(This article was originally published January 19, 2016 on Gatestoneinstitute.org. Re-printed with permission.)
by Soeren Kern
The Muslim population of France reached 6.5 million in 2015, or around 10% of the overall population of 66 million. In real terms, France has the largest Muslim population in the European Union, just above Germany.
Although French law prohibits the collection of official statistics about the race or religion of its citizens, this estimate is based on several studies that attempted to calculate the number of people in France whose origins are from Muslim-majority countries.
What follows is a chronological review of some of the main stories about the rise of Islam in France during 2015:
January 1. The Interior Ministry announced the most anticipated statistic of the year: a total of 940 cars and trucks were torched across France on New Year’s Eve, a 12% decrease from the 1,067 vehicles burned during the annual ritual on the same holiday in 2014. Car burnings, commonplace in France, are often attributed to rival Muslim gangs that compete with each other for the media spotlight over which can cause the most destruction. An estimated 40,000 cars are burned in France every year.
January 3. A 23-year-old Muslim man in Metz tried to strangle a police officer while shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (“Allah is the greatest!”). The assault took place at the police station after the man, who was arrested for purse-snatching, asked the officer to bring him a glass of water. When the policeman opened the cell door, the man lunged at him. The officer was rescued by a colleague who saw the scene unfold on a video surveillance camera.
January 7-9. A series of jihadist attacks in Paris left 17 people dead. The first and deadliest of the attacks occurred on January 7, when French-born Islamic radicals Chérif and Saïd Kouachi stormed the offices of the magazine Charlie Hebdo and fatally shot eight employees, two police officers, and two others, and injured eleven other people. On January 8, a third assailant in the attacks, Amedy Coulibaly, shot and killed municipal police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe in Montrouge, a suburb of Paris. On January 9, Coulibaly entered a HyperCacher kosher supermarket in Paris, killed four people and took several hostages. Coulibaly was killed when police stormed the store. His female accomplice, Hayat Boumeddiene, France’s “most wanted woman,” remains at large and is believed to have fled to Syria.
|Last January, Amedy Coulibaly (left) murdered a policewoman and four Jews in Paris, before being shot dead by police. Right: Medics carry a victim wounded in an attack by Islamist terrorists, who shot hundreds of concert-goers, killing 90, at the Bataclan theater in Paris on November 13, 2015.|
January 18. A poll by the firm, Institut français d’opinion publique (IFOP), published by Journal du Dimanche, showed that 42% of French people oppose the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed, such as those published by Charlie Hebdo, and indicated they believed there should be “limitations on free speech online and on social networks.” The vast majority (81%) said they favored stripping French nationality from dual nationals who have committed an act of terrorism on French soil. More than two-thirds (68%) said that French citizens should be banned from returning to the country if “they are suspected of having gone to fight in countries or regions controlled by terrorist groups.”
January 20. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the terrorist attacks exposed a “territorial, social, ethnic apartheid” that is plaguing France. In a speech described as one of the strongest indictments of French society ever by a government figure, Valls said there was an urgent need to fight discrimination, especially in impoverished suburbs that are home to many Muslim immigrants. He said that despite years of government efforts to improve conditions in run-down neighborhoods, many people have been relegated to living in ghettos. He added:
“The social misery is compounded by daily discrimination, because someone does not have the right family name, the right skin color, or because she is a woman. I am not making excuses, but we have to look at the reality of our country.”
January 21. Valls announced a €736 million ($835 million) program to augment its anti-terrorism defenses amid a rapidly expanding jihadist threat. He said the government would hire and train 2,680 new anti-terrorist judges, security agents, police officers, electronic eavesdroppers and analysts over the next three years. The government will also spend €480 million on new weapons and protective gear for police. The initiative includes an enhanced online presence based on a new government website called “Stop Djihadisme.”
January 27. Police arrested five suspected jihadists, aged 26 to 44, in dawn raids in Lunel, a small town near the Mediterranean coast. At least ten, and possibly as many as 20 people from the town — with a population of just 25,000 — have travelled to Syria and Iraq to fight with the Islamic State.
January 28. An Ipsos/Sopra-Steria poll produced for Le Monde and Europe 1 Radio found that 53% of French citizens believe the country is “at war” and 51% feel that Islam is “incompatible” with the values of French society.
