If a group of Jewish or Christian terrorists in Algeria, Egypt or Saudi Arabia had committed the same kind of stabbings, car-rammings, throat-slittings and shootings that France and Germany are suffering now, they would have provoked an immediate reaction. Tens of thousands -- maybe hundreds of thousands -- of enraged Muslims would have rushed into the streets to kill, stab or eviscerate the first group of Jews or Christians they met. Within 24 hours, no church or synagogue would be able to open its doors: all of them would have been burned to cinders.
These words are not to stigmatize anyone; they are meant to explain what terrorists want. According to Gilles Kepel, professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies and a specialist of Islam, "ISIS calls for stabbing dirty and evil French people... because they want to trigger a civil war." Muslim terrorists behind the wave of terrorist attacks apparently assume that thousands of French, Germans or Belgians will rush out into the streets, as they would do themselves, to kill, stab or eviscerate Muslims. Muslim sponsors of terrorism may not even be able to imagine that Europeans may not wish to participate in the pleasure of bloodthirsty riots.
The fact is that even if millions of Arabs and Muslims live in Europe today, Europeans are not Arabs and do not act as Arabs do. Westerners in Europe have delegated the "legitimate use of physical force" -- commonly, if controversially, known as the "monopoly on violence" -- to the State.
Max Weber, in his 1919 essay, "Politics as a Vocation", claims that the State is any "human community that claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory." In other words, Weber describes the State as any organization that succeeds in having the exclusive right to use, threaten, or authorize physical force against residents of its territory ("Gewaltmonopol des Staates").
For French and Germans citizens, the mission of the State is to fight Islamist terrorists -- harshly if necessary. But today, instead of the "legitimate violence" of the State, German and French citizens are encountering only denial. The State keeps denying that Islamist crimes are being openly committed in its territory. This denial comes in different forms:
1. The Real Victim is the Terrorist.
From Britain's BBC: "Syrian Migrant Dies in German Blast."
From Le Monde: "Germany: A Syrian Refugee Dies While Causing an Explosion in Front of a Restaurant in Bavaria" (Allemagne : un réfugié syrien meurt en provoquant une explosion devant un restaurant en Bavière). The headline (which has since been changed) is not about the diners in the restaurant who were targeted by the suicide bomber. The headline is about a victim, who is "the author of the explosion". This "victim" -- apparently only incidentally an Islamist criminal, according to this narrative -- may have had a good reason to seek revenge! He was, after all, "a Syrian refugee whose entry into Germany was denied by the administration." He was not deported for humanitarian reasons. The journalist barely mentions the 15 victims wounded, some severely, in the explosion. There is only one victim, the author of the suicide attack, which some journalists implied was not really a suicide attack, but maybe only a suicide. The man had history of psychiatric problems, after all.
According to the Wall Street Journal: "He was known to police and had been treated twice after trying to take his own life, Mr. Herrmann [the Bavarian Interior Minister] said. He was also known because of a previous drug misdemeanor, a police spokeswoman said."
In short, the killer is not a killer but a poor, sick, young man.
2. He Was Not an Islamist, Just a Lunatic. Ali Sonboly, the 18-year-old German-Iranian gunman who murdered nine people at a Munich shopping mall on July 25 may be an Islamist killer, but he was more surely psychotic. According to Reuters:
"Materials found at the gunman's home also showed he had been hospitalized for psychiatric care for three months around the same time, and was an avid player of violent video games, the officials told a news conference".
Immediately after the attack, officials said the murderer was not an Arab but an Iranian -- but that would simply make him a Shi'ite Muslim. According to Walid Shoebat, a Palestinian-American who converted to Christianity from Islam, "Sonboly is no Iranian. He is Syrian. His Facebook page showed that he is pro-Turkey's Islamists". However, even more bizarrely, some officials and media outlets said that Sonboly was inspired by the far-right Norwegian terrorist, Anders Breivik.
3. The Problem Is Not Islam or Islamism, but Too Many Guns on the Black Market. "German politicians have signaled that they will review the country's gun laws, after a troubled 18-year-old was able to use a 9mm handgun and amass 300 rounds of ammunition in a shooting that left nine dead in Munich," according to The Guardian.
4. The Victims Are Responsible for Their Own Murders. In Nice, France, after Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel murdered more than 80 people by driving a 19-ton truck into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day, Julien Dray, a Socialist MP, said,
"The fireworks... It is a popular festival, there are families, children; it is often the only party that these children have, and so people are eager to go, and often checkpoints are removed to help the flow, because people do not want to wait, they want to leave, and that is unfortunately, is the time there may be a problem. "
5. The Attacker "Self-Radicalized" Rapidly. Even if the State is at fault, it found a good excuse to explain incompetence and lack of foresight: the terrorist "self-radicalized" so quickly that he was undetectable. The daily Le Figaro reported:
It seems that the perpetrator of the Nice attack "radicalized very quickly." Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called it "a new type of attack" that "demonstrates the extreme difficulty of combating terrorism."
Cazeneuve added that Bouhlel, the Tunisian attacker, "was not known to the intelligence services."
6. ISIS Is Not Islamist; It Is a Right-Wing Organization. We can sleep soundly, we are advised. The terrorists, we are told, are not Islamists but Fascists. "In claiming to be part of Daesh [ISIS], the two assassins show once again the bloody nature of this right-wing sect with policies that are racist, anti-Semitic, sexist and homophobic," wrote SOS Racisme, an NGO financed by France's Socialist government in a bid to seduce Muslim voters.
No doubt the next attacks will produce new and interesting explanations of this type whose aim is to reassure people.
Europeans have delegated to the State the exclusive right to use violence against criminals. But Europeans, especially in France and Germany, are discovering that some kind of "misunderstanding" seems actually to be at work. Their State, the one that has the monopoly on violence, does not want to be at war with its Islamist citizens or residents. Worse, the State gives off the feeling that it is afraid of its Muslim citizens.
The question now is: if the State does not want to fight Islamists murderers; if the State does not want to shut down Salafist mosques, deport hate preachers, and break the alliance between Islamists and organized criminals in the no-go zones of France and Germany; if the only solution proposed by President François Hollande is to "remain united", unfortunately it will not work. "They attacked democracy," Hollande said, "democracy will be our shield."
"The concept of the rule of law means that the citizen is protected from the arbitrariness of the State. The same legal barriers cannot be used to protect those who want to kill citizens and destroy the res publica [republic]. ... Currently, the rule of law protects the attackers above all".
Yves Mamou, based in France, worked for two decades as a journalist for Le Monde.