Patrick Kanner, France's Minister for Urban Areas, was undoubtedly not planning to tell the truth on March 27.
He was on the set of Europe 1 TV to emphasize the left's credo: Islamist terrorism is rooted in poverty and unemployment. But they asked one question again and again: "How many Molenbeeks are in France?" Finally, he said: "There are today, we know, a hundred neighborhoods in France that present potential similarities with what has happened in Molenbeek."
Molenbeek, as the entire world knows today, is the neighborhood of Brussels that has become the epicenter of jihad in Europe. It is a neighborhood under Salafist control that sent three of its residents to assassinate hundreds of people in Paris on November 13, 2015. These are the residents of the same neighborhood that bombed the Brussels airport and the Maalbeek Metro station.
The Molenbeek neighborhood of Brussels has become the epicenter of jihad in Europe. Abdelhamid Abaaoud (right), mastermind of the November 2015 attacks in Paris, lived in Molenbeek. Amedy Coulibaly (left), who in January 2015 murdered a policewoman and four Jews in Paris, spent time in Molenbeek.
The reactions to Kanner's statement have not been slow. The first secretary of the Socialist Party, Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, accused Kanner of "dissolving national harmony." Julien Dray, another leading figure of the Socialist Party, also criticized Kanner, telling him: "I do not like it when we stigmatize [people]."
Nonetheless, Kanner will not let himself be intimidated. In a March 28 interview in Le Parisien, he recalled,
"Amedy Coulibaly [the killer in the Hyper Cacher attack], who was from the Grande-Borne à Grigny, Mehdi Nemmouche [the Brussels Jewish Museum killer], who passed through the Bourgogne neighborhood in Tourcoing. and Mohamed Merah, who was from the Mirail neighborhood in Toulouse."
Malek Boutih, Socialist Deputy, came to Kanner's aid. He declared,
"It is the first time that a minister of the suburbs says even a little bit of the truth, namely that the ghettos have transformed, little by little, into zones that we cannot control very well... Neighborhoods that are incubators for terrorists."
Samia Ghali, a Senator from Bouches du Rhones (Socialist Party), echoed the statements of the Minister for Urban Areas: "There are training camps in the neighborhoods of Marseille where people are learning to shoot." She adds, "I've gotten to the point of asking if we should build walls to protect schoolyards from Kalashnikov bullets or from rifles finding their way into the school yard."
Gilles Kepel, professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies, and one of the best experts on Islamism in France, explained in early April that three ingredients are necessary for making a Molenbeek:
"1) A strong system of crime organized around kif [a type of marijuana]; 2) Hideouts for terrorists and sites where they can stock weapons; 3) Local politicians who accept that the Salafists have opened countless uncontrollable mosques."
These three ingredients would be uniformly present in all 100 French Molenbeeks, added Kepel. But the goal of the Salafists, he adds, is actually to seize neighborhoods in order to wage a "enclave war."
Patrick Kanner, the Minister for Urban Areas confirmed this view: "The Salafists want to take the power in these neighborhoods." The gravity of the situation was recently underscored by Prime Minister Manual Valls: a fundamentalist "minority," he said, is about to win "the ideological and cultural battle" over Islam.
The Salafists, in fact, do not want to "take the power in these neighborhoods." In many, they already have it.
On January 27, the magazine Paris-Match dedicated several pages to the neighborhood Reine-Jeanne in Avignon, a large city in the south of France, where the Salafists have systematically exploited half a million Muslims.
"The farther I walked between the buildings, the more I was stunned. A courtyard of Islamist miracles, a Salafist pocket, an enclave that wants to live like during the times of Muhammad. Bakery, hairdresser, building managers, teenagers. All (or almost) overcome with the Koran. Well, their Koran. It's a mini Islamic Republic.
"During the sermons, they denounce, they criminalize. A woman who smokes? A degenerate. A woman who does not veil herself? A tease. A man that does not eat halal? He has an express ticket to hell. That female neighbor, the one who is divorced, with three kids, and works with men? She will end up losing her virtue. She should just give up. In order to not pass for an 'easy woman,' the unlucky choose the hard life, welfare benefits!"
In Sevran, a suburb of Paris, the Salafist mosque was sealed off several weeks ago because it had been recruiting a dozen young Muslims for the Islamic State. Six may have already been killed in Syria. Nadia Remadna, a Muslim social worker, lives in Sevran. She started the local "Mothers' Brigade" to help women keep control over their children, against the Islamists. In 2014, she wrote the provocative book, How I Saved My Children, with the sub-title "Before, we feared our children would fall in with delinquents. Now, we fear they will become terrorists."
On March 14, Remadna received a death threat over the phone: "We know where your kids go to school," and "your daughter is very pretty."
The next day, a delegation of completely veiled Salafist "true Muslim mothers" came and told her, "We want mosques, not schools."
On March 29, the philosopher Yves Michaud spoke to the magazine Paris Match about his students:
"My ex-students who teach today in the suburbs... tell me that among their students they have some who could become terrorists overnight. They take on the weight of Islam, of adolescence, of the ghettoization that makes them question their identity, of cultural disorientation. It is an ideal breeding-ground for the jihadist calling."
How many Salafists are there in France? 15,000 to 20,000, according to Bernard Godard, former head of the Bureau of Religion for the Ministry of the Interior. According to the politician Antoine Sfeir, there are 20,000 to 30,000 Salafists. According to police sources, out of 2,500 listed Islamic places of worship in metropolitan France, at least 90 are Salafist. The number doubles every three years. They are located in the suburbs of Paris, in the Lyon region and in Marseille.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, 41 Islamic places of worship have been the target of "infiltration," meaning that "traditional" imams are being forcibly evicted and replaced by Salafist imams.
The real question is: If the state is aware of the situation -- and it is -- why has it not banned Salafism, and why does it not expel the Salafist imams who are prospering not only in these neighborhoods, but also on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter?
Yves Mamou, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.