It may have happened one year ago, but it feels like it only happened yesterday. On 13 November 2015, Parisians were at a football match; others were attending a gig at the Bataclan, and some were just having fun and had a drink only hundreds of metres from the attacks. At the end of this uncommon Friday night in Paris, 130 people were murdered during a mass shooting which became the most appalling attack that Paris had since the end of WW2.
Rising hate in France
For most Parisians, that night was a living nightmare. The victims could have been anyone among one’s friends, neighbours or family. Paris got shot in its heart as the city is proud of its nightlife. In many bars and restaurants, behind closed doors, survivors had to sleep in what appeared to be a safe place. Families spent the entire night calling each other’s, in order to know if they were still alive and safe. But for the majority of French people across the country, fear became the “new France”.
After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, it came as no surprise that this terror attack was due to Daesh. Yet it was mainly perpetrated by French nationals and people who grew up in France.
But in the days after the attacks, there were no mass demonstrations like we saw in January 2015 after Charlie Hebdo was attacked and 11 cartoonists and one policeman were shot. France was once more in a state of shock but the seeds of division had already turned French people one against the other.
The second half of November 2015 saw a spike in hate crime and Islamophobia up and down the country. Right after the terror attacks in Paris and by the end of December, according to the Committee against Islamophobia in France 222 hate crimes were reported against Muslims living in France, making 2015 the worst year ever for anti-Muslim crimes.
Since then, French government policies have focused exclusively on security matters. After the November attacks, the government implemented a state of emergency which was characterised by a bigger presence of armed soldiers on the streets and in stations of all French cities.
French soldiers were also sent to guard Jewish buildings, drawing more attention on them when nobody really cared before.
Fear became the making of the “new France”.
French values of “Liberte, egalite, fraternite” under threat?
But then France lost its soul. The French government tried to reassure its citizens by introducing a controversial law that would deprive French citizens of their nationality if found guilty of terrorism. It would have meant that French citizens could become “stateless”, something that hasn’t happened since WW2.
This law was against everything France was supposed to be. But fortunately it was found unconstitutional. The French constitution prohibits laws and judgements which could make someone stateless.
Yet the French PM Manuel Valls decided to go ahead with its new law anyway, by modifying it slightly so it would only concern bi-nationals. The PM, with the support of President Francois Hollande, went against his own majority at parliament. Many MPs of the Socialist Party – the Prime Minister’s party – stood strongly against him, eventually leading to the law being withdrawn.
The political division that followed led to left-wing personalities to launch a so-called Republican revival – a cross-party movement designed to stand up in defence of republican values against the danger that terrorism represents. But behind the gentile mask of defending French secularism, which is at the core of the French Republic, rampant Islamophobia took the left by surprise.
Far right party Front National and its leader Marine Le Pen had nothing to do with this wave of Islamophobia, as it was a left-wing government that tried to legitimise their ideas. If Front National had turned, since Marine Le Pen took leadership, from bitter racism to “soft Islamophobia”, it was the left that would carry their core ideas of targeting French Muslims. In France, where the battle between republican ideals and religions had always been very intense, it’s easier to advocate the hate of one specific religious belief than plain racism, and after November Islam became an easy target.
Instead of trying to understand why French nationals committed such atrocities in November 2015, a left wing government used French Muslims as scapegoats, instead of trying to understand why the French society has created those murderers.
It would have been better to try and understand why the French model of integration failed on both cultural and social issues. But this would have been too painful for a left-wing government that cherished the republican’s values of “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” to understand why its model has failed.
This may be the worst consequence of the 13 November terror attacks. Along with 130 other souls, the left in France died too.