Thursday, 29 November 2007

FRENCH BANLIEUE INTIFADA?

Home-Grown, Externally-Inspired Intifada
International Terrorism Monitor
Paper No. 315
By B. Raman
SAAG

Certain areas in the suburbs of Paris, with a large
immigrant Muslim community from North Africa, have been
going through a wave of violence by sections of Muslim
youth acting collectively against the Police since November
25, 2007. The Muslim youth rioting in the streets are not
acting in the name of any organisation. They are acting in
the name of and on behalf of their community.

2. The current street violence, which resembles that of
October,2005, has been---- as in the case of the violence
of 2005--spontaneous to start with, but orchestrated in its
continuation. While the geographical spread has not yet
been as wide as in October, 2005, the intensity of the
violence has been as high as in 2005. There are two new
factors in the current violence, which one did not notice
in 2005. The 2005 violence was the work of mainly young
Muslims born and brought up in the ill-developed suburbs.
There was little involvement of elders, who had migrated
from North Africa. This time one has been seeing a mix of
home-grown Muslim youth and their elders, who had migrated
to France, acting in unison. The second new factor is the
readiness of the rioters to use firearms against the
police. The fire-arms used so far have not been of a very
lethal type and hence have not caused fatalities among the
police, but a large number of policemen has reportedly been
injured. Whereas the 2005 incidents were largely acts of
vandalism focussing on destruction of property, this time
the attacks have been on property as well as individuals.

3. The current violence started spontaneously after the
death of two Muslim youth in a street of Villiers-le-Bel, a
blue-collar town in Paris' northern suburbs. The Police
were blamed for their death. The allegation of the local
Muslim community was that the Police deliberately caused
the death of the two Muslim boys, who were on a motor-bike,
by ramming their patrol car against them and going away
without stopping as the two Muslim boys lay dying on the
road. The October 2005 violence erupted after the death due
to electrocution of two Muslim boys, who were running away
from a police party, which was checking the identity papers
of passers-by.

4. There are increasing pockets of anger in the immigrant
Muslim communities of West Europe----particularly in the
UK, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Denmark and France.
But, the phenomenon of Muslim anger in France differs
significantly from the phenomenon in the other countries.
France did not support the US invasion and occupation of
Iraq. But, as a member of the NATO, it has been involved in
a limited way in the NATO's operations in Afghanistan.
There is so far no evidence to show that its external
policies have in any significant measure contributed to the
anger of sections of its Muslim community.

5. The causes for the anger in France are more
domestic----unemployment, poverty, lack of respect for
Islamic traditions and practices through measures such as
banning the use of a head-cover by Muslim girls in
Government-funded schools, alleged excesses of the police
against the Muslim migrants etc. The anger in France tends
to be collectively expressed through co-ordinated street
violence by individual Muslims not known to be belonging to
any known jihadi terrorist organisation. What one has been
seeing in France is jihadi Intifada and not jihadi
terrorism. At least, not yet.

6. In the other countries, the anger has been more due to
external causes such as the support of the local
Governments for the US in Iraq, involvement of their troops
in the operations against Al Qaeda and the Neo Taliban in
Afghanistan etc. In those countries, the expression of
anger has not been collective, but individual through the
Jundullah phenomenon. This phenomenon refers to angry and
self-motivated individual Muslim youth, who perceive
themselves as Jundullah or Soldiers of Allah, taking to
sporadic acts of suicide terrorism to give vent to their
anger. Examples: the Madrid blasts of March, 2004, the
London blasts of July, 2005, and the attempted blasts in
London and Glasgow in June this year. Although conventional
causes of anger such as poverty, unemployment, the
perceived anti-Muslim attitude of the Police etc are
prevalent in those countries too, these have not so far
resulted in Intifada-like street violence.

7. While one does not see for now, the conscious influence
of any organisation --- despite past suspicions of the
involvement of the Hizbut Tehrir, which advocates AGITPROP
methods and not terrorism---the new outbreak of violence in
France has come in the wake of Al Qaeda'as decision of last
year to adopt a mix of strategies to achieve its objective
of a global Islamic Caliphate. The mix consists of
terrorism and Intifada.

8. Since last year, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama
bin Laden in Al Qaeda, has been appealing to the Muslims of
the world to emulate the Intifada in Gaza in giving
expression to their anger against their Governments.
Zawahiri projects Intifada as a kind of struggle in which
the role of motivated individual Muslims will become more
important than that of organisations so that the weakening
or collapse of an organisation does not result in a
collapse of the Intifada. He wants the Intifada to acquire
a momentum of its own as a result of the sacrifices of
individual Muslims. He said in his message of January 22,
2007: "Every Muslim today is directly responsible for
defending Islam, Islam's homeland and the Islamic Ummah.
"The importance of a central command and control in keeping
the Intifada going is down-played. The motivation of
individual Muslims is more important than any centralised
command and control. He also projects the Intifada as a mix
of military and non-military struggles. He said in his
message of December 20, 2006: "We must bear arms. And if we
are unable to bear them, then we must support those who
carry them. This support comes in many forms and guises, so
we must exploit all Da'wah, student and union activities to
back the Jihadi resistance....... The Muslim Ummah must
exploit all methods of popular protest, like
demonstrations, sit-ins, strikes, refusing to pay taxes,
preventing cooperation with the security forces, refusing
to provide the Crusaders with fuel, hitting traders who
supply the Crusader forces, boycotting Crusader and Jewish
products, and other ways of popular protest."

9. One has been seeing this mix in operation in West
Europe---Intifada in France and jihadi terrorism in other
countries. Al Qaeda looks upon Algeria, Morocco, Spain,
Portugal and France as constituting the Western garrison of
the Ummah and Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as
the Southern garrison. Both the garrisons are encouraged to
act in unison, with the Muslim communities in each country
using methods appropriate to local conditions.

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