Francois Hollande got a standing ovation at the joint session of Parliament after he declared that France was at war with Islamic terrorists and that the response to Friday’s attacks across Paris would be “merciless”. Hollande is looking to bolster his plunging stock by positioning himself as a decisive leader in these “pitiless” times. While granting emergency powers to the State, he also announced a sharp increase in funds for national security and tighter border controls.
In a bid to outdo, right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen, a frontrunner in the 2017 presidential vote, has dismissed Hollande’s measures as ‘baby steps’ and has called for a review of France’s immigration policy to stem the tide of refugees across Europe.
Nicholas Sarkozy, Hollande’s predecessor and another presidential hopeful has also promised harsh measures like electronic tagging and placing under house arrest, some 11,000 Muslims, currently on the watch list for suspected “radicalisation”. He has also vowed to “evict Imams who preach radical Islam in Salafist mosques”.
The attacks, which have spawned greater scrutiny, raids and “preventive detentions” across Europe, are not only likely to facilitate radicalisation but also undermine Western liberalism.
Hollande has also urged for a united response to build an international coalition to fight the Islamic State. The attacks also brought terrorism into focus at the G20 meet in Turkey, last weekend. At the G20, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for choking the finance and supply channels of terror groups, while enhancing global cooperation to check the use of cyber space by militants.
Even as countries across the world are trying to reassess the threat posed by the terror group and calibrate their response, there is a sense of deja vu. Much of the noises and actions are distinctly similar to those that followed 9/11. Like the al-Qaeda, the is has been successful in drawing major powers into a civil war, which does not concern them directly.
Last month, former British premier Tony Blair had acknowledged that if there was no Iraq War, there would have been no is today. These late admissions, once again, underscore the deep fault-lines in the strategy of Western powers while dealing with Islamic extremists.
In difficult times like these, France should uphold its founding principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and be on the vigil against xenophobia and racism. If it happens, it could be a shining example for not only Europe, but for the rest of the world.