Charlie Hebdo – Radical Muslim Terror Attack or European Game of Thrones?
Augustus York is Times of Pol’s second featured columnists. You can contact him using his email address [email protected] or his Twitter account @theAugustusYork.
January 9 – A little more than a week after the joyous celebrations of New Year’s Eve in Paris, a black car pulls up next to the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine headquarters and two masked men, decked out in bullet-proof vests and military-grade firearms, step out of the vehicle. They proceed inside of the building, killing some of the most well-known writers and editors of the publication by roll-call, and exit the building only to be stopped by a police officer on the scene. A video taken by observers on the roof of a building across the street from the headquarters record the attackers injuring the officer and shouting “Allahu akbar!” as one of the two hip-fires at another police officer blocking their getaway route down the street. The duo then proceeds to the downed police officer, who is pleading for his life with the attackers as they approach, and execute him on the spot. Several more civilians are injured during shootouts with the police before the terrorists are able to escape with a stolen vehicle, cleaning up after themselves in a professional manner, paying attention to every detail including a dropped shoe near the scene of the crime, unlike any terror attack seen before. The rest is history, media outlets reporting on the two hostage situations unfolding in France and the eventual liberation of the hostages and the killing of three of the four attackers. The manhunt for the last attacker, who managed to escape in the chaos of the kosher-mart holdup, is still underway with almost 80,000 police officers scouring the country for the evanescent assailant.
Since the attack, there has been skepticism of who was the mastermind behind this Parisian atrocity and why this terrorist act is different than the conventional jihadist bombings.
Fully automatic weapons are illegal in France, as are rocket launchers. Semi-automatic weapons with round capacities greater than three rounds require special permits, while bolt-action rifles and handguns are legal with a hunting permit or a special “B1″ firearms license. How the attackers managed to acquire the weapons used to carry out this attack is unknown, but most Western media assumes these guns were acquired illegally, through the black market or al-Qaeda.
CNN interviewed friends of the two brothers, and there were some surprising findings. Many who were acquainted with the elder brother testified that he was not a practicing Muslim, visiting bars and nightclubs contrary to most Islamic teachings. Not only that, but the remaining attacker is said to have been “radicalized” by her boyfriend of three years, and before-hand was a very moderate, Western Muslim. These “terrorists not only have minimal connection with the Muslim faith, but the target they chose to attack has, historically, openly supported the Palestinians during conflicts with Israel, and have remained relatively cordial with Muslim leaders in France.
Regarding images of the prophet Mohammed, there is a “minor hadith” that prohibits the depiction of the messenger not out of worship, but to prevent him from being worshiped. However, the drawing of the prophet has occurred throughout history, most commonly with Shi’ite groups within Iran and Turkey, and has been depicted by many non-Muslims in both satirical and non-satirical ways. Most notably, there is a picture of the prophet Mohammed holding a sword and a copy of the Qu’ran on the United States Supreme Court building as well as a magazine published in 1999 depicting the “moral apostles” of the modern world. On the other hand, the Prophet has been depicted in “South Park” and “Charlie Hebdo” in more controversial circumstances, and such a depiction was cancelled in an expected episode of the popular television show “Family Guy” by Fox. Despite the apparent taboo in drawing the prophet, there is no specific punishment or crime to accompany such an action, and is regarded by most Muslims as a “rule of thumb” rather than a punishable sin or “haram” action. Thus, many Muslim scholars have denounced the severe “punishment” dealt to the editors and writers of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, and brings more attention to why the action took place, if not an actual sin in Islam.
Regarding the efficiency and professionalism of the terrorists during the unfortunate incident in Paris, many media outlets in the East have become skeptical of the “jihadist” motivation behind the attack. Not only did the attackers clean up behind themselves at the scene of the crime, they were extremely well-trained to the point where one of the shooters was able to hit and kill a French police officer from the hip almost a block away. Such accuracy and handling of the gun is uncommon in terrorist attacks, even with training from al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen. At most, this training could have only been constituted of firearm basics and short-range target practice, as the instructors themselves are neither professionals nor students of professionals. Thus, the detailed planning and execution of the operation has come under scrutiny, most importantly over the fact that, despite having obvious training in urban warfare and identity-coverage, they made the fatal mistake of leaving French identification cards behind inside of the getaway vehicle, as if they wanted to be identified by police and media as dual Algerian-French citizens with obvious connections to Islam and jihadist groups. This apparent mistake contradicts the extreme cares the assailants took to mask their identities and remain questionable to French authorities for the duration of the attack, and most notably the flawless French they spoke during the incident without a tinge of ethnicity or nationality. This not only suggests that they were raised in France, but they tried to distance themselves from their ethnic routes by assimilation into Western culture.
Keeping all this in mind, there is a single question to ask yourself after an incident like this with a shadowy background and out-of-place circumstances, and that question is:
“Who gains from this exchange, and who loses?”
