Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

What now after Toulouse? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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What I dreaded and duly warned against in my article a few days ago – regarding my fear about the “Toulouse crime” in which four people were killed, three being children – has happened.

At the conclusion of my column, I wrote “due to all this, I pray to God that the perpetrator is not one of us”, meaning that he is not of Arab or Muslim descent, or a member of the French North African expatriate community.

Unfortunately, the perpetrator was identified as young Mohamed Merah, an Arab Muslim of Algerian descent who belonged to a third generation of North African immigrants, having been born in France and acquired French citizenship. However, Merah would later come to reject French society, imprisoned in his own misconceptions and extremist thoughts, whilst adopting Arab and Islamic slogans.

Mohamed Merah, by declaring that he was an Arab and a Muslim who advocated al-Qaeda’s ideology, and following the discovery of the arsenal of weapons he was hiding in his house, has greatly improved the reputation and standing of Mrs. Marine Le Pen, president of the extremist right-wing Front National party, known for its radical trend against French minorities, mainly the Arab Muslim immigrants, who were already suspected of the crimes in Toulouse.

Following a 24-hour silence, and after Mrs. Le Pen confirmed the Arab and Muslim identity of the perpetrator Mohamed Merah, she addressed the French public to warn against the danger of the extension of the extremist Salafi current to which Merah belonged. Emphasizing that the case was not an individual one, she pointed the finger at specific Gulf states which she accused of funding the current. Le Pen demanded that the French government take deterrence measures, and she promised that if she won the presidency, she would handle such currents that threaten the unity of the French society “with all the force and severity of the law”.

It was not surprising that President Nicolas Sarkozy then met four times in 48 hours with leaders of the Jewish and Muslim communities in France, with the aim of containing the situation before it develops into confrontations on the street, in a manner that threatens the fabric of the French “secular state”.

Of course, all presidential candidates benefited from the story by riding the wave through media and political activities. The prime beneficiary was Sarkozy himself, who played a “strong” role by brandishing the force of law with one hand, and stressing the power of political unity on the other.

Everyone is trading on our mistakes, and the Arabs seem to be experts in – voluntarily – granting historic opportunities for others to benefit.