Fire and Brimstone Come to Paris

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Genesis of terror? Violence in the West Asia, including bombing by the West, is said to have lent grist to the IS mill
Genesis of terror? Violence in West Asia, including bombing by the West, is said to have lent grist to the IS mill

“They’re talking about military might, about amending the Constitution, and about broader surveillance powers, even though they passed a very draconian Bill right after the Charlie Hebdo attack (which allows Intelligence agencies to tap phones and emails without seeking permission from a judge). They already have something that is even broader than the Patriot Act (of the US),” Kamdar says. “Almost all the attackers had at some point been identified as being dangerous in some way, and yet none of that prevented the attack.”

The Emergency measures, in place for the first time in France since 1961 (when army generals attempted a coup d’etat during the Algerian war) give exceptional powers to security services and the police. These include the right to set curfews, limit the movement of people, prohibit mass gatherings, establish secure zones where people can be monitored, and order the closure of public spaces, including bars, theatres, museums and other places deemed to be dangerous meeting places. It can also censor the media, though the government has indicated that this will not happen during the current procedure.

Under these special measures, the French police have launched nearly 200 raids and 144 people have been placed under house arrest in the five days since Friday, the 13th.

Police conducted a pre-dawn raid on a small street in the Paris suburb of St Denis, ostensibly to track down Abaaoud, but it was not clear on Wednesday afternoon whether the militant was one of seven people arrested during the operation. Police said a woman suicide bomber blew herself up and another militant was killed during the raid, which lasted several hours and started with a barrage of gunfire.

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Police sources said the militants hiding out in the St Denis apartment they had stormed had been planning an attack on La Defense, a Paris business district.

A vote is needed to prolong the Emergency beyond 12 days, and Hollande has told parliamentarians he was hoping for an extension of three months.

Reports of Islamophobia have already emerged in France and right-wing parties across Europe are using the Paris attacks to reiterate their demand to stem the tide of refugees into Europe. “We are scared and, of course, we are grieving,” says Fouad Ben Ahmed, a resident of Bobigny, a Paris suburb where police stormed a safe house following the attacks. “The terrorists killed many Muslims, too. They have no religion, these people.” He has a point. The IS has killed more Muslims than members of any other religion.

Marine Le Pen, the president of the far-right National Front party, has sought to make political capital of the new wave of Islamophobia set off by the Paris attacks. “France and the French are no longer safe,” she thundered on Saturday, demanding a crackdown on Islamists and mosques in France and reiterating her demand to “expel foreigners who preach hatred on our soil”. Her words have resonated with right-wing and far-right parties across Europe, who have been attacking the decision by European countries, including Germany, to take in millions of refugees, a vast majority of them Muslim, who have arrived at their doorstep.

A Syrian passport found near the body of one of the suicide bombers outside the Stade de France after the attacks has sparked off rumours that he had crossed into Europe via Greece as a refugee. Even though the passport is probably fake, it has bolstered renewed calls from the Right for France to adopt stronger anti-immigration policies. “It really poses the question that we have been asking all along, that they (the terrorists) will infiltrate the migratory flux that is arriving in Europe,” Florian Philippot, vice-president of the National Front said on French television.

France’s ruling socialist government and left-wing parties have expressed concern that Hollande made a major shift towards the Right following the attacks. The attacks “mark a turning point towards a clear vision for eradicating the Islamists,” the right-wing daily Le Figaro said. “It was about time.”

Meanwhile, most Parisians are going about their lives as if nothing had happened. On Tuesday night, in spite of the rain, they responded in large numbers to a slogan on social media, “Je suis en terrace (I am on a café terrace).” “Peace for Paris, tous au bistrot!” proclaimed Lefooding. com, the Fooding restaurant guide, asking Parisians to come out and “pay homage to the victims, support the ailing hospitality and entertainment industry (tourist cancellations began to pour in hours after the carnage), refuse to bow down to the extremists, and to sing through their tears”.

“People here don’t need a reminder that they must keep living,” says Sandrine Gouville, an art teacher from Toulouse who lives not far from the Bataclan. “We cannot cower indoors because we fear another attack. Then we would be doing exactly what the terrorists want us to do.”

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