The Parisian attack, which took place on November 13th, is one of the most violent events in the country’s recent history. In fact, since World War Two. As I write this, there are 129 confirmed dead and 350 injured (according to BBC reports). Spanning multiple locations, attacks are being said to have been coordinated between three groups. The targets included Le Carillon Bar, Le Petit Cambodage, La Casa Nostra, Belle Equipe bar, the Bataclan Concert Hall and the Stade de France.
The Bataclan Concert Hall was the deadliest of sites. Aggressors employed submachine guns on the crowd, tolling more than 80 dead and countless others injured. Performing artists, The Eagles of Death Metal, fled the carnage safely. Rattled by the events, they released a short statement on their Facebook that evening.
Leaving Paris on Sunday, the group reportedly looked shaken and somber, acutely aware of the situation.
The French President, Hollande, was in the crowd at the Stade de France attack site. He, as well, escaped unharmed.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the night of terrorism, as well as the other attacks which took place in Beirut and Baghdad. Calling Francois Hollande the ‘fool of France,’ these communications have been deemed authentic by interpreters. Disseminated through ISIS’ Telegram and linked social media, the group has also vowed to continue the indiscriminate violence (that has been condemned by Al Queda).
Violence on such a large-scale is always traumatizing and difficult to understand. Blaming a country or city for receiving senseless aggression is never the answer, but understanding why they have been targeted is also important in looking at the big picture. France has, over the last decade, experienced an unprecedented increase in Islamophobia.
Politically, we have seen the suppression of Muslim rights of expression and religion. For women, this has meant the banning of the veil in public (which took place in 2010). Comprising a very small minority of not only French women, but Muslim women as well, the move was fueled by ‘othering’ and the subsequent fears that come along.
Socially, this has translated to acts of aggression towards Muslims throughout the country. Since January – and the Charlie Hebdo incident – there has been a 23.5 percent increase in Islamophobic violence. 23.5 percent in merely eleven months. These include physical, verbal and property attacks, stemming from a deeply discriminatory place. Also troubling is the predominance of these attacks being against women. Because the core of French political Islamophobia has been placed upon the veil, women are now being seen as the clear visualization of Muslims as a whole.
So, the excuse of retaliation is then easy for ISIS. Inexcusable, but an easy explanation for supporters of The Islamic State. All French people, surely, are not racist. All of Paris does not support the Burqa ban. But, just as easily as we paint all of Islam as violent, ISIS paints France (and other Western states) as anti-Muslim. French politicians have created the tinder that is now being exploited and used against them.
It’s hard to project the future and what is to come. There is speculation on Frances moves, but no concrete information. For now, it seems, the countries that were targeted are taking the appropriate time to mourn and heal as well as they can.
Despite real action, there have been numerous comments made. The rhetoric has been, unsurprisingly, aggressive and ignorant. Hollande deemed the attacks an “act of absolute barbarism” while expressing a commitment to violent retaliation.
Other have also weighed in, in not-so-subtle terms. Donald Trump was unfortunately one of those.
Isn’t it interesting that the tragedy in Paris took place in one of the toughest gun control countries in the world?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 7, 2015
The responses have been mixed. The best, and unfortunately temporary, response was by French Ambassador Gerard Araud.
As of today, France has launched various missile strikes against ISIS is Syria, with 16 bombs having hit ISIS targets already. War began long ago, but the battles will only seem to get worse from here on out.
Acknowledging the horrific truth of Paris has been necessary. It was an unprecedented event which took the world by surprise. Without creating competition between tragedies, though, it is also important we understand the pain which is being experienced in Beirut, Bangladesh, Baghdad, Najran, Sinai, and countless others. They, too, have been on the receiving end of ruthless violencethis year, with death tolls in the hundreds. The Facebook feature which allows you to overlay the french colors on your profile photo temporarily is, although coming from a good place, visually erasing the shared experiences these two cities are also facing. On top of domestic tragedies, the diasporic communities of Iraq and Lebanon are now subject to increased racist hostility along with all Muslims.
We can’t tell the future, and it’s impossible to look forward through this haze of doubt. Data points to a probable increase in Islamophobia (as we saw after Charlie Hebdo), but we have the power to counter that just as much as others have the power to add to it. Projecting moves to come subjectively isn’t something we can – or should – do with the lurking uncertainty and sadness we are sharing as a global community.