One woman was decapacitated and two other people were stabbed to death in a church in the French city of Nice, France, Thursday. According to some reports, several others were wounded. The authorities are investigating the crime as a terrorist incident — the third attack in the last two months. The attacker shouted “Allahu Akbhar,” or “God is greatest” in Arabic repeatedly, according to reports.
The nation had been on a high terror alert since September when accomplices to the terrorists who murdered 18 people, including 12 at the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, went on trial. The others were murdered after being held hostage in a kosher supermarket.
Two weeks ago, a French history teacher, Samuel Paty, was beheaded after teaching about free speech in his classroom using the infamous Mohammed cartoons as an example. And in September, an asylum seeker stabbed several people outside the Charlie Hebdo offices.
French President Emmanuel Macron will travel to Nice later today as France’s Interior Minister says he has opened a “crisis cell following the events.”
A bomb disposal unit is also responding to the crime scene and heavily armed anti-terror police are currently patrolling the streets of Nice and around the cathedral, which is the largest church in the city.
Several people are also reported to be injured but it is unclear how many and what the extent of their injuries might be.
The Islamists’ anger is being whipped up by outside actors such as Turkish President Erdogan, who has harshly criticized Macron’s proposed law against Islamic separatism. To date, the French government says it has deported 231 foreigners and that number is expected to grow substantially if the French parliament approves the legislation.
An estimated six million Muslims live in France, the largest population in Western Europe, which has created increasing challenges in the republic formed on strict secular principles known as “laïcité.” In the eulogy at Paty’s funeral, Macron defended France’s secularism and vowed that the country would not give up its liberties or its cartoons.
“We will continue, professor. We will defend the freedom that you taught so well and we will promote secularism, we will not renounce caricatures, drawings, even if others retreat,” Macron said earlier this month. “We will continue the fight for freedom and the freedom of which you are now the face.”
Indeed, the murder of Paty appears to have galvanized the French people into fighting back against the Islamists. There have been reports of the Mohammed cartoons being displayed all over France and other reports have the French public pushing back against Muslims using “street prayers” to disrupt traffic.
In Paris, as Muslims pray on roads, blocking streets, they are met with equally loud singing of the French National Anthem by French citizens.
— Tarek Fatah (@TarekFatah) October 26, 2020
Macron’s anti-Islamist legislation is certainly ambitious.
Macron delivered a speech before the teacher was killed outlining a legislative proposal to fight what he described as “Islamic separatism,” arguing Muslims in France risked forming a “counter-society.” Macron defined Islam as “a religion that is in crisis today all over the world” and said the proposal, if approved by Parliament, would aim “to build an Islam in France that can be compatible with the Enlightenment.”
Is that even possible? Building an Islam that “can be compatible with the Enlightenment”? Macron may try, but in the end, it has to be up to Muslims to reform themselves. I doubt whether Christians would have accepted reform proposals from Jews and Muslims in the 15th century before Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the church door in Wittenberg. Macron may demand secularism from the devout, but if he does, the movement is likely to go underground, making it even more dangerous.
Some will say it’s France’s own fault for allowing this cancer to come into the country and spread its tentacles into every city and province. But the French self-image would never have allowed them to turn away refugees and asylum seekers. And consider that most of the new arrivals are peaceful, mind their own business, pay their taxes, and don’t try and proselytize.
But the small resentful, seething minority of radical Muslims will give France headaches for years to come.