French press review 8 October 2012
Weekend anti-terrorist operations by the French police dominate this morning's front pages as the papers try to come to terms with further evidence that all is not well in the muslim community.
Aujourd'hui en France goes for impact at the expense of accuracy with a headline reading "French youth drift into terrorism". That insight is based on the fact that the most active of those arrested at the weekend are, indeed, French and in their 20s. Many of the 11 individuals currently in police custody are described as recent converts to islam, and the popular paper seems to believe that the links between conversion and radical islam are direct and obvious.
Aujourd'hui en France is less impressed by the fact that several of those picked up at the weekend were already criminals, having done time for a range of crimes involving drugs and violence.
Right wing Le Figaro manages a workmanlike, if redundant, headline telling us that "French islamists were preparing attacks". The key word, of course, is "French" since these suspects were not born in Algiers or Bamako or Beirut and their supposed anger can not be blamed on any far away conflict. Nothing about the social conditions that drive the disenchanted young into the arms of the radicals, but that is another and more complicated story.
But then Le Figaro loses the plot, with a front-page editorial warning the French government not to yield an inch on such questions as the public wearing of the full veil, the niqab, or allowing Friday prayers to spill onto the streets. This, says the right-wing protector of the nation, will lead to ever increasing demands from rebel communities, always asking for more, ever more agressive, trying to conquer a dominant social space.
More jobs and adequate mosque space might be other ways of resolving a major problem. But don't wait for Le Figaro to propose them.
Left-leaning Libération quotes the French Interior Minister as saying the would-be terrorists were all from troubled suburbs and were motivated by violent and intense anti-semitism.
The terrorist group dismantled at the weekend is said to have established a list of Jewish schools, shops and places of worship, all potential targets.
Libé's editorial at least accepts that radical islam finds rich fishing grounds among what it calls "the lost children of no-man's land", an overly poetic description of those who have nothing to hope for from a society that rejects everything for which they stand.
The anti-terrorist police will never solve the real problem.
Le Monde devotes an inside page to the way self-defence militia are springing up in Mali. These are a popular response to the threat posed by the various islamist groups who have effectively taken control of the northern two-thirds of Malian territory. "Militia" is probably the wrong word, since the members have no weapons, no uniforms, no boots.
What they do have is a desire to free their northern homeland from what they consider to be the scourge of islamic fundamentalism. According to recruits interviewed by Le Monde, members of their families in the north are forbidden to smoke, the women cannot wash, cannot work outside the home, no one can watch TV. They claim that sharia amputations are common for petty crimes.
These young volunteers want Mali to remain united, democratic and secular. But they don't think an Ecowas mission is the best way of ensuring that future. They fear that large-scale military intervention is likely to kill as many or more innocent northerners as islamist fighters.
That's why these youngsters have accepted unpaid training, open-air accommodation and very poor food, in the hope that they can join the regular army when the time finally comes for the authorities in Bamako to do something serious about the loss of two-thirds of the national territory to a bunch of religious fanatics. For the moment, that time seems far distant.
The regular army was abjectly defeated by the islamists in March, and has since seen hundreds of desertions. The enemy is well-fed and pays cash. The insurgents got their very modern weapons from Khadafi's Libya. They are dedicated to a cause.