The shootings in south west France were, it appears, the work of a young Algerian Muslim, who had been trained in camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and was one of the prisoners who escaped from Kandahar prison in a Taliban jailbreak.
No one can justify such attacks, which have seen the killing of Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi, and of French soldiers of North African and Caribbean descent.
But nor should anyone be in any doubt that this act cannot be explained as an isolated hate crime, or the deed of one fanatic. It is the terrible and disastrous outcome of a series of policies which could have been avoided and which now risk making the situation even worse.
Firstly there have been the years of racism against Muslims in France. The current presidential election campaign has seen incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy whip up a racist storm in an attempt to win votes from the far right National Front. He attacked those who were not French, inferred that the French were being forced to eat halal meat.
The ban on women wearing the hijab in school, the high rates of unemployment among North African descent youth, the police repression in the banlieues which surround France’s major cities, have all contributed to this wave of racism. Sarkozy now appeals for unity but he has spent recent weeks creating disunity between races.
The shooting at the Jewish school in Toulouse on Monday took place on the 50th anniversary of the end of the Algerian war for independence, a war which still has a bitter legacy of racism and colonialism in France.
The recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were supposed to end terrorism. Instead terrorism has grown around the world. The grievances over the wars have lengthened in the past ten years. The continued occupations of mainly Muslim countries, the inability to deal with the question of the Palestinians, the current threats to Iran, and perhaps most importantly the growing number of deaths of civilians in Afghanistan, have all fuelled this sense of grievance.
The killing of 16 Afghan civilians at the hands of a US soldier two weeks ago was treated with much less outrage than the French killings, leading to the perception that Afghan lives are worth less than those of westerners.
Former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham Buller, in evidence at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war said that intelligence services had warned the British government that these wars would exacerbate terrorism not decrease it.
Those who supported the wars are like the Bourbons - they learn nothing and forget nothing. Their response to this terrible act will be more justification for wars, more money spent on the military and weaponry, more surveillance of Muslims, more support for extensions of the war to ‘root out terrorism’.
They will also continue to treat Muslims as second class citizens, increasing restrictions on what they can wear or how they behave. Islamophobia is not some aberration in France: it stems directly from the support for imperialist wars and the legacy of colonial rule.
The way to end the terror attacks would be to find a political solution to the grievances and injustices which give rise to it in the first place. Fat chance of Sarkozy, Cameron and the rest even thinking about that.
From Stop the War site
In the parks, halls and public spaces around Kings Cross
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