb, Cabu, Honoré, Tignous and Wolinski were killed along with economist Bernard Maris, psychoanalyst Elsa Cayat (the only woman to be killed), proof reader Mustapha Ourvad, maintenance worker Frederic Boisseau. They also killed two policemen, Franck Brinsolaro, Charb’s bodyguard, and Ahmed Merabet, who happened to be in the road when they left the building, shouting that they had avenged the honour of the prophet. After a chase they were eventually trapped and besieged in Dammartin-en-Goèle.
In the two days that followed an accomplice of the Kouachi brothers, Amedy Coulibaly shot and killed traffic policewoman Clarissa Jean-Philippe and went on to take hostages in a kosher supermarket on the outskirts of Paris. He arrived at the Hyper Cacher heavily armed and immediately shot 3 people and took 17 hostages, one of whom he killed shortly afterwards. He claimed to be a member of ISIS and demanded that the Kouachi brothers be let go. After a 4-hour standoff the anti-terrorist police mounted an assault and killed him before he could kill any more hostages but not before he wounded one. Meanwhile the Kouachi brothers had been killed in a shootout with the police. The victims, Yohan Cohen, Phillippe Braham, François Michel Saada and Yoav Hatleb were buried in Jerusalem. It later emerged that Coulibaly had wanted to target a Jewish school and kill children as Merah had done.
Marches were organised on 11th and 12th January and more than 4 million people in France marched to denounce these terrorist attacks.
2015 was a bumper year for the “fous d’Allah”. In November France was once more subjected to a major attack by jihadis proclaiming their allegiance to ISIS. On the night of the 13th several places were targeted. President François Hollande was at a France vs Germany football match at the Stade de France stadium at St Denis just north of Paris. Fortunately, the security guards turned away 4 men wearing suicide belts. 3 of them detonated their bombs outside the stadium killing themselves and one other person. These were the first suicide attacks in France. At the same time, another commando opened fire on the terraces of restaurants and bars in the 10th and 11th arrondissements of Paris, killing 39 people. One of this group set off his suicide belt killing nobody but himself. A third group arrived at the Bataclan concert venue, shot the people outside, forced their way inside and started to fire their AKs at the audience. They picked off the wounded and killed 90 people before the police arrived and killed them. These jihadis killed 130 people in all and severely wounded many, many more. The sole survivor of the 10 terrorists, Salah Abdesalam, was captured by the Belgian police in Molenbeek the following March. He is said to have walked around the area openly and nobody reported his presence. If true, this gives an indication of the mentality of the Muslim community there. He went on trial in France in January 2021, was convicted and sentenced to life—real life-imprisonment—on 29th June 2021. He was later convicted in Belgium for his role in the March 2016 bombings in Brussels. He should have been sent back to France after his trial in Belgium, but the Court of Appeal in Brussels blocked his return on the “grounds” that he might suffer “inhuman and degrading treatment” in France and that sending him back would infringe his right to a family life as all his family was in Belgium!
On Bastille Day 2016 a 19 ton truck was deliberately driven into crowds of people celebrating the holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice. 86 people were killed (among them fourteen children) and hundreds of others including more children were injured. The driver was Mohamed Bouhiel, a Tunisian immigrant who had a residency permit. He was shot and killed by the police in a shootout. ISIS claimed the attack and it was classed as an act of terrorism despite Bouhiel’s family saying that he had never shown any interest in religion. Investigations showed that, by Islamic standards he had indeed lived a sinful life but had become obsessively interested in Islam shortly before acting. This pattern is not unusual among jihadis here and I will explore it further in Part 2.
One of the manipulations that those who wish to smuggle jihadi attacks into the “faits divers” category and deny that political Islam is behind them use is to emphasise their “lone wolf” nature. Of course, this was impossible with the attacks on 13th November 2015. 10 terrorists organised in 3 commandos cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be qualified as “lone wolves”. But, as with the other attacks which I have covered here, later trials of “small fry” accomplices responsible for logistics have shown that far from being “lone wolves” these jihadis have networks – i.e. they were not so much lone wolves but sharks swimming in the sea of Muslim communities.
The reactions to these four attacks were disparate. The Merah killings took place just before the presidential election campaigns of 2012 kicked off and neither the incumbent, Nicholas Sarkozy, nor the P.S. (Parti Socialiste) challenger, François Hollande, wanted his campaign muddied by the killings. As a result, the affair was swept under the carpet. Though it spilled back out when another of Merah’s brothers, Abdelkader, went on trial for complicity in the attacks. I suspect that the fact that all Merah’s victims were from minority communities helped. The Charlie Hebdo massacre shocked the nation deeply, but it wasn’t long before voices from the left and the far left put forward the idea that Charlie had it coming because they had deliberately upset the Muslims by publishing the Danish cartoons mocking Islam’s prophet. This was particularly pronounced in the Anglophone press. Again, I suspect that, if the Hyper Cacher siege had taken place on its own, it would have got far less coverage.
The November 13th 2015 massacres showed the French that you didn’t need to be a cartoonist or a Jew to get slaughtered. It could happen to you sitting on a terrace enjoying a beer or a coffee or going to a concert.
The Nice massacre brought the message home even more—these things didn’t happen only in Paris. Since then there has been a steady drip drip drip of smaller attacks all over France and today a large percentage of the population believes that nobody is safe.
To be continued.