After new Islamist attacks, Paris responds with repression

By Seth Galinsky
November 16, 2020

Since the opening Sept. 2 of the trial of 14 people accused of aiding the deadly anti-Semitic assault in 2015 on the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, there have been three brutal assaults and killings in France by Islamist terrorists. Three people were stabbed to death at the Notre-Dame Basilica in Nice Oct. 29 by 21-year-old Tunisian Brahim Aouissaoui, who shouted “Allahu akbar,” Arabic for “God is great,” as he attacked.

A few days after the start of the trial a man wielding a knife wounded several people on the street near the old offices of Charlie Hebdo, after the magazine reprinted its 2015 cartoons that have demeaning depictions of the Muslim Prophet Mohammad. Then on Oct. 16, Abdoulakh Anzorov beheaded history teacher Samuel Paty in a Paris suburb after he had displayed the cartoons in a class on free speech.

These attacks and killings are also part of a frontal attack on freedom of speech and the press and on the right to worship — rights needed by working people. And they are intertwined with Jew-hatred promoted by reactionary Islamist groups.

“I can only denounce as strongly as possible this act of cowardice against the innocent,” Abdallah Zekri, director-general of the French Council of Muslim Worship, told the press, one of many Muslim activists and groups in France that have condemned the attacks.

Thirteen people were murdered in the 2015 attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo by brothers Cherif and Said Koucahi after the magazine published the satirical cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, as it had earlier of the pope and other religious leaders. Two days later the Koucahis’ associate, Amedy Couliabaly, who said he was acting on behalf of Islamic State, murdered four shoppers at the Hyper Cacher kosher market.

After the Oct. 29 murders at the basilica, Daniel Teboul, chief rabbi of Nice, said that Jewish schools and synagogues in this southern French city would be closed for the time being and that kosher shops would be on the alert. “All of us feel threatened,” he said.

According to French government figures, there were 687 anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2019 — including physical attacks and defacing of cemeteries and synagogues — a 27% increase over the year before.

Gov’t assault on political rights

French President Emmanuel Macron claims that the French state is defending “freedom of speech, the freedom to believe and not believe.” But in reality the imperialist government is using the terrorist attacks to further fan the flames of anti-Muslim prejudice, beef up the state’s repressive apparatus, and pass laws that further undermine democratic rights.

Macron is pressing for a ban on home schooling, a measure aimed at Muslim households; limits on foreign funding of religious centers; and a mandate that religious associations take an oath of allegiance to France. He has proposed legislation that would allow the government to outlaw any group that promotes “Islamic separatism.”

The French government already bars its employees from wearing the hijab while at work, claiming it undermines “secularism.”

“It is very clearly France that is attacked,” Macron claimed after the Nice killings, while announcing he was deploying 4,000 more soldiers around the country to “protect” schools and religious sites. The fact is, Macron, like the ruling class he serves, tries to cover up the real history of Jew-hatred and assaults against Jews fostered and reproduced by capitalist social relations in France for decades.

France has the third largest Jewish population worldwide, after Israel and the U.S.

After Macron proposed new repressive measures following the killing of Paty, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Edrogan called for a boycott of French products, claiming that the French government was leading a “hate campaign” against Islam. His government later condemned the attack in Nice, but said the French government had the responsibility “to avoid further inflammatory rhetoric against Muslims.”

“This series of murderous attacks in France after the opening of the trial of those accused in the deadly assault on Charlie Hebdomust be taken seriously and opposed by working people the world over,” said Malcolm Jarrett, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. vice president in the Nov. 3 elections. “It is in the interests of all working people to oppose Jew-hatred.”

“But the repressive measures being pushed by the French imperialist government are not in the interests of working people,” Jarrett continued. “Our party is for whatever helps working people organize and act together — whatever their religious beliefs or nationality — to defend our interests. That includes defending the right to free speech, freedom of the press, and freedom to worship, free from interference by the state.”