By MICHAEL SCHREIBER
In the space of less than two weeks, the world recently witnessed three massacres outside the home base of the Islamic State (ISIS) for which the jihadist group took credit. On Oct. 31, a homemade bomb brought down a Russian airliner over the Sinai, killing all 224 people on board. On Nov. 12, a double suicide bombing killed 43 in Beirut. And the next day, ISIS-linked operatives killed 130 at several sites in Paris.
In a communiqué, ISIS said that Paris had been targeted primarily in retaliation for French air attacks on its forces in Syria, and also because Paris is “the capital of prostitution and obscenity.” The jihadists stated that they had destroyed the Russian aircraft to avenge their comrades who had been killed by Russia’s participation in the war. In regard to Beirut, ISIS said that the attack was focused on killing Shiites, whom it considers as apostates.
The Paris shootings, because they took place in an iconic Western capital, have captured the headlines for weeks. The Russian air crash has gathered far less commentary, while the slaughter in Beirut has been generally ignored in the media. Many commentators in Lebanon have remarked that this reflects the feeling in the West that Arab lives matter less than those of Europeans.
Of course, these were all events of intense horror, no less in Paris than anywhere else, and the wave of solidarity and sympathy for the French victims and their families is fully justified. Misplaced, however, is any solidarity with the warmakers who rule the French nation.
A clamp-down on civil liberties
As if the ISIS atrocities were not grim enough, governments around the world—from Europe to the United States—have used them as a ready excuse for ramping up political repression and clamping down on civil liberties. Border crossings have been slammed shut against Middle Eastern refugees and immigrants in general, with the explanation, as recently expressed by a Bavarian official, that “Paris changes everything.” In an interview with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, French Premier Manuel Valls said that it was “not possible” for Europe to accommodate any more refugees.
Amidst patriotic calls to “unite the nation,” governments have ignored or even fomented racist attacks against Muslims, who are witch hunted as “terrorists.” They disregard the fact, of course, that Muslims have been the main victims of terrorist attacks.
The Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste (NPA) pointed out concerning the French government: “Once again, the main people responsible for this surge of barbarian violence are calling for national unity. They are trying to turn the dramatic situation to their advantage to choke off indignation and revolt. They have a ready-made scapegoat—Muslims. We reject any national unity with those responsible for wars—the bourgeoisie, Hollande, Sarkozy, and Le Pen.”
As if to prove the point, French President François Hollande declared immediately that the Paris shootings constituted an “act of war,” and blustered that “France will destroy ISIS.” Two days later, he ordered an air attack on Raqqa, the ISIS “capital city” in Syria. The attack was carried out with U.S. logistical support. According to Reuters, the bombs hit several medical clinics and a museum.
Meanwhile, in order to “protect freedom” in France itself, Hollande (leader of the mis-named “Socialist” Party) declared a three-month state of emergency, which he is proposing to extend for an additional three months. The edict, which was quickly ratified by the General Assembly and the Senate, enables authorities to conduct searches without warrants, tighten border restrictions, declare curfews, enforce control over the media, and ban protests and public assemblies. These regulations were added to legislation passed in September that allowed the government to tap phones, place listening devises in homes, shut down websites, monitor private computers, and impose travel bans—all without any judicial oversight.
On Dec. 3, French Premier Valls said that police had conducted over 2000 raids since the Nov. 13 shootings, in which more than 260 people had been taken in for questioning; most of them were detained in jail. This is in addition to the 289 people arrested and 174 detained on Nov. 29 when police attacked a demonstration of over 5000 climate activists with tear gas and clubs. More than 360 people have been put under house arrest—including at least 24 environmental activists who were involved in planning protests around the COP 21 international climate conference.
Following the Nov. 29 police attack, the NPA stated: “These arrests are proof that the special measures stemming from the state of emergency are effective not against ISIS’s terrorism but against all those who exercise the most fundamental right of demonstration. While the heads of states will be meeting tomorrow in Paris at the COP 21 conference, all those who do not want to let them decide of the fate of the planet and humankind are being repressed.”
