17 August 2021

TRENDS Research & Advisory has published an Arabic translated paper titled “New Trends in European Terrorism: The case of France” by Dr. Jeffrey Kaplan, a Non-resident fellow at TRENDS.

The paper states that the French bill which was passed by Parliament on 16 September 2021 under the banner of counter-terrorism and the integration of French society represents the most sweeping attempt to westernize immigrant Islam ever attempted.

It explains that the bill is pervasive, but its primary scope includes: ban on homeschooling; control of online hate speech; oversight of religious practices, including strict limits on foreign funding of religious groups; oversight of associations and a demand for strict adherence to principles of gender equality; and secularism.

The paper asserts that France represents a worst-case scenario of the impact of poverty and exclusion, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and pervasive fear of the ‘other’ to be currently found in Europe. While the anti-hijab legislation of the last decade had a limited scope and effect, the anti-separatism legislation seeks nothing less than a total restructuring of the lives of French Muslims.

Moreover, it points out that this legislation comes at a time of sharply falling terrorism in France. Terrorist violence in France reached its height in the attacks of 2015 and has fallen steadily ever since. The defeat of ISIS and the decline of Al Qaeda have contributed to this decline. Moreover, right wing terrorism has declined as well, focusing instead on electoral politics and confident that the French government is moving increasingly in their desired direction.

The paper notes the trends in Western European terrorism as identified by Europol in 2020: the number of terrorist attacks declined in 2019 and continues to decline; throughout the EU, only 7 Islamist terrorist attacks were carried out in 2019; fighters in the Syrian conflict continued to pose dilemmas for western policy makers while ISIS and Al Qaeda continued to pose a threat; and radicalized inmates in prisons pose a potential threat.

It states that by 2021, terrorist violence in Europe stems from four primary causes: right wing, left wing, Islamist and ethnic. All four are present in France. Yet France is in other ways unique, and presents a worst case scenario in countering terrorist and communal violence.

The paper explains that the French have been less than eager to integrate North African Muslims. The cités have thus relegated to the ravages of poverty, drugs and crime. They are thus ideal breeding grounds for radicalization and terrorist recruitment by ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Finally, it points out that the Muslim Brotherhood in France has been quietly and effectively active in these cités and benefits from funding from various sources, while the Kurdish Workers Party and Grey Wolves, which are extremist groups whose interests coincide with those of the radical Islamists, also remain active in the cites.