Modern Terrorism: Fight Against Revolutionary Islamism

The number of terrorist attacks is increasing. Terrorists are not completely alone and the idea of “lonely wolf” is very romantic but has little to do with the real life. A terrorist cannot survive if he is completely isolated. He must feel like "fish in the water".

The number of terrorist attacks in France is increasing. More than 250 people have been killed during the last year. The Islamic State (ISIS, forbidden in Russia) claims that these attacks were committed by its militants. It refers to last terrorist attacks in Nice (France) on Thursday July 14th and in Germany on Monday July 18th. In both cases only one terrorist attacked a lot of persons.

I have worked ten years for the French government against terrorism and here are some conclusions based on my experience and researches.

After World War 2 a new extremist movement appeared in the Muslim countries. This movement is revolutionary and totalitarian. It is founded on the reading of the Quran but it is an interpretation in favor of a world revolution to create a universal “Caliphate”, that should be a totalitarian state ruled by the “sharia”, the Islamic law.

The most important founders were the Egyptian professor Sayid Qutb and the Pakistani theology professor Al Maududi. Sayid Qutb was condemned to death in 1966 but Al Maududi, also condemned to death, could manage to fly to the United States where he died in Buffalo in 1979.

The revolutionary Islamism is the doctrine, which provides the conquest of power by force, especially through the religious war called Djihad.

In the book titled « Le terrorisme islamiste, une menace révolutionnaire », my co-author Roger Marion,, high-ranking officer of French police, says that this form of terrorism appeared in 1992. France helped the repression of the Islamist movement in Algeria and the “Islamic Salvation Front” which established the “armed Islamist groups” (GIA in French) to punish France. Its first attack in the Paris metro (Saint Michel station) killed 8 people and wounded 117 on July 25th5.

At the very beginning, our police thought they were fighting ordinary criminals. Step by step, the police understood it had to fight a revolutionary Islamic network. The first anti-terrorist law was adopted in 1986 but other laws were also necessary, and the most important one was adopted in 2006 under President Nicolas Sarkozy. France has good secret services and specialized judges but they are not enough to win the war against terrorism for four important reasons.

France is engaged in wars everywhere in the Middle East and Africa (against Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, especially in Mali). The terrorist forces, first of all, the Islamic State, consider France as a priority enemy. The spokesman of the Islamic State Al Adnani said it was necessary to kill as many Frenchmen as possible, by all means. The technique which was employed last week in Nice, where the terrorist in a lorry killed 84 people during the National Holiday of July 14, was explicitly suggested by Al Adnani in the Islamic media. At the beginning the French media, to please the government, tried to present the attacker not as a terrorist but as an insane. The Islamic State claimed the Nice terrorist Mohamed Bouhlel was “a courageous soldier of the Islamic State”.

The second reason is that Islamic terrorists in France live among Islamic migrant communities like “a duck to water”. Former communist leader of China Mao Zedong once said that an efficient revolutionary must live inside the people like a fish in the water. We have millions of Muslims who live in big suburbs around Nice, Marseille or Paris, and are not integrated into the French society. These people are migrants who came for economic reasons, and very often illegally. They are not patriotic and a lot of them have no loyalty towards the French state. They are not terrorists at all but “partners in crime”, active or, in most of the cases, passive. They can provide a terrorist a bed and board, etc…

A poll showed that 27% of the Muslim residents are in favor (source: ICM 2014) of the Islamic State and think they understand terrorists acts or approved them because of the engagement of France against the Islamists in Syria, Libya or North Africa in general. The same situation is in the United Kingdom but not in Germany. There is a link between mass illegal immigration and the number of virtual terrorists in the country. The Nice terrorist was a migrant from Tunisia, he was condemned for violence by a French court, but remained in France. For that reason, President Sarkozy asked that criminals must be sent back to their countries of origin. According to Europol, there are 3000 people suspected of participating in the Djihad (Islamic war) in Europe. Thus, the fight against mass immigration is connected with the fight against terrorism.

The third reason is the insufficient number of officers in our special services, the police and the army as well. Until now, all political parties, except the National Front, were in favor of reducing the number of officers because of the budget department lobbying. Now, it is admitted that it was a mistake.

