Why France?

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lit up in the Tricoleur to show its solidarity and support for the French people.
(Photo credit: Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin lit up in the Tricoleur to show its solidarity and support for the French people. (Photo credit: Sean Gallup, Getty Images)

A month later, the November 13th attacks in Paris still strongly resonate with all of us today.

People around the world were shocked that such a deadly and horrific attack would happen in Paris, the crux of Western culture; a civilization that produced some of the finest artwork, fashion, theater, poetry, philosophy, food, and literature known to mankind.

The world was horrified not only by the deaths of 130 people, but by the clear motives that ISIL (The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant–Levant refers to the areas of Syria, Israel, and Jordan), a cancerous terrorist organization, had in targeting France. Survivors of the Bataclan attack said the gunman cried (in French), “This is because of all the harm Hollande has done to Muslims all around the world.” France has been bombing ISIL since September 2015 in Syria.

When ISIS/ISIL took responsibility for the November 13 attacks in a video, they called Paris the “capital of prostitution and vice” and showed other cities of “infidels” that they would target in the future, including London, New York City, and Washington, DC, inciting fear into the hearts of millions. Gabby Guarna ‘18 said, “Obviously I was really scared living in a big city that has been a major target before. It made me really scared and think twice about going to big public places, like the soccer matches or concerts.” There is no doubt that these terror attacks in France call to mind the horrific attacks of 9/11 where another radical Muslim group (Al-Qaeda) attacked the West and its beliefs.

Many people believe that since the majority of French Muslims live in slum-like banlieues and other poor housing conditions that François Hollande, the socialist president of France since 2012, is automatically against them. These banlieues built post-war were originally designed for workers, but have turned into slums full of poverty, social isolation, and anger. Despite Prime Minister Manuel Valls’ efforts of “integrating Muslims,” many people in the banlieues believe that they are being treated like second class citizens as they are not français de souche (French from the root) and therefore if you are not fair-skinned, you are not fully French. (More here from The New Yorker.)

There’s been a tense history between French Christians and French Muslims because of colonization, particularly in Algeria. Algeria received its bloody independence from France in 1962, after an eight year war where over 700,000 people died. On October 17, 1961 French police killed over 200 people in Paris and its banlieues who were protesting for the freedom of Algeria. It took over 40 years for the French government to acknowledge this horrific murder that took place.

Hollande has declared war on ISIL, though this will be a war unlike any other due to the intricate nature of ISIL, particularly in the respect of cyber warfare. This has also been a call to bring together Russia and the United States  to fight a force of evil once more, yet with Russia already fighting with Bashir al-Assad, the President of Syria, and the United States wary to get into another war, Hollande’s major plans may be put on hold by these two superpowers, but the pillars of France — liberté, egalité, et fraternité, will always endure and prevail against all odds.