Also in January, artwork depicting women’s shoes on Muslim prayer rugs was removed from an exhibition in the Paris suburb of Clichy-la-Garenne after the Federation of Islamic Associations of Clichy warned it might provoke “uncontrollable, irresponsible incidents.” The artwork, made by the French-Algerian artist Zoulikha Bouabdellah, included high-heel shoes placed on the center of prayer rugs in shades of blue, white and red, symbolizing the French flag. She said she did not consider the work to be blasphemous, but curator Christine Ollier said it would be removed to “avoid polemics.” The act of self-censorship was criticized by other artists, who said that the freedom of expression was being undermined.
February 5. A teacher at France’s only state-funded Muslim faith school quit his job, saying that the Averroès Lycée (high school) in Lille was a hotbed of “anti-Semitism, sectarianism and insidious Islamism.” In an article published by Libération, philosophy teacher Sofiane Zitouni wrote:
“The reality is that Averroès Lycée is a Muslim territory that is being funded by the state. It promotes a vision of Islam that is nothing other than Islamism. And it is doing it in an underhand and hidden way in order to maintain its state funding.”
The school’s director, Hassan Oufker, said he would sue Zitouni, of Algerian descent, for defamation.
February 12. The Union of French Muslim Democrats (L’Union des démocrates musulmans Français, UDMF), a start-up Muslim political party, said it had begun fielding candidates in local elections in eight cities in France. UDMF founder Najib Azergui said his group wants to give a voice to the country’s Muslim community by: promoting Islamic finance; promoting the use of Arabic in French schools; working to overturn France’s ban on wearing the veil in schools, and fighting against the “dangerous stigmatization that equates Islam with terrorism.”
February 15. The government announced a series of measures to clamp down on the radical Islam being spread in mosques, including a ban on financial support from countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia. French Muslims opposed the move. Karim Bouamrane, a socialist politician said:
“If foreign countries are stepping in to fund mosques, it is because the French government won’t. Muslims cannot run the risk of refusing cash from outside, because the French government won’t allocate them funds to build mosques.”
Bouamrane said France’s 1905 law separating Church and State should be changed to allow the French state to provide financial support for Muslim worship.
February 16. Nacer Bendrer, a 26-year-old French citizen, was extradited to Belgium for his role in the May 20214 jihadist attack against the Jewish Museum in Brussels. He is suspected of helping compatriot Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, carry out the attack in which four people were murdered. When arrested near Marseilles, Bendrer was in possession of a Kalashnikov type of assault rifle, two automatic pistols and a shotgun. Bendrer and Nemmouche reportedly met while in prison in Salon-de-Provence in southern France between 2008 and 2010.
February 23. For the first time ever, French authorities confiscated the passports and identity cards of six French citizens who were allegedly planning to travel to Syria to join the Islamic State. The government said it might seize the passports of at least 40 others.
February 25. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve unveiled a plan to “reform” the Muslim faith to bring it into line with the “values of the French Republic.” This, he said, would be done by means of a new “Islamic Foundation” devoted to conducting “revitalizing research” into a form of Islam that “carries the message of peace, tolerance and respect.” The government would create, among other measures, a new forum to: promote dialogue with the Muslim community; improve the training of Muslim preachers; combat radicalization in French prisons; and regulate Muslim schools.
March 3. Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced that the state would double the number of university courses on Islam in an effort to stop foreign governments from financing and influencing the training of French imams. Valls said that he wanted more imams and prison chaplains who have been trained abroad to “undergo more training in France, to speak French fluently and to understand the concept of secularism.” There are currently six universities in France offering courses in Islamic studies and theology. Valls said he wanted to double that number to 12 and that the courses would be free of charge.
March 6. Mohamed Khattabi, the “progressive” imam of the Aicha Mosque in Montpellier, said in a sermon that selfishness is part of “the nature of women.” Khattabi — a Moroccan-Canadian who has lived in France for more than 20 years, and who claims to be a “promoter of an Islam within French society, of coexistence” — said:
“No matter how much good you bestow upon a woman, she will deny it. Her selfishness drives her to deny it. This holds true for all women, whether Western, Arab, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. This is the nature of women.
