France church attack: Even if you are not a Catholic, this feels like a new and deeper curve

Writer and Paris resident Andrew Hussey says that peoples need for answers is not being met and anger is rising

The killing of Pre Jacques Hamelin his church in the Normandy town of Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray last week is not the first time that the death of a French pastor at the handwritings of Islamist fanatics has sent ripples of passion across France. In March 1996 seven monks from the Cistercian convent of Our Lady of Atlas in Tibhirine near Mda in Algeria were kidnapped and held for two months before being killed, allegedly by members of the Groupe Islamique Arm, an Islamist group that was fighting the governments of France and Algeria. Their throats were cut and their severed headings were found hanging in trees or sown by a roadside; their own bodies were never recovered. A communiqu from the terrorists simply speak: They were deplored and executed as they are monks and Christians.

The French public was deeply shaken. The carnages were announced on 26 May 1996. The next day, Whitsunday, a mass was celebrated in Notre Dame cathedral in Paris. As part of the ceremony, the archbishop of Paris snuffed out seven candles that had been delivered from Tibhirine. Church bells rang out all over France. A epoch subsequently a bunch of ten, 000 gathered in Paris in mourning. On 2 June, under heavy forearmed guard, a funeral mass for the victims was held in Algiers, watched by millions in France.

Eventually the history of the friars was cleared into a movie, Des Hommes et des Dieux ( Of Gods and Men ). On its exhaust in 2010 the storey shortened French cinema audiences not all of them faithful Catholics to tears.

There has been a similar have responded to last-place Tuesdays murder. First, the committee has been stun at the raw brutality. Then incredulity that such a appalling stuff could happen. Now there is a need to express sorrow and this has been communicated largely, sometimes unconsciously, in religious language.

The newspaper Le Parisien fringed its front treat in pitch-black, describing the murdered priest as a martyr. Both etch and digital media utilized old-fashioned statements, rekindling the saintly quality of the man and his death as a sacrilege.

The Catholic church testified last-place Friday a period of prayeracross France; many faiths were parcelled with non-believers as well as regular worshippers. Parties needed to come together; even if you couldnt understand what had happened, or find any see solace, there was a basic need to be with fellow human beings in the face of such horror.

After a sleepless nighttime, the morning after the murder I went to my neighbourhood church, Saint-Pierre-de-Montrouge in the 14 th arrondissement in Paris. The atmosphere was sombre. Beings stood all over the figurehead of the church in small-minded assembles talking here about low voices. Afterwards, buying milk and other necessaries at a Tunisian-owned shop on the Rue Didot, the owner noticed that I was English. You are lucky, he said. You can leave France if you want. If “youre staying” you will just see more of the same bad things.

This may be true, but this most recent assault is not just more of the same bad things. In assaulting a church and killing a pastor, Islamic State has once again changed the standards of the the game. This is because it has now attacked something far fewer synopsi and much more visceral in France than ideas such as democracy or secularism; it has attacked a sect an psychological bail which courses through and defines French history and culture. This is why, even if you are not Catholic, this latest outrage feels like a new and much more profound wound.

The warning signs that this might happen have been there for some time. As far back as July 2015 Isis said in its French usage publication Dar al-Islam that it aimed at providing religions in France. Simply two months before this statement, a young lady announced Aurlie Chtelain was shot dead in a botched attack on a faith in Villejuif in Val de Marne. Since then, at moments of heightened tension, faiths like synagogues have been protected by armed soldiers.

Alongside the anxiety and sorrow, there is also ripening public exasperation at President Hollandes government. When the council of ministers, Manuel Valls, called Nice shortly after the truck carnage of 14 July, he was booed as he listened a hours stillnesand there were postings announcing for the president to resign. The general sensitive was that the government was not doing enough to stop the terrorists.

The frustration has now intensified as it has emerged that the two executioners of 85-year-old Jacques Hamel Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean had both been known to the security services, but still managed to decline under their radar. What is more, the failings of the government and its security serviceshave been publicly highlighted in a French parliamentary commission report into last years terrorist incidents in Paris, from the firearm attacks in that January on the offices of Charlie Hebdo to the bombings and shootings in November at forbids and eateries and at the Bataclan concert hall. The initial impact of such reports, published on 5 July, was lost in the aftermath of the Nice criticizes, but the mistakes and confusion it has identified had not been able to ceased to exist. The is chairman of the investigations, Georges Fenech, has said clearly that Today, our soldiers are being to be presented to war with soles of guide. Our intelligence services have failed.

Fenech draws the current problems back to the 2008 reforms of counter-terrorism is presided over by Nicolas Sarkozy. These reforms in effect thinned out the grades of domain men and paid too much attention to international fear radicals such as al-Qaida while neglecting the rapid growth of local jihadis. In other messages, the French security services were looking in solely the wrong direction outwards rather than inwards; a massive tactical error.

But the present troubles go deeper than this. One of the main difficulties is that there are roughly 11 different agencies, from the prison services through to the varying strands of military and police , now vying with each during the same lessening container of money. Worse, they do not transmit properly with one another. Neither is there any plan to prevent radicalisation at grassroots level; “there hasnt” unified strategy, simply a panicky response to difficulty the whack-a-mole approach as police officers call it.

None of this is new. A few years ago, I saw the prison of Fresnes, to the south of Paris. I had been invited by a senior French official who wanted an interloper to see how things in France didnt work. In her book-lined office, madame la directrice complained to me with cool anger that she could not verify who was coming into her prison nor ply follow-up when the prisoners left. And hitherto even back then everybody who had linked with information systems knew that the prisons were engine-rooms of radicalism juveniles recruited as petty delinquents and emerged as dedicated gunmen. But good-for-nothing is likely to be done about this because of structural difficulties in the French administration.

