France is shocked after a relatively quiet period without acts of terrorism. The recent stabbings near Charlie Hebdo, the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a church in Nice caused a déjà vu to earlier attacks. All acts were related to the Islam and France’ secular society. Just like the attacks a few years ago. Acts of brute violence that killed multiple citizens. They hit France’ society in the heart. The killings of Charlie Hebdo and the shooting at the Bataclan are the most memorial and symbolic.
President Macron spoke emotionally about the division between the faithful and the unbelievers. ‘Islamist want our future’, he said. His words provoked firm reactions of leaders in Muslim societies. The most outspoken was president Erdogan of Turkey. Demonstrations followed in among others Lebanon. And voices raised to boycott France’ products.
Based on these events, both the France society and Muslim societies look incompatible. As a result, it’s easy to blame the Islamic religion as the cause of the clash of civilizations. The Western, France society of free speech on one hand and the religious Islamic world on the other hand. But is this really true? Is the Islam the driving force behind the terrorist attacks in France?
Whoever wants to understand the cause of terrorism has to look further than what’s visible on the surface. In fact, the main characteristic of terrorism is heavy violence, systematically repeated in a certain pattern. Most people will remind 9/11 as the most vivid example of terrorism. Also, the metro bombings in London, Madrid and Brussels are memorised by many. And already mentioned, Charly Hebdo and the Bataclan shootings. All have an Islamic motive in common. Also, they show the same pattern: mass killings in the public, Western sphere claimed by Al-Qaeda or IS.
In history, there have been multiple terrorist attacks without an Islamic connection. The anti-colonial movements after the ’20s held several terrorist attacks. Currently, terrorism under the right-wing is rising in occurrence. The Christchurch mosque shooting in New Zealand is the most memorial.
These different waves of terrorism have another tone but share a common base. Systematic, brutal violence is used out of the discomfort of one group compared to another group. Anti-colonial, right-wing or Islamic: all forms are using a pattern of brutal violence to reach a certain political goal.
The recent acts of terrorism in France are dedicated to Islam but are not caused by Islam. In fact, terrorism in France is caused by the clash of two societies based on a political motive. At one side: the France Western, secular society with a history of colonialism and a strong force in world politics. The French society is divided by rich and poor and is shaped my immigration and racism and is struggling with national protests and populism. On the other side: societies in the Middle East, with a history of colonialism by European nations, searching for an identity that was found in nationalism and recently Islamism. These societies have a big pressure on the social contract between citizens and leaders and are experiencing protests, immigration and civil wars. The societies presented themselves united against Macron’s words. Although there are big differences between them.
Both sides are interrelated in history, geopolitics and how that shapes a society. And both sides struggle with this.
Politics shaping terrorism
The cause of the terrorist attacks in France is covered in a ‘coat of Islamism’. Falsely suggesting that the cause of terrorism is Islam. The real cause of terrorism is political. The geopolitics between France and the Middle East and the internal struggles in both societies to be more specific. Governments are searching to expand their power and societies are in need of a common identity. While on the background there’s immigration and a changing social contract that causes discomfort. Terrorism in the name of Islam is the result of this. Not the cause.