“If a woman overcomes her nature and acknowledges [the truth] … Allah grants her a higher place in paradise. But if she succumbs to her nature, and refuses to acknowledge the man’s rights — or rather, the goodness that man bestows upon her — she is destined to go to [hell]…”
March 8. Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned that as many as 10,000 Europeans could be waging jihad in Iraq and Syria by the end of 2015:
“There are 3,000 Europeans in Iraq and Syria today. When you do a projection for the months to come, there could be 5,000 before summer and 10,000 before the end of the year. Do you realize the threat this represents?”
March 16. The Interior Ministry blocked five Islamist websites that, it said, were promoting terrorism. The sites included one belonging to al-Hayat Media Center, the propaganda wing of the Islamic State. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said: “I make a distinction between freedom of expression and the spread of messages that serve to glorify terrorism. These hate messages are a crime.” But the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, criticized the move because it was carried out without judicial oversight: “Limiting human rights to fight against terrorism is a serious mistake and an inefficient measure that can even help the terrorists’ cause.”
March 17. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that the government has stopped paying welfare benefits to 290 French jihadists fighting with the Islamic State. He said that the agencies responsible for distributing welfare payments were being notified as soon as it was confirmed that a French citizen had left the country to fight abroad.
March 19. Prime Minister Manuel Valls unveiled a new bill that would allow intelligence services to monitor and collect the email and telephone communications of anyone suspected of being a terrorist. “These are legal tools, but not tools of exception, nor of generalized surveillance of citizens,” he said. “There will not be a French Patriot Act,” he said, referring to American legislation bearing the same name. “There cannot be a lawless zone in the digital space. Often we cannot predict the threat, the services must have the power to react quickly.”
April 4. The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, called for the number of mosques in France to be doubled over the next two years. Speaking at a gathering of French Islamic organizations in the Paris suburb of Le Bourget, Boubakeur said that 2,200 mosques are “not enough” for the “seven million Muslims living in France.” He demanded that unused churches be converted into mosques.
April 7. The Secretary of State for State Reform, Thierry Mandon, claimed that the lack of “decent” places of worship for French Muslims was partly to blame for some of them turning to radical Islam. He said:
“There are not enough mosques in France. There are still too many cities where the Muslim faith is practiced in conditions that are not decent. We are forced to recognize that sometimes the Muslim places of worship are not satisfactory. If they are decent, open rather than underground or hidden, it will be better.”
April 8. Hackers claiming to belong to the Islamic State attacked TV5Monde, a French television network, and knocked it off the air globally. The network broadcasts in more than 200 countries. “We are no longer able to broadcast any of our channels. Our websites and social media sites are no longer under our control and are all displaying claims of responsibility by Islamic State,” the broadcaster’s director general, Yves Bigot, said. The hackers accused President François Hollande of having committed “an unforgivable mistake” by joining a US-led military coalition carrying out air strikes against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria.
April 13. Prime Minister Manuel Valls revealed that more than 1,550 French citizens or residents are involved in terrorist networks in Syria and Iraq. The figures have almost tripled since January 2014.
April 13. An opinion poll produced for Atlantico found that nearly two-thirds (63%) of French citizens were in favor of restricting civil liberties in order to combat terrorism. Only 33% said they were opposed to having their freedoms reduced, although this number increased significantly among younger respondents.
April 15. A 21-year-old Muslim destroyed more than 200 gravestones at a Catholic cemetery in Saint-Roch de Castres, a town near Toulouse. Police sent the man to the hospital because he was in a “delusional state and unable to communicate.”
April 22. French police arrested Sid Ahmed Ghlam, a 24-year-old Algerian computer science student suspected of planning an attack on Christian churches in Villejuif, a suburb south of Paris. He was arrested after apparently shooting himself by accident. Police found three Kalashnikov assault rifles, handguns, ammunition and bulletproof vests, as well as documents linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, in his car and home. Police said Ghlam had expressed a desire to join the Islamic State in Syria.
April 21. A study by the Observatory of Religion in the Workplace (Observatoire du fait religieux en entreprise, OFRE) and the Randstad Institute found that 23% of the managers in France were regularly confronting religious problems at work, up from 12% in 2014. OFRE President Lionel Honoré said religious tension had increased since January because Muslims who feel stigmatized by the jihadist attacks in Paris were becoming more forceful in asserting their beliefs.