The fourth reason has the long-term significance. When my job was connected with the anti-terrorist fight, I often said that we had good secret services and good specialized justice against terrorism. But we failed to stop the recruitment of young Islamists, even in jails. My colleagues said that it was necessary to make them learn the “Republican values”, the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and principles of secularism. I always answered that you cannot fight a faith with cold and intellectual principles. When the Soviet Union fought against Hitler, Stalin did not say it was a fight for socialism but he asked to fight for Mother Russia. You can give your life for your family, your country or your God but not for “secularism” or for the “Republican Constitution”.

General De Gaulle knew this during World War 2. At the beginning of the Resistance, he created “La France Libre” (Free France) in London and did not want to use the motto “liberté, égalité, fraternité” (freedom, equality, fraternity) because he thought it was too political. He chose the motto “honneur et Patrie” (Honor and Fatherland), because they were transcendental values above the partisan ones.

Now, the French society is anomic, materialistic, without ideals and for that reason is weak to fight terrorism. At first, we are weak because we are not mentally trained to be combative in a situation of war. Secondly, we cannot attract young people to defend a materialistic and individualistic society without any ideals.

Now we are witnessing a new form of terrorism. In both cases, in Nice (France) and in Germany, the terrorist was alone. The press spoke about a lonely wolf. In the case of Nice, a man drove a lorry in the crowd along the sea on a famous “La promenade des Anglais”. The terrorist, Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, had problems with the local police for violence on the street. The police had no other information on him. But by studying his personal computer and messages in his cellphone, the police found he was in relations with Islamist friends. He consulted Islamist websites and especially most radical ones. He was a bit depressive but not crazy at all and prepared his attack carefully.

Terrorists are not completely alone and the idea of “lonely wolf” is very romantic but has little to do with real life. A terrorist cannot survive as a terrorist if he is completely isolated. He must be like the "fish in the water". An Islamist has no chances in countries like Japan or Poland where nobody shares his culture at all.

In Germany, a young man, named Riaz, refugee from Afghanistan, attacked numerous passengers in a train with a knife and an axe. He badly wounded some people. The result is not so bloody than in Nice but the terrorist was also alone as the Tunisian in France.

These sorts of people are difficult to detect but it is a mistake to think they are isolated crazy persons. In the modern world it is easy to be connected with networks without having physical contact with the partners in crime.

For that reason, I think that the war against terrorism will be a very difficult one: of course we can find the material means and recruit more officers and soldiers. But we are deficient in the spiritual field. It was not the case before World War I when patriotism was very strong, learnt in school and in books with heroic examples.

For that reason, I propose in my book “The Islamist Terrorism, a Revolutionary Threat” four things to do:

1/ To introduce a teaching of the history of France for everybody, at school and in the media. It would be a non-partisan teaching to root the values of France and patriotism in minds of the citizens, which is especially necessary in a democratic society.

2/ To reintroduce the obligatory military service which has been suppressed by President Jacques Chirac in 1996, and is considered today by the majority of the people as a big mistake. It could be voted in a referendum (article 11 of the Constitution).

3/ To create a National Guard to give to honest citizens the occasion to possess arms and help the police and the military forces. It existed in France from 1789 to 1871. It exists in the United States of America. President Putin decided to create such guard this year in Russia.

4/ To create a strong alliance between all forces against terrorism, including Russia which has a big experience in this field.

Today, I would add a fifth offer: to cancel the Schengen Agreement which forbids France to control its borders. The European Union proved to be unable to defend our border, so it is better to control our borders ourselves as the United Kingdom does.

But in the long run, the only way to stop the recruitment of new terrorists is to instill to the citizens the feeling of patriotism. It is not only an intellectual issue, as to teach history of France. It has to be done but it is necessary to have the will to defend the country as it was mentioned in the French national anthem from 1848 to 1871: “par la voix du canon d’alarme, la France appellee ses enfants, Allons! Dit le soldat “aux armes”, “c’est ma mère je la défends. Mourir pour la patrie, c’est le sort le plus beau ! » (by the voice of the alarm gun, France calls her children ; Come and take the arms says the soldier, it is my mother, and I defend her now ! To die by defending the country is the most beautiful destiny!”

The will to win this war is not only necessary for the government. In a democracy, it must be shared by the whole nation.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.