Sumon K Chakrabarti
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President Francois Hollande was absolutely wrong when he declared that “France is at war.” France was always at war – a long war at that – between its white majority and its Arabs, mostly from the Maghreb.The over-arching emphasis on the media is because the media in France is highly influential in moulding perceptions, as the fourth estate should be. That very media now needs to speak up and say it loud and clear that France does not need to bomb Syria to get rid of its home-grown terrorism. Instead of muscle flexing from the skies to infuse a false sense of patriotism, it needs to start integrating the population, mostly from its former colonies, into its society immediately. The country was once home to many radical preachers. During Nicholas Sarkozy’s presidency, French internal intelligence service rooted out radical imams, and made the mosques across the country free of jihadist influencers. But in a country of sixty-five million people, the banlieues remain a quagmire of unrest – where jihadi preachers and recruiters find easy targets – within and outside their families. The Paris attacks mastermind Abdelhamid Abaaoud is a prime example of this, who recruited his 13-year old brother as the youngest jihadi fighter in Syria. After the Charlie Hebdo killings, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls (a former mayor of the Paris banlieue of Evry) had hit the nail on the head when he said home-grown terrorism had been fuelled by the “apartheid” that France created by parking its immigrants on the estates since the 1960s. He drew sharp criticism and his words were never auctioned upon. They remained, just words. Till last month, when, on the 10th anniversary of nationwide riots in the banlieues, Valls launched a plan to break down segregation to complement the controversial French doctrine of secular integration. If the Charlie Hebdo massacre changed it all, the Paris attacks need to change it further and radically so, in the opposite direction, where integration needs to become the name of the game. Because for one Abaaoud, there are thousands of banlieue residents who are trying to be French first while remaining a good Muslim. And Hollande’s war and France’s peace starts at their doorsteps.
(Sumon K Chakrabarti is the editorial head of NewsWorldIndia.in)