May 5. Sébastien Jallamion, a 43-year-old policeman from Lyon, was suspended from his job and fined €5,000 ($5,400) after he condemned the death of Frenchman Hervé Gourdel — who was beheaded by jihadists in Algeria in September 2014. Jallamion explained:
“I am accused of having created, in September 2014, an anonymous Facebook page, showing several ‘provocative’ images and commentaries, ‘discriminatory and injurious,’ of a ‘xenophobic or anti-Muslim’ nature. As an example, there was that portrait of the Caliph al-Baghdadi, head of the Islamic State, with a visor on his forehead. This publication was exhibited during my appearance before the discipline committee with the following accusation: ‘Are you not ashamed of stigmatizing an imam in this way?’ My lawyer can confirm this… It looks like a political punishment. I cannot see any other explanation.
“Our fundamental values, those for which many of our ancestors gave their life are deteriorating, and that it is time for us to become indignant over what our country is becoming. This is not France, land of Enlightenment that in its day shone over all of Europe and beyond. We must fight to preserve our values, it is a matter of survival.”
May 11. Sarah K., a 15-year-old French Muslim girl of Algerian descent who was banned from class twice for wearing a long black skirt to class, was allowed to return to school wearing a similar dress. Maryse Dubois, the head teacher of the Léo-Lagrange school in the town of Charleville-Mézières, had said she considered the long dress to be a conspicuous religious symbol and a violation of France’s secularism laws. Sarah’s mother said Dubois backed down after news of the incident went viral.
May 27. The leaders of a small mosque in Oullins, a suburb of Lyons, made legal history by using France’s 1905 law separating church and state to prevent a Salafist from radicalizing other members of the mosque. The law includes a clause that guarantees the right to worship and calls for sanctions against anyone found to be disrupting a worship service. A court in Lyons found Faouzi Saïdi, 51, guilty of being disruptive by criticizing the mosque’s imam and holding parallel prayers. Saidi, who was fined €1,500 ($1,640), said his only crime was to “have a big mouth.” He added: “I don’t understand why I’ve been convicted. I practice Islam as it is prescribed.”
June 4. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s opposition party — rebranded as “The Republicans” — held a meeting on the question of “Islam in France or Islam of France” as part of a roundtable discussion on the “crisis of values” in France. Sarkozy said: “The question is not to know what the Republic can do for Islam, but what Islam can do to become the Islam of France.”
Muslim groups criticized the meeting. “We cannot participate in an initiative like this that stigmatizes Muslims,” said Abdallah Zekri, the president of the National Observatory on Islamophobia. The organizer of the meeting, MP Henri Guaino, countered: “Can we not talk about subjects that split opinion? If you talk about immigration, you are a xenophobe. If you talk about security, you are a fascist. If you talk about Islam, you are an Islamophobe.”
June 6. Prime Minister Manuel Valls said that more than 850 French citizens or residents had travelled to fight in Syria and Iraq. More than 470 are still there and 110 are believed to have been killed in battle.
June 7. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said that 113 French citizens or residents have died as jihadists on battlefields in the Middle East. There are 130 ongoing judicial proceedings concerning 650 persons related to terrorism, and 60 individuals have been banned from leaving the country.
June 7. More than a dozen members of Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), a group formed to defend Muslims against “Islamophobia,” went on trial in Paris for allegedly plotting terrorist attacks. The group — formed in August 2010 by a 37-year-old Franco-Tunisian, Mohamed Achamlane, who refers to himself as “Emir” — put a message on its website demanding that French forces leave all Muslim-majority countries. The message said: “If our demands are ignored, we will consider the government to be at war against Muslims.” In court, Achamlane said: “There is no radical or moderate Islam. There is only authentic Islam.”
Jun 15. Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a half-day conference on relations with the Muslim community that “Islam is here to stay.” He also stressed that there is no link between Islam and extremism. “We must say all of this is not Islam,” Valls said. “The hate speech, anti-Semitism that hides behind anti-Zionism and hate for Israel … the self-proclaimed imams in our neighborhoods and our prisons who are promoting violence and terrorism.” The conference did not discuss radicalization because the issue was deemed too sensitive.
