Terror In France –
The Rise Of Jihad In The West
By Giles Kepel
Princeton University Press – £24.00
”On Friday, November 13, 2015, a group of killers connected with the Islamic State in Iraq spilled blood in Paris. This massacre came hardly ten months after the tragedies that took place on January 7-9 at the offices of Charlie Hebdo and at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. In response, the hashtag #jesuisparis (I am Paris) proliferated over social media, just as #jesuischarlie (I am Charlie) had done at the beginning of the same year, and an immense movement of solidarity arose around the world. Monuments were illuminated with the colours of the French flag, and ‘The Marseillaise,’ remixed, was sung from America to Australia.”
‘Paris, Saint-Denis, Friday, November 13, 2015’
I remember all of the above very well; even the then US President, Barack Obama and the actor George Clooney came out in very visible support of what was happening in Paris. This partially explains why one can read this altogether unsettling book and come away feeling many things: disturbed, upset, (un)convinced, somewhat enlightened or highly frustrated. Or perhaps a mixture of all of these feelings.
Whatever the case, there’s no denying the sheer amount of scholarly integrity that has gone into its publication. For Terror In France – The Rise Of Jihad In The West is both precise and concise, not to mention written in such a reportagesque kind of way, that one cannot help but come away feeling just a little more secure in the knowledge of having been (wholly) alerted.
Alerted to what the hell has been going on in France in recent years.
Or, as the author of the Isis Apocalypse, William McCants has since written: ”The doyen of Jihadist studies has not only penned a masterful study of recent Islamist violence in France that is meticulous in its detail, comprehensive in its scope, and stimulating in its analysis; he’s written a blinking-red warning to his countrymen and fellow Europeans not to overact to the provocations of an enemy that seeks to turn them against one another.”
Suffice to say, this is so much easier said than done, as recent events within the wider European social context have clearly shown. And while these 198 pages (excluding Preface to the English Edition, Paris, Saint-Denis, Friday, November 13, 2015, Acknowledgements, Chronology of Events, Key People and Organizations and Index) illustrate the degree to which home-grown terrorism is a nigh self-perpetuating, kaleidoscopic problem, it does nevertheless, home in on certain, fundamental key issues.
Secularism for instance, where, quoting the then Minister of National Education in Le Journal du dimanche, Vincent Peillon, Kepel writes: ”the goal of secular morals is to allow each student’s self-emancipation, because secularism’s starting point is the absolute respect for freedom of conscience. To allow for freedom of choice, we have to be able to detach the student from all kinds of determinism, whether familial, ethnic, social, or intellectual, in order afterward to make a choice” (‘Secularism as an Irritant, The Reversals of the Muslim Vote’).
Given the inflammatory subject matter, I personally found Terror In France – The Rise Of Jihad In The West to be a wholly trustworthy, very readable read. There again, it has been something of a sensational bestseller in France – regardless of the fact that it is rather stark in nature.
Even the cover, with its harsh, block white lettering on a fierce black background, may be construed as being a little jagged. But if anything, it’s the opposite: well written and idiosyncratically informative.