“They think all Muslims are terrorists”
All of the ISIS attackers in Paris, according to French authorities, appear to have been EU citizens. Most of them were raised in the slums of Belgium and France, where unemployment is high. As an indication of this, in 2013, the official jobless rate for immigrants in France was 17.3%, close to 80% higher than for the native-born population. Young people often believe, with strong reasoning, that they have “no future.”
A BBC reporter recently brought a camera team to a largely Muslim district in Paris, where he asked a group of young men in the street how they felt about the shootings by ISIS operatives. “Muslims don’t do this,” one replied. “Muslims don’t kill.” The men expressed their apprehension about racism and prejudice in French society: “When I come to France, people do like this,” said one, as he demonstrated with his body how some people shy away from him, “because I’m Muslim, I’m Arab. That’s no good, my friend, because they think that all Muslims are terrorists.”
As the cameras rolled, a couple of cops began to search two young men, seemingly randomly, who were standing nearby. The men who were being interviewed remarked, “Look at this. It happens every day. … We feel like we are in a prison.”
In fact, rather than solve the problems of poverty, joblessness, and hopelessness, the ruling-class policy in France—as in the United States—is to round up the “surplus population” and throw them into a real prison, behind walls and bars. Studies say that from 60 to 70 percent of inmates in French prisons are Muslims, although Muslims make up merely 8 percent of the French population. It is in the penal institutions that many demoralized young men come under the influence of the jihadists.
Scapegoating Muslims in the U.S.
According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), reports of violence and threats against Muslims in the United States—have been on the rise since the Paris attack. There is little doubt that the climate for these incidents has been fired up by racist statements by U.S. politicians—Donald Trump calls for a database to track Muslims and a ban on Muslims entering the U.S.—and by attempts by the House of Representatives and several state governments to halt entry of Syrian refugees.
There have been several reports of people of Middle Eastern descent being removed from airplanes after other passengers reported that they felt unsafe with them aboard. For example, Southwest Airlines officials ejected two men from their seats on Nov. 18 after the men had been overheard speaking Arabic.
“We’ve never seen so much backlash against the Muslim community” since the Sept. 11 Trade Center attacks, said Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for CAIR’s New York office. “I’m frightened.” In one incident cited by CAIR, a cab driver in Pittsburgh, originally from Morocco, was shot by a passenger who had ranted about ISIS “killing people.” In another incident, two Muslim women in Brooklyn said that a man assaulted them, elbowing one and spitting in her face, and telling them that he was going to burn down their “temple.”
One woman, who wears a hijab, said she was talking on her phone when suddenly she felt a spray of saliva hit her and heard someone yelling, “Go back home, you terrorist!” She had already been singled out three times by the police for bag checks while traveling on the subway system. “I didn’t feel like a person anymore,” she said. “It’s like the hardest feeling in the world. You feel like you have no allies; you feel like you are alone.”
The latest excuse for scapegoating Muslims derives from the killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2. As we go to press, the reasons for the attack remain unclear, but ISIS in a radio broadcast referred to the two assailants as “supporters of the Islamic State.”
A version of the New York Post’s Dec. 3 cover, distributed in the paper’s digital edition, trumpeted the words “Muslim Killers” in giant letters superimposed over an image of injured victims of the San Bernardino shooting. Robert McCaw, government affairs department manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, called the headline “despicable.”
He added, “Muslims are no more responsible for yesterday’s terrible events than Christians are for [the shooting at] Planned Parenthood.”
Socialist Action agrees with the conclusions of our French comrades in the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste: “The only response to wars and terrorism is the unity of the workers and people, over and above their origins, their skin color, their religions, across the borders, to fight together against those who want to silence them, to dominate them, to do away with this capitalist system which generates cruelty.
“To put an end to terrorism, it is necessary to put an end to the imperialist wars that aim to perpetuate the plundering of the wealth of the peoples dominated by the multinationals, to force the withdrawal of the French [and U.S.] troops from all countries where they are present, in particular in Syria, in Iraq, in Africa.”