June 23. A court in Paris rejected a case brought by a mother trying to sue the French government for failing to stop her teenage son from leaving to join jihadists in Syria. The boy was 16 when he left with three others from the French city of Nice in December 2013; he took a plane to Turkey, then traveled overland to Syria. His mother, identified only as Nadine A., argued that airport police in Nice should have stopped the boy because he had only a one-way ticket and no baggage. The court ruled that the airport officers were not responsible, and rejected her demand for €110,000 ($120,000) in compensation.
June 28. Prime Minister Manuel Valls told iTele that there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Salafists in France, and that 1,800 people were “linked” in some way to the Islamist cause. He said that the West was engaged in a “war against terrorism,” adding: “We cannot lose this war because it is fundamentally a war of civilization. It is our society, our civilization, that we are defending.”
June 29. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve revealed that France has deported 40 imams for “preaching hatred” in the past three years: “Since the beginning of the year we have examined 22 cases, and around 10 imams and preachers of hatred have been expelled.”
June 29. Yassin Salhi, a 35-year-old father of three, confessed to beheading his boss and trying to blow up a chemical plant near Lyon. The severed head was found hanging on the fence outside the plant, next to two flags bearing the Muslim profession of faith. Salhi, a truck driver, was born in France to parents of Moroccan and Algerian descent. Before his arrest, Salhi took a picture of himself with the severed head and sent the image to a French jihadist fighting for the Islamic State in Syria. Salhi’s wife said: “We are normal Muslims. We do Ramadan.”
Also in June, in Bordeaux, the De L’Orient à L’Occidental grocery store, whose owners recently converted to Islam, scrapped a “gender ban” after facing a barrage of criticism. In an effort to ensure that males and females did not come into contact with one another in the store, the owners attempted to ban women from shopping on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and to ban men on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.
July 8. The weekly newsmagazine, Valeurs Actuelles, launched a nationwide petition titled, “Do not touch my church!” after the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, said that empty churches in France should be converted into mosques. The magazine pointed to an Ifop poll which showed that nearly seven out of ten respondents (67%) said they were opposed to turning French churches into mosques.
July 10. Mohamed Achamlane, 37, the Franco-Tunisian leader of a banned group called Forsane Alizza (Knights of Pride), was sentenced to nine years in prison on terrorism charges after police raids found weapons and a list of Jewish targets in his personal files. The group, created in 2010 with the purported goal of stopping the spread of “Islamophobia,” was banned by the government in March 2012 after jihadist propaganda appeared on its website.
July 14. Some 130 cars were burned in Paris to mark the Bastille Day, the French national day. More than 80 cars are burned every day in France, mostly by young Muslims.
July 15. French authorities foiled a jihadist plot to behead a high-ranking member of the French military at Port-Vendre, a military base near Perpignan, and post a video of the decapitation on the Internet. Counter-terrorism police arrested three men, including Djibril A., a former seaman with the French Navy.
July 22. A 21-year-old woman named Angelique Sloss was attacked by a mob of Muslim women after they saw her sunbathing with two friends in the Parc Léo-Lagrange in Reims. The women accused her of “immorally” exposing too much flesh at a public location.
August 13. A court in Dijon upheld a decision by Gilles Platret, the mayor of Chalon-sur-Saône, to stop offering alternatives to pork in school cafeterias. Platret welcomed the ruling as a “first victory for secularism.” The move was condemned by Muslim groups. Abdallah Zekri of the French Council for the Muslim Faith (Conseil français du culte musulman, CFCM) said:
“I can only condemn the decision of the mayor, which was not made to restore social peace in schools and is creating an outcry in the Muslim community. All Muslims respect secularism. Muslims have never asked for halal meals in canteens.”
August 16. French mayor Yves Jégofiled a petition to introduce a new law that would require all French public schools to offer a vegetarian option in the cafeteria. The initiative aims to help students who cannot eat pork due to religious reasons. Jégo said the topic of school lunch menus was a “source of a useless confrontation aimed in reality in most cases at the Muslim community” that “challenges our ability to make living together a reality.” More than 150,000 people have signed the petitition.
