In a widely circulated statement, the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the series of attacks that left over 120 dead in Paris on Friday. There were at least six attacks on the capital, with most of the casualties occurring at the Bataclan concert hall, where rock band Eagles of Death Metal was performing.
French President François Hollande was enraged following the attack, calling it an act of war and promising that France’s retaliation would be merciless.
ISIS described the concert as a venue where “hundreds of idolators were together in a party of perversity.” The terrorist group also warned France and its allies that “they will remain at the top of the list of Islamic State targets and the scent of death will not leave their noses.”
The claim of responsibility, in addition to police forces finding a Syrian passport at the scene of one of the attacks, is now fueling the “us vs. them” mentality that the terrorist group is so keen to foster.
If we were to argue the assailant didn’t want to be caught, he would have to be dubbed the most idiotic terrorist ever for carrying his passport during the attack. But he isn’t; this is one of the most proficiently planned terrorist attacks to hit Europe since the Madrid train bombings in 2004.
Anything found at the scene of the attacks was there for a reason. ISIS wants the world to know that the perpetrator is a Syrian Muslim, leading many to assume that the refugee crisis is closely linked to the attack – despite the contrary being true.
France and Europe are at a crossroads in their fight against extremism and ISIS. With far right, anti-immigration parties gaining momentum, governments will be hard-pressed to reevaluate their policies towards refugees and their handling of the Syrian crisis.
A significant number of parties in Europe are against the European Union’s immigration policy and, with this most recent attack, their voices will definitely be heard, much to ISIS’ pleasure.
As many Muslims praised Europe’s acceptance of war-fleeing Syrians compared to Gulf countries’ lack of compassion, a situation where the West is seen as a savior rather than an enemy is undesirable for ISIS.
Instead, ISIS seeks to create a unified, uniform enemy to facilitate the spread of the terrorist group’s message and the pinpointing of its targets.
An article called “Eliminating the Grayzone” in ISIS’ English-language magazine Dabiq highlights this mode of thinking. In it, the group calls for dividing the world into two groups: The camp of Islam (represented by ISIS) and the camp of the West.
For this to happen, the author calls for the elimination of a grayzone where Muslims and the West coexist. He gives Muslims the option between “apostatizing to the infidel version of Islam in the West or migrating to the Islamic State.” He states that the aim of the Islamic State is to “further the division of the world and destroy the grayzone everywhere.”
The purpose of the attacks in Paris wasn’t solely to inflict fear in the hearts of the French but also to antagonize them by fueling their hate towards Islam and Muslims, thereby furthering their vision of the elimination of the grayzone.
ISIS wants far right parties, infamous for their anti-Muslim agenda, to gain popularity throughout Europe and to ultimately dictate its foreign policies.
One example is the Front National in France, which is famous for its anti-Muslim discourse. The party’s president, Marine Le Pen, went to trial last month for comparing Muslims praying in the street to a Nazi invasion.
Giving a statement on the attacks, Le Pen pointed fingers at Islam rather than ISIS. In her strongly worded speech, Le Pen claimed that France is at war with Islamic extremism, that it must control its borders and that its enemies are countries that have links with Islam. She also called for the closing of what she sees as “radical” mosques and the expulsion of radical Imams.
This is the kind of mentality that ISIS wants to see reign Europe. The group doesn’t want to see a progressive, liberal Europe that is tolerant of Muslims.
It’s why they attacked the center of Paris, one of the most diverse and liberal areas in France. More specifically, it is why they chose a rock concert and a football match, venues with a largely young demographic as their locations of choice.
It doesn’t want a Europe with “Refugees Welcome” signs plastered over its streets and squares but rather for it to be filled with anti-Muslim protests. ISIS envisions a Europe where German right-wing group PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the Occident), famous for its Islamophobic protests in Dresden, attracts hundreds of thousands of protesters every week.
Europe must not allow this to happen. It must not fuel the terrorist group’s ambitions by allowing racists and bigots to gain power, who agree with ISIS on one thing: Muslims and Islam are fundamentally different from Europe and should thus be segregated in different sides of the globe.
If Muslims truly do become outcasts in Europe, then ISIS will have succeeded in its first step of creating its caliphate.
It will have formed a Europe that is willing to go to war.