France is again hit by an alleged Islamist attack. Two women and a man are dead after a knife attack in a church in the center of Nice.
The attack in Nice has not completely taken over France. Almost two weeks ago, history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded on the street in a Parisian suburb by an 18-year-old Islamist after showing Mohammed cartoons as part of a lesson on freedom of speech.
The attack is reminiscent of an attack in a church in 2016
Nonetheless, the recent bloody act in Notre-Dame Basilica comes as a shock. The brutality of the act is reminiscent of an attack in a church in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray in Normandy in July 2016, for which the terrorist militia “Islamic State” assumed responsibility. At that moment, a hitman slit the throat of 80-year-old pastor Jacques Hamel in the church.
At that time, the socialist Francois Hollande was still the president of France. At the time, after the assassination attempt in Normandy, politicians called for France not to be swept up in a civil war by the fundamentalists. Similar calls can now be heard again after the Nice attack.
But it’s harder than ever for the French to stay calm. Because the murders in Nice hit a country already troubled by the corona pandemic and the prevailing health emergency. When the first reports of the attack became public, it had been barely 15 hours since French President Emmanuel Macron announced a lockdown. On the night of Friday, restrictions come into effect that are much stricter than in Germany. The pandemic is also hitting France more brutally than Germany. Macron warned that at least the number of intensive care patients could be expected to rise to 9,000 by mid-month.
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The French were preparing for the new restrictions on Thursday morning when the knife attack in Nice raised one more question: how can France win the fight against Islamism while keeping the nation – Muslims and non-Muslims – together?
The trauma of 2016 is recalled in Nice
It’s a challenge that pops up for the country time and again when jihadists strike. For the southern French city of Nice also applies the fact that for many people there the trauma of the national holiday in 2016 is aroused again. At that moment, a hit man drove a truck onto the cordoned-off promenade “Boulevard des Anglais”, where people happily walked past and watched the fireworks. The hit man, a 31-year-old Tunisian, drove the truck in a zigzag course to capture as many victims as possible. At least 86 people died.
France’s terrible year 2015
For the death ride on the “Boulevard des Anglais”, France had already experienced a terrible year in 2015 marked by terror: at the beginning of the year, Islamists targeted caricaturists and customers of a Jewish supermarket, after which it was a year in Paris in November. terror series touched including young people in the Bataclan concert hall.
Since then, the country has learned to deal with the permanent terrorist threat. Patrolling soldiers are now part of the street scene in city centers. David-Olivier Reverdy of the “Alliance Police Nationale” police union said in an interview with the television broadcaster BFM-TV on Thursday, however, that it was hardly possible to place police officers permanently in front of all churches in France.
Macron, who left for Nice on Thursday, now faces the difficult task of finding the right tone in this crisis. He will hardly be able to go back after his summons at the state ceremony for the decapitated teacher Samuel Paty to maintain freedom of speech and continue showing religious caricatures in the future. At the same time, however, he should also try not to add fuel to the fire.
Most recently, Macron tried to ease the caricature dispute
Last weekend, the cartoon dispute over the diplomatic crisis between Paris and Ankara escalated. Paris had called back the French ambassador after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan laughed at Macron’s mental health check. The Muslim world then called for boycotts against French products. Then at the Elysée Palace, Macron’s official residence, it was said that a further escalation of the dispute should be prevented.
Comparisons between Fascism and Islamism
But even without the help of the Turkish president, Macron is under great political pressure. Representatives on the right side of the political spectrum, in particular, have called for a tougher course in the fight against Islamism. With the appointment of his new interior minister Gérald Darmanin, a confidant of former head of state Nicolas Sarkozy, the head of state had already marked a right turn last July. But that didn’t stop Christian Estrosi, the mayor of Nice, from declaring on Thursday: “Enough is enough”. According to the conservative politician of the party “Les Républicains”, it is time “to put Islamic fascism on our territory. exterminate “.
The chairman of the far-right “Rassemblement National”, Marine Le Pen, used similar bellicose words: France was no longer a free country for the first time since the occupation by the Nazis, she waged a polemic after the attack in Nice. “Our country is at war, we are at war,” she said.
The 52-year-old has a set goal: to replace Macron in the next presidential election in 2022.