August 21. Ayoub El-Khazzani, a 26-year-old Moroccan, was arrested after he boarded a high-speed Amsterdam-to-Paris train with 554 passengers on board and opened fire with a Kalashnikov rifle. He was subdued with the help of three Americans and a Briton. It later emerged that El-Khazzani had fought with ISIS in Syria and was known to at least four intelligence agencies.
September 6. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, accused Germany of exploiting the migrant crisis in an effort to drive down wages. Speaking to supporters in Marseilles, she said:
“Germany probably thinks its population is moribund, and it is probably seeking to lower wages and continue to recruit slaves through mass immigration. Germany seeks not only to rule our economy, it wants to force us to accept hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers.”
September 7. President François Hollande said France would take in 24,000 migrants over the next two years: “It is the duty of France. The right of asylum is an integral part of our soul and flesh. Our history demands this responsibility.”
September 8. Prime Minister Manuel Valls condemned two French mayors who said they would only take in Christian refugees. “You do not sort refugees on the basis of religion,” Valls said. “The right to asylum is a universal right.” The mayor of Roanne, Yves Nicolin, said he would only take in Christians, to be “certain they are not terrorists in disguise.” The mayor of Belfort, Damien Meslot, said he would only consider taking in Christian families from Iraq and Syria because “they are the most persecuted.”
September 22. Eric Zemmour, a French writer and political journalist, was acquitted of charges of inciting racial hatred. Zemmour had been prosecuted for comparing gangs of foreigners to the invading barbarians that followed the fall of the Roman Empire. In a May 2014 radio broadcast, he had said:
“The Normans, the Huns, the Arabs, the great invasions after the fall of Rome have now been replaced by gangs of Chechens, Roma, Kosovars, Maghrebins and Africans who rob, assault and pillage. Only homogenous societies such as Japan, which have for a long time said no to mass immigration and protected their natural barriers … have escaped this street violence.”
Prosecutors had called for him to be fined €5,000 ($5,400) and for the radio station RTL to be fined €3,000 euros for posting the broadcast on its Internet site. The court, however, declared: “Excessive and shocking though these words may appear, they only referred to a fraction of the communities and not to them in their entirety.”
September 27. Mohamed Chebourou, a 27-year-old French-Algerian Islamic extremist, went on the run after being granted a brief leave of absence from the Meaux-Chauconin prison in Seine-et-Marne, east of Paris. He was serving a seven-year sentence for robbery and was not to be released until 2019. He was later arrested in Algeria. France’s Justice Minister Christiane Taubira faced pressure to explain how an Islamic extremist could be granted a furlough from prison.
October 12. A 15-year-old Muslim student was arrested after shouting “Allahu Akbar!” (“Allah is the Greatest!”) and shooting his physics teacher in the hand with a BB gun at a school in Châlons-en-Champagne. The boy said he wanted to die a martyr.
October 20. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, went on trial on charges of inciting religious hatred after comparing Muslim street prayers to the Nazi occupation. At a campaign rally in Lyon in 2010, she had said:
“I am sorry, but for those who really like to talk about World War II, if we are talking about an occupation, we could talk about the [street prayers], because that is clearly an occupation of territory.
“It is an occupation of sections of the territory, of neighborhoods in which religious law applies — it is an occupation. There are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it is an occupation nevertheless, and it weighs on people.”
Le Pen said she was a victim of “judicial persecution.” She added:
“It is a scandal that a political leader can be sued for expressing her beliefs. Those who denounce the illegal behavior of fundamentalists are more likely to be sued than the fundamentalists who behave illegally.”
October 29. Counter-terrorism police foiled a jihadist plot to attack the principle base of the French Navy in Toulon. They arrested Hakim Marnissi, a 25-year-old native of Toulon, who had been under surveillance since summer 2014, when he began posting ISIS propaganda on his Facebook page. Police believe Marnissi was radicalized by Mustapha Mojeddem, a French jihadist, also from Toulon, who is fighting with ISIS in Syria.
November 13. A series of coordinated jihadist attacks in Paris and its northern suburb, Saint-Denis, left 130 people dead and more than 360 injured. Three suicide bombers struck near the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, followed by suicide bombings and mass shootings at cafés, restaurants, and a concert hall in Paris.
