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Violent Jihad

Why is ISIS Targeting France?

It’s obvious that ISIS is targeting the country of France (November 2015 attacks, the Nice massacre, just to name a couple). ISIS has made their hatred of the French known for some time, even exhorting French Muslims to take up jihad against their fellow countrymen. But why prey on the French? There are many reasons … Continue reading "Why is ISIS Targeting France?"

BY Bruce Cornibe · | July 27, 2016

It’s obvious that ISIS is targeting the country of France (November 2015 attacks, the Nice massacre, just to name a couple). ISIS has made their hatred of the French known for some time, even exhorting French Muslims to take up jihad against their fellow countrymen. But why prey on the French?

There are many reasons for this, but for the sake of brevity we’ll discuss only a handful of motivations for this jihad against the French.

Some of the most overstated reasons for this targeting is due to France’s history of colonialism and their foreign policy in the Middle East/North Africa (including Mali). These types of reasons (government/military actions) that people think perpetuate terrorism are not exclusive to France. For example, some groups and individuals blame the prevalence of Islamic terrorism against Americans because of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and America’s tactics in fighting terrorism such as the government’s drone program.

This type of blaming is oftentimes done for political reasons, and it’s also hard to prove causality one way or another. Of course, any kind of military action provides an easy scapegoat for ISIS aggression, such as mentioning the French government’s actions against the Islamic State in a recent video (as well as other statements) reported by the Clarion Project:

“O French people, the killing that you see today is wrought by your own hands. Remember how you used to be safe in your homes until your government started attacking us. Your government is the true enemy…”

France’s military did strike the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria before the November attacks and after the attacks, ISIS did fault French air strikes for this supposed act of revenge; however, ISIS’s targets during those attacks and others suggest a deeper motive why the group opposes France so vehemently – an underlying culture war against French culture. For example, ISIS described the individuals at the Bataclan concert hall “hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice[.]”

French culture and the Islamic State’s radical jihadist culture are polar opposites and represent two extremes. France can be seen as a secular state that is hostile to religious beliefs and practices. One can trace this animus toward religion in French society prior to the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ (includes the French Revolution); however, this period indelibly left its mark on French society when the precept of a transcendent God (and organized religion as a whole) was essentially eradicated from France’s public affairs (led to laïcité). For example, “all sovereignty resides essentially in the nation[,]” rather than a Creator bestowing “certain unalienable rights” to all of man.

The opposite of French governance, ISIS follows a strict form of Sharia that governs every aspect of a Muslim’s life. As scholar Immanuel Al-Manteeqi explains:

Sharia is supposed to be an architectonic system comprising all ways of life. That this is so is evident from a cursory perusal of the canonical ahadeeth, which cover everything from usury, to how you are supposed to greet someone… to which foot one is supposed to enter the restroom with first. …

One of the main points of Sharia is “that only Allah can righteously create laws that are binding on human beings.” ISIS’s interpretation of Sharia leads them to chop off the hands of thieves as commanded in Quran 5:38:

[As for] the thief, the male and the female, amputate their hands in recompense for what they committed as a deterrent [punishment] from Allah. And Allah is Exalted in Might and Wise.

Or the killing of apostates:

They wish you would disbelieve as they disbelieved so you would be alike. So do not take from among them allies until they emigrate for the cause of Allah. But if they turn away, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them and take not from among them any ally or helper.   –Quran 4:89

France’s type of secularism is a direct assault to Islam in the eyes of Islamic jihadists. For example, several years ago France revealed a ‘secularism charter’ for French schools that holds fifteen secular principles to abide by in the classroom and supposedly “reaffirms France’s 2004 law banning pupils in state schools from wearing any ‘ostentatious religious symbols[.]’”

This, along with other laws such as the banning of the burqa and niqab from public places infuriates jihadists since these objects are used to treat women like chattel (the Sharia way). Furthermore, other elements of French culture such as a Paris’ decadent night life also clash with jihadist beliefs. Some will say France’s hostility toward religion is why more traditional Muslims feel isolated from French culture, providing a recruitment source for ISIS leaders.

Some other reasons why ISIS targets France include: France’s influence to Western thought (oftentimes a radical thread), France’s role in the Crusades and Catholic Church, Paris and the south of France are major travel destinations for tourists, France is one of the leading countries in the European Union after Germany, France’s powerful economy, France’s reluctance to engage in war, France’s relatively large population of Muslims helps in the recruitment and mobilization of ISIS soldiers, and many others.

For these reasons and many more