Why France is so vulnerable to radical Islam's attacks

France’s acute vulnerability to Islamist terrorism stems from several factors. The delicate truth is that France has the biggest Muslim minority in Europe, approaching 10 per cent of the population. That creates a larger pool within which a small minority can be radicalised.

Moreover, the social fracture between some Muslim communities and the national mainstream appears to be wider in France than elsewhere in Europe. In this polarised situation, Islamist radicalism finds its echo on the far Right – and the two strands of extremism feed off one another.

In May, Patrick Calvar, the head of France’s domestic intelligence service, spelt out the danger. This “confrontation between the extreme Right and the Muslim world” risked placing France on the “verge of a civil war,” he said.

In blunt remarks to a closed parliamentary inquiry – later leaked to the French press – Mr Calvar asked what would happen if vigilantes retaliated for a terrorist attack, or a French version of the sexual violence in Cologne, by assaulting Muslim immigrants in general? Suppose there were “punitive expeditions in the suburbs”, triggering a cycle of retaliation and counter-retaliation.

“Where is the spark going to come from that will light the powder, transforming France into an uncontrollable country where groups take up arms and hand out their own justice?” asked Mr Calvar. “Nothing is excluded in a country which is already as eruptive as France today.”

In absolute numbers, France has provided more foreign fighters for Isil in Syria than any other European country. In addition, France is part of the Schengen area, giving it open borders with the European continent.

Unlike Britain – which has always retained its border controls and has the natural advantage of being an island – France can do little to prevent the flow of suspected terrorists or weapons into its territory.

Some of the terrorists who planned and executed the gun and bomb attacks in Paris last November were actually based in Brussels. They were able to take advantage of the ease of movement between the two capitals.
French intelligence also does not seem up to the task of keeping track of the radical Islamists.  It has become an overwhelming problem.  While Obama might say the terrorist do not pose an existential threat to France, they do pose a serious threat of mass murder of noncombatants, and the country does not appear to have the resources in place to stop it.


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