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Illustration by Security Management

Extremist Attacks Continue in France

On Thursday, France suffered another attack amid increased tension with Islamic extremistism.

Three people were killed in what is described as a knife attack at a church in Nice. The suspect, who police named as Brahim Aioussao and travelled by boat from Tunisia to Italy before arriving in France, was shot and has been detained. Authorities said one of the victims was “virtually beheaded,” a description that serves a gruesome reminder of less than two weeks earlier when Samuel Paty, a history teacher, was beheaded outside Paris. The murder of Paty reignited similar conversations after the terrorist attacks on the small Charlie Hebdo satirical newspaper in 2015 and 2011. The paper published cartoons that depicted the Islam prophet Muhammad, regarded as blasphemous by some Muslims. Paty had shown the cartoons to his students. In the previous month, two people were stabbed near the former offices of Charlie Hebdo.

“If we are attacked once again, it is for 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. I say it with clarity once again today: we won’t surrender anything," said French President Emmanuel Macron after the church attack. 

He also announced an increase of security around schools and religious sites.

After the murder of Paty, Macron defended the country’s freedom of expression laws. This lead to tensions with other countries, most notably Turkey, and an escalating war of words from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Macron “needs treatment on a mental level.”

Calls for boycotting French products and companies swept Turkey, and Macron recalled the French ambassador from the country. Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, described in a Reuters article as “a respected leader in the Muslim world” posted comments on social channels that said “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past. But by and large the Muslims have not applied the ‘eye for an eye’ law. Muslims don’t. The French shouldn’t.”

A piece in Time examined the recent attacks through the lens of French politics.

“At issue is how the country’s 5.7 million Muslims—the largest Muslim population in the European Union—assimilate, or not, in a country whose constitution is based on an unyielding principle of secularism and which has seen multiple terrorist attacks by jihadists since 2015," according to Time.

France will hold presidential elections in April 2022. In the last election, Macron fended off a nationalist opponent who ran in part with an anti-Muslim message.