As smoke fades from the bloodshed streets of Paris, the impact of the terrible events that occurred last Friday becomes increasingly clear. The French capital, stricken by shock and grief, remains in a state of lockdown, after a series of shootings and explosions at six locations across central and eastern parts of the city. Gunmen systematically slaughtered at least 87 young people at a rock concert at the Bataclan concert hall before anti-terrorist commandos launched an assault on the building. Some forty more people were killed in five other attacks in the Paris region, including an apparent double suicide bombing outside the Stade de France national stadium, where French President François Hollande and the German Foreign Minister were watching a friendly football international. This was the first time a suicide bombing took place on French soil.
The death toll, which is most definitely not final since many are gravely injured, far surpasses that of the massacre at the headquarters of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and related attacks around the French capital. What happened Friday, was the deadliest terrorist attack in Europe since the 2004 train bombings in Madrid, which killed 191 people. The President pronounced France’s first state of emergency since 2005, when riots rocked downtrodden urban areas across the country, as well as three days of national mourning.
Quickly after the attacks, Hollande expressed his compassion with the victims and their families, but he also directly addressed those responsible, claiming that “when the terrorists are capable of committing such acts they must know that they will face a France very determined…a France united.” But will they?
Paris was still licking its wounds after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, and was beaten down, even more violently, before it could fully rise. Obviously, Parisians will be united in grief. But after that? Chaos, distrust and disunity will take over once again, but this time, the scarring will be more profound. Everyone seems to realise that it is impossible to keep searching for a common silver lining. Today, France is in flames.
In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack, and the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie faded from social media, new figures revealed a 500% increase of anti-Muslim violence. Other polls showed the growing popularity of the Front National. Marine Le Pen, head of the French far-right party, exclaimed that the French culture is collapsing because immigrants refuse to copy French customs, a scream that will surely be echoed in the days to come. Perhaps she is right. However, one could argue that the French culture is about to collapse because right-wing parties and their backers seemingly fail to adapt to multiculturalism, a phenomenon that is inevitable in a world where the realization grows that today’s boundaries are the result of a mostly arbitrary process. Rightist politicians all over Europe greatly antagonize the process of immigration by creating the illusion that the people have a choice. Perhaps time has come for conservatives to realize that Europe is no island, and that if we were in the past willing to interfere in the Middle East, we should not try to escape our responsibilities now. “
France, forever a proud nation, will be faced with unspeakable difficulties in the near future. A great burden now rests upon the shoulders of the French people, as they must set a good example to the rest of the world. Everyone is aware that these are direct attacks against the European people, but we cannot forget that eventually, we are not the only victims. The same people who, by means of terror and violence, chased millions of innocent people from the Middle East are now looking to block their path to a safe haven by causing disruption and hate.
Let the French show that we will not bend, that we will not compromise, and that gunfire and bombs will never suffice to destroy our ideals of liberté, egalité et fraternité.
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