November 14. In a televised address to the nation, President François Hollande blamed the Paris attacks on the Islamic State. Speaking from the Elysée presidential palace, Hollande said:
“It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh [Arabic acronym for the Islamic State], against France. It is an act of war that was prepared, organized and planned from abroad, with complicity from the inside.”
November 14. Ahmad Almohammad, one of the jihadists who blew himself up at the Stade de France, the venue targeted by three suicide bombers during a game between the national team and Germany on November 13, had posed as an asylum seeker to gain entry into the European Union. He had entered the European Union with a fake Syrian passport. It emerged that he had been welcomed ashore on the Greek island of Leros on October 3 by volunteers with the French charity, Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).
November 16. In a rare speech to a joint session of parliament, President François Hollande warned: “We are in a war against jihadist terrorism that threatens the entire world.”
November 17. Thirty Muslims, all of Bangladeshi origin and living in Paris, turned up to protest the jihadist attacks on November 13. Paris is home to up to 1.7 million Muslims. One of the protesters, Mohammad Hassan, said:
“Muslims are not being loud enough. This needed to be done because some Muslims are afraid of coming out to say the truth. About five percent of Muslims support the terrorists. The rest of them need to speak out. I wish more Muslims would join us here.”
November 18. Police raided an apartment in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis outside Paris, after they receive a tip that Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the architect of the Paris attacks, might be at the location. Two people were killed, including Hasna Aitboulahcen, a female suspect who detonated a suicide vest. Eight people were arrested.
November 18. A Jewish teacher was stabbed in Marseille by three people claiming to be supporters of the Islamic State. Three men on scooters approached the teacher in the street before showing him a picture of Mohamed Merah, a jihadist who killed seven people in a series of attacks in southern France in 2012. They then stabbed the teacher in the arm and leg.
November 24. Anouar Kbibech, the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman, CFCM), called for imams in France to obtain preaching licenses as a way to “fight against radicalization.” The certification would verify that imams “promote an Islam that is open and tolerant” and “respect the laws of the Republic.” This “empowerment” could be “withdrawn” if necessary.
November 30. The latest issue of the ISIS French-language magazine Dar al-Islam called on supporters in France to kill teachers who promote secularism in French schools. “It is therefore an obligation to fight and kill these enemies of Allah,” the magazine wrote (p.17).
December 2. The Secretary General of Air France’s CGT labor union, Philippe Martinez, revealed the organization had expelled nearly 500 members suspected of being Islamic extremists.
December 2. Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced the closure of a mosque in Lagny-sur-Marne, east of Paris, on the grounds that it was spreading Islamic radicalism and recruiting for ISIS. It was the third mosque to be shut down on the grounds of extremism within a week.
December 13. Nearly 70 employees of the two main airports in Paris had their security clearances revoked after they were identified as being Islamic extremists. So-called red badges are issued to employees, including aircraft service technicians, baggage handlers and gate agents, who work in the secure zones of Roissy-Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.
December 15. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the National Front party, was acquitted on charges of inciting hatred over comments she made likening Muslim street prayers to Nazi occupation. The presiding judge said that while Le Pen’s comments were “shocking,” they were protected “as a part of freedom of expression.”
December 16. Between 800 to 1,000 migrants tried to break into the Channel Tunnel near the French port city of Calais in a bid to reach Britain. Police, who used tear gas to disperse the crowd, said the number seeking to cross the Channel in a single day was “unprecedented.” Approximately 4,500 migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East live in squalid conditions at a makeshift camp in Calais known as the “Jungle.”
December 31. In his traditional New Year’s Eve address, President François Hollande warned that France could be subject to more jihadist attacks in 2016:
“We have just experienced a terrible year. Beginning with the cowardly attacks against Charlie Hebdo and Hypercacher, then the bloody assaults in Montrouge, Villejuif, Saint-Quentin Fallavier, then the Thalys train, and ending with the horrific acts of war in Saint-Denis and Paris… France is not finished with terrorism. The threat is still there. It remains at its highest level.”
Soeren Kern is a Senior Fellow at the New York-based Gatestone Institute. He is also Senior Fellow for European Politics at the Madrid-based Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos / Strategic Studies Group. His first book, Global Fire, will be out in early 2016.