Worse, right up until the November killings in Paris, the DGSI( Direction Gnrale de la Scurit Intrieure) and DGSE( Direction Gnrale de La Scurit Extrieure ), respectively the equivalents of MI5 and MI6, did not speak to each other. Most controversially, Fenech argues that the Bataclan killings could have been avoided if there had been better communication and co-ordination between agencies.

There is only one conclusion here: that it is precisely these miscarries that save allowing Isis to write the dialogue for France. This is, of course, likewise the dispute of Marine Le Pen and the far-right Front National, who arguably stand to be the greatest political beneficiaries of the atmosphere of crisis. Almost immediately after last-place Tuesdays killing of Jacques Hamel, Marion Marchal-Le Pen, niece of Marine and a deputy to the National Assembly, shown: They are killing most children, slaughtering our police and slitting the throats of our pastors. Its is now time to wake up!

Alarmingly, this populist rhetoric is even being therefore welcomed voters who would not usually think of supporting the Front National but who feel that those who are responsible are storytellers and phonies. A deeper problem for Hollande is that Le Pen, and the even more militant radicals who stand behind her, have been vindicated by recent events and the damning parliamentary report which helps to explain them.

But beyond the furious white noise, the far right has no real solutions either. It does not “re saying it”; instead it argues for most robust calibrates, zero patience and increased militarisation. Meanwhile, Hollandes government is paralysed, locked into a debate about how far the position can go with individual claims versus increased police superpowers, and a stalemate with Sarkozy, back again with presidential ambitions for 2017 and revisiting his favourite role as le premier flic de la France( the first officer of France ).

Last Wednesday, Hollande, Valls and Sarkozy all accompanied a mass in homage to the murdered priest Hamel at Notre Dame. They marched together towards the altar in a show of harmony. But the consensus that we are all in this together, which was determined in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings( and smashed exclusively by Le Pen ), has long since disintegrated. In world, all backs are now at war with one another as well as with Isis.

The use of the word crusade has now become commonplace in France, as has the display of heavily forearmed units on beaches, in city centres, in airfields and at railway stations; everywhere now is the front line. The vision of these troops is never reassuring; often fairly the opposite. There is talk, more, of the working group on the far right arming themselves, expecting disturb, maybe seeking it out. In Corsica, an underground patriot radical has exhausted a communiqu peril Isis and warning neighbourhood Muslims to take a position against revolutionary Islam. The letter is accompanied by a photo of hooded servicemen in combat gear carrying artilleries. Its hard to believe that this is happening, but its real.

Back in Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray, the faithful are still trying to come to periods with other forms of reality; with the impossible villainy that has been seen upon them. Accompanying the neighbourhood mass held during Hamel, a 43 -year-old woman who did not want to be reputation told Le Monde : Its horrifying, I am ghastly but I cant facilitate thinking that it is all because of the Muslims and I cant help myself going angry when I examine a concealed dame or afraid of an Arab with a long whisker in the street … I know Im stupid. I know that this is what they miss, to divide us.

The president of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, Anouar Kbibech, has announced on all Muslims to accompanied mass on Sunday to demo the solidarity and pity of the Muslims of France. The Catholic church at first carried official astonish but then welcomed the move as a noble and necessary behave. There ought to have dark murmurings about insurance but the church has said that Muslims will be welcomed.

On the internet there has been renewed interest in the friars of Tibhirine. In particular the spiritual testament of one of the murdered friars, Christian de Cherg, has been plying comfort to readers, in Arabic and French. Foreshadowing his death at the mitts of terrorists, he writes of his love of Algeria, Algerians and Islam and that, knowing Muslims, he knows, more, that Islamism is a caricature of Islam. If one day and it could be today I should be the victim of terrorism, he writes, I would want my community, my church, their own families to be noted that life was given to God … Amen. Inshallah.

On reading this I was reminded of the last age I inspected Algiers, climbing up to visit Notre Dame dAfrique, the church where the friars were laid to rest. On the esplanade outside, with a panorama of timbered buildings and the high seas, you could easily be in Normandy. Inside, the place is tended by elderly French people who survived the years of war and horror that visited Algeria in the 1990 s. There are DVDs on sale of the film Des Hommes et des Dieux a testimony to horror, sect and sustain. The rubric above the altar carries a content: Pray for Us and the Muslims.

Andrew Hussey is the author of The French Intifada: The Long War between France and its Arabs( Granta ).


7-9 January 2015

Said and Cherif Kouachi killed 12 people at Charlie Hebdo s Paris offices. An accompanied of the brothers afterwards shot dead a police officer before taking captives at a Jewish supermarket, killing four more people.

3 February 2015

Moussa Coulibaly criticized and injured three soldiers guarding a building housing the Jewish Consistory of Nice.

26 June 2015

A delivery driver beheaded a man and am trying to blow up a gas plant in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier.

21 August 2015

Ayoub el-Khazani opened fire inside a study wandering from Amsterdam to Paris before being overwhelmed by passengers.

13 -1 4 November 2015

Suicide bombers struck outside the Stade de France in Paris. Shootings and bombings at restaurants and forbids across the city, and inside the Bataclan concert hall, left 130 beings dead and 300 injured.

13 June 2016

A police officer and his wife were jabbed to extinction at their home in Magnanville.

14 July 2016

Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel drove a truck through a busy prom in Nice on Bastille day and shot into the crowd, killing 84 parties, including 10 children.

26 July 2016

Adel Kermiche and an associate crack the throat of an octogenarian priest as he said mass in Saint-tienne-du-Rouvray.

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