Terrorist attack will alter France's path

Updated: 2015-01-16 10:19

By Tuo Yannan in Paris, France(China Daily Europe)

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The terrorist attack at the Paris offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people will bring significant changes to the country's political and social paths, said politicians and think tank experts.

Two gunmen attacked the magazine's offices on Jan 7, killing four of France's top cartoonists in an act of revenge for the prophet Mohammed for Charlie Hebdo's satire of him.

It was not the first time the magazine's offices have been attacked. In 2011, its offices in Paris were bombed after it ran controversial cartoons of the prophet.

Alain Marsaud, a former anti-terrorism judge and center-right politician, said because of the latest attack, French right-wing parties will win the next election as current left-wing President Francois Hollande loses support from French voters.

"I believe that if we held a presidential election today, there is no doubt that Jean-Marie Le Pen would win as president after the attacks," Marsaud explains.

Jean-Luc Marret, senior fellow at the defense and security think tank Fondation pour la Recherche Strategique, says that while he doesn't see any adverse impact to the French economy from the attack, he says the tragic event could polarize, at least in the short term, the political fringes of Europe.

Josef Janning, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, says this is a major challenge to the police and legal systems around Europe.

"Europeans are aware that the problem is not solved by killing this or that figure in a rather decentralized milieu of extremists. Most policymakers know that this cannot be won easily if it can be won at all. They will go for increased security measures but not introduce fundamental changes like the United States did with homeland security," Janning says.

As a longtime friend of slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Jean Cabut, retired French general Eric de la Maisonneuve says France has swept the dirt under the rug for far too long.

"This is a question between liberty and security, between secularity and religion. It has existed for a long time in France. In the past we could still handle it and now we can't deal with it anymore," he says.

"The number of immigrants has been growing rapidly over the last decades, but we didn't take it into account. We still have been using the old policies of integration to try to absorb them. And while it has worked when immigration represented 5 or 6 percent of the French population, it just doesn't work anymore when we have 10 percent or more."

Janning adds that "it seems that among the socially marginalized migrant communities, even those born and raised in France or other European countries, there are serious issues of identity and personal happiness".

De la Maisonneuve says France should adapt its immigration politics to the current reality.

"The reason why we have such tragedy is because we didn't manage to take immigration issue into the mainstream of society. They don't get good education and they are just left on the fringes of the society. It's France who should be responsible for this."

To solve the problem, De la Maisonneuve suggests that France should work more on its laws and legislators.

"We should have always kept an eye on those who are engaged in terrorism. And political measures in prison should be reviewed as well. Other countries should not feel unconcerned. Terrorism is a global issue now. Everyone needs to help each other. Given the important weight on the international stage, countries like the United States and China should also make efforts to fight terrorism."

Janning says it may help to have religious instruction in schools by teachers of Islam educated in Europe.

"Upward mobility in social terms would also help, it would require better integration into the educational system and labor market. This will prevent young people to fall into the trap of religious fanatics," he explains.

Sun Hang contributed to this story.

(China Daily European Weekly 01/16/2015 page3)