It has been more than two weeks since the heinous attacks at the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, but their aftermath still dominates our lives. Now local and international papers are running editorials on the renewed threat of ‘international jihadism’ – further emphasising the insecurity the world faces.
On January 7, and in the days that followed, I watched in horror as all the local and international television channels covered the Paris attacks. Then the world took on the Spartacus call of #Je suis Charlie; quickly followed by the debates on the need for responsible journalism. My fourteen year old daughter came home after a debate in her Global Issues class on The right to freedom of speech versus The right for respect of individual beliefs – a debate which left her uncertain of where she stood. There was the insecurity felt by an eight year old when all he saw was the gratuitous violence of the attacks which left him fearful of a larger scale attack on France, and in the days that followed all he wanted to know was whether we would be moving to a different country. Other parts of the world and other groups of the French population took up a call in protest declaring that #They were not Charlie; then followed the heated debates which divided many depending on which side of the Freedom of Speech spectrum they stood – all of which have left France with the realization of the need for some real introspection on their liberté, égalité and fraternité.
This week Courrier International and L’Obs are paying special attention to the threat of ‘homegrown jihadism’, to the ‘cracks in French society’ that the attacks have exposed, and to France’s failure in integrating its immigrant population. This following on the past week’s speech by the Prime Minister on the “geographic, social and ethnic apartheid” that ails France.
The attacks have left a rupture in the facade of the ‘well-functioning society’ of just a few weeks ago. It has exposed old persecution fears and reignited new religious prejudices: the Jewish population now feels more threatened and the Muslim population once again stigmatized. From the Left to the Right, politicians are all talking in carefully couched words on the need to look at the ‘integration’ problem. The Front National in the meantime is capitalizing on that fracture- reiterating the need to address the ‘Islamisation of Europe’, deftly avoiding any anti-immigrant mention.
To say it has been a horrific start to 2015 for France is an understatement. It will certainly be one that forces a great deal of introspection on the French population. One only hopes that as with all issues brought to the fore by relentless media coverage, the impetus to delve below the surface of the superficial talk does not wane after a few months as politicians move on to the next more pressing problem and quietly park the ‘social problems’ which, as has been illustrated by events of the past weeks, can threaten the security of a country.
Wishing you a very belated New Year, and hoping it only gets better from here on.