ISIS and al-Qaeda – Both organizations have commemorated the attack with statements from spokespeople praising the incident and congratulating the attackers in their endeavor, however; neither organization has taken responsibility for the attack. This immediately raises some eyebrows since these two entities would be the first to claim responsibility since it had such a detrimental blow to the West and the feeling of security among the French population. If claimed, this terror attack would boost infamy and recruitment all around the world, both of which these organizations look to do. Thus, one can only assume that these assailants acted independently from these groups. Yet, such an assumption raises even more questions. If not sponsored by a jihadist group, how did the attackers manage to acquire heavy duty weaponry and military-grade armor to use in the attack? Why would they conduct such an operation if depicting the prophet is not strictly haram in Islam? Why did they commit such fatal errors when fleeing from police, such that their identities were revealed only hours after the attack? How were two brothers, both with only basic training and limited funding, able to commit the largest act of terror in France for fifty years?
Socialist Party of France – The current government of France, currently under the leadership of François Hollande and the Socialist Party of France, has come under fire since their coming to power, specifically for their relatively lenient policies when it came to immigration and treatment of Muslims in daily French society. They were often criticized by right-wing political leaders and French nationalists alike, saying that the current administration “degraded French culture” and was “too open to foreigners”. With the attack on Charlie Hebdo headquarters, the Socialist Party has come under fire for the consequences of these policies, and has lead to a decline in support for the policies of the majority party. In fact, such an incident, if played right by media and opposition parties, could destabilize the base of the Socialist Party, and eventually lead to it’s defeat in the next elections, thus ending their liberal policies and ushering in a new era of extreme Islamophobia and anti-immigration sentiment.
French Union for a Popular Movement – The current opposition government in French parliament, the UMP is composed of various right-wing political parties that are comparable to the Republican and Libertarian parties in the United States. The platform that they run consists of anti-immigration policies among other things, and have been struggling to control the French presidency for quite a while now. This attack comes at an opportune time for them to take the lead in opinion polls and perhaps win the upcoming general elections. Thus, this attack is perfectly timed to play the angles of the election, and may have some connection with French nationalists vying for power in parliament.
Germany – The past decade has been a power struggle between the two European economic powerhouses France and Germany over the European Central Bank. Ploys have been discovered in the past to weaken each other’s economy in hopes of gaining more of a stranglehold over the bank. The recent attack, though not directly affecting the French economy will undoubtedly have an affect on stocks and tourism for fear of another terrorist attack. Thus, a German corporation or perhaps the German government itself, led by the Christian Democrat Angela Merkel, who has consistently pushed the Christian agenda since her ascension into office. Thus, the defeat of France both financially and politically would in fact be on the top of her to-do list and correlate to the terror attack in Paris. Not only this, but France has maintained a historically firm grip on her former colonies, and the terror attack would indefinitely weaken that grip, allowing German corporations to slip between the cracks and exploit both Syria and Algeria’s rich oil reserves without interference from the socialist government in France.
European Nationalists and White Supremacists – This goes without saying, the wave of right-wing fascism that has been sweeping the European continent will directly benefit from this incursion. Not only will they gain a foothold in the historically-socialist France, but their agenda will be greatly advanced in other countries as well. Especially in Greece, where tensions between Orthodox Europeans and historically Muslim Turks reach an all-time high, the Golden Dawn party grows stronger and stronger, with their ideals spreading to neighboring countries such as Albania and Serbia. A new era is rising in the West, with current conditions in Europe mimicking those that gave way to the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. This attack also comes at a crucial time in the history of the neo-fascist movement, perhaps exploiting the anti-Eastern sentiment so popularized by right-wing media outlets. It would also explain why the attackers seemed so professional in their execution of the terror attack, and why they made such a fatal mistake in divulging their identities to the French authorities.
Moderate Muslims – Moderate Muslims, those who live all over the world and constitute almost 80% of the Muslim population are the ultimate losers in this terror operation. The recent string of extremist jihadists attacks in Australia and France have hyped Islamophobia to unseen levels. Eventually, European governments will institute Patriot Act-like policies and become more anti-immigration. We can already see examples of this in the United Kingdom with the rise of the UKIP and Greece with the footprint of the Golden Dawn Party. Muslims will become scapegoats if things continue like this and people continue to believe that these extremists attacks represent the Muslim population as a whole. From this point of view, it is quite likely that this attack was not engineered by a militant Muslim group, but by a nationalist group seeking to expel the foreigners from its country. With such advanced training and extreme coincidences, such an incident could not have happened purely by chance, and could not have been home-grown as everyone is so inclined to believe.
An inside job or not, the attack on the Charlie Hebdo attack was a tragic incident, ending with the death of twenty people. Among those dead are the editor of the magazine, three famous columnists, and a Muslim police officer who died trying to protect the magazine that occasionally poked fun at his faith.
Augustus York and the entire Times of Pol staff send their heartfelt condolences to those who lost loved ones in this series of brutal attacks, and honor those who died trying to defend the freedom of expression.