Written By: Nicholas Ashenfelter
At a church in Nice, France, three lives were tragically lost by a reportedly Islamic terrorist on Oct. 29. In light of this tragedy, France is taking some controversial countermeasures to ensure their people are protected.
The attack took place at the Notre-Dame basilica at 8:30 a.m. by a man wielding a knife. The victims were an older woman who was reportedly beheaded, a member of staff, and another woman who successfully fled the building but succumbed to her injuries later, The Guardian reports. A witness raised the alarm, and the police arrived at approximately 9:00 a.m.
Jean-Francois Ricard, an anti-terrorist prosecutor, reports that the suspect was successfully apprehended. This suspect, Brahim Aioussaoi, is a Tusnian national who arrived in the country less than a month prior to the attack. Police are reviewing CCTV footage to better track his actions before the attack.
David-Oliver Reverdy, a member of the union Alliance Police Nationale, expressed that law enforcement agents were operating under a “heightened terrorist threat,” but they lacked the manpower to watch everywhere at once. Reverdy applauded police actions, particularly that they arrived “quickly at the scene and were able to neutralize the individual before he could cause any further injuries or deaths.” In fact, The Guardian found there were two additional, unused knives inside the church.
The Nice Mayor, Christian Estrosi, explained to ABC News that Aioussaoi “repeated endlessly ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greatest).” The French Council of the Muslim Faith denounced the attackers. They went so far as to ask believers over Twitter to forgo their Mawlid celebrations, which recognize Muhammad’s birth, as a “sign of mourning and solidarity with the victims and their loved ones.”
The Washington Post reported two other attacks that occurred on the same day, one elsewhere within France and another in Saudi Arabia. In Montfavet, France, a man used a handgun to threaten police officers and was shot. In Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a guard watching the French consulate was attacked. He was placed in the hospital, where his life was not in danger, while the attacker was arrested.
Estrosi drew a parallel also to the murder of Samuel Paty, a history teacher at a secondary school who showed his class cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad. Images of Muhammad are incredibly offensive to Muslims, and in response to this, 18-year-old Abdullakh Anzorov killed him. Reportedly, two of Paty’s students received $355 to identify him as the killer. BBC reports that these students, as well as three of Anzorov’s friends and a man named Brahim C were charged by police in response to their actions.
Emmanuel Macron, the French President, declared that the attacks were against “the values which are ours: freedom, for the possibility on our soil to believe freely and not to give in to any spirit of terror.” 3,000 troops were initially charged with protecting churches and schools across the county, but The Washington Post found Macron increased this number to 7,000 in light of the attacks.
The French terrorist threat level has risen to the level in 2015-2016. According to Hugh Schofield, this is likely due to Paty’s incident in particular. The idea that the victim was “selected for murder” in a premeditated assault was frightening, and Macron’s “robust defence of secularism” at the memorial served only to further incense those already inclined to violence.
Besides the controversial nature of the cartoons, Macron’s reaction has also seen mixed results, with Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish President, calling for a boycott of the nation’s goods. When speaking to BBC, Macron expressed his desire to enact harsher laws in opposition to “Islamic separatism.” He denounced the creation of a “counter-society,” which he would prevent through stricter oversight in schools and mosques. He believes that some community events are simply a “pretext to teach principles that do not conform to the laws of the republic.”
France has principles of separation of church and state, and some believe this violates that goal. In light of his promises, including the restriction of home-schooling, human rights activist Yasser Louati expressed over Twitter that “The repression of Muslims has been a threat, now it is a promise.” Macron’s assertion to The Guardian makes it clear that he is not changing his mind any time soon: “Enough is enough … we have to remove this Islamo-fascism from our country.”