By Andrew C. McCarthy — November 18, 2015
Hooded police officers detain a man in Saint-Denis, near Paris. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
The jihad is raging in Paris. President Hollande repeatedly declares that France is at war, and press reporting has highlighted the French military’s combat operations against ISIS in Syria.
But what the French are most worried about — and what the Obama-friendly media are happy to gloss over while the president is pushing to import thousands of Middle Eastern Muslims into our country — is fifth-column activity, meaning French Islamists supportive of violent jihadists.
Early Wednesday morning, French police conducted a raid in Saint-Denis, on the northern edge of Paris, where operatives of the jihadist enemy were holed up in an apartment. In the ensuing shootout involving several jihadists, Kalashnikovs were fired at police who stormed the hideaway. A woman detonated an explosive suicide vest. Several police were wounded; the woman and a male terrorist were killed.
Breaking reports indicate that the male may be Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the 27-year-old ISIS operative believed to be the mastermind of Friday’s mass-murder attacks. The woman is believed to be Abaaoud’s cousin.
So why did the jihadists end up in Saint-Denis? Because it is a notorious Islamic enclave, though you wouldn’t know it from the mainstream American media. The terrorists are in Saint-Denis because they know they have the support — or at least the indulgence — of a large, studiously assimilation-resistant Muslim population.
The New York Times describes the location where the terrorists dwelled as “the medieval heart of the northern Paris suburb of St.-Denis.” Its report on the raid elaborates that Saint-Denis is “a city of 118,000 people . . . known for its melting pot population and large Muslim community, as well as a Gothic basilica where many French monarchs are buried.” You get the impression that, notwithstanding a large number of Muslims, we’re talking about a diverse town redolent of French tradition and history.
Yet, we also discover that somehow, despite a continent-wide manhunt, Abaaoud and Salah Abdeslam, another jihadist complicit in Friday’s attacks, may have been in Saint-Denis all along.
The reason for this is implicit in the Times report, but you have to look hard:
Djamila Khaldi, a 54-year-old cashier who lives near the basilica, was preparing to take her daughter to the airport when the gunfire erupted.
Ms. Khaldi said she was not surprised the police had tracked the suspects to the neighborhood. She said a friend of hers believed she had seen one of the wanted men, Salah Abdeslam, on Monday. “She was terrified, and she looked at another woman knowing that she recognized him too,” Ms. Khaldi said. “They did not dare to go to the police.”
But why not go to the police like good French citizens?
The Gatestone Institute’s Soeren Kern provides some insight. Earlier this year, he bored into the controversy over “no-go” zones in Europe and found academic research, directed by the highly respected political scientist Giles Kepel, which documents:
dozens of French neighborhoods “where police and gendarmerie cannot enforce the Republican order or even enter without risking confrontation, projectiles, or even fatal shootings.” Some of the most notorious no-go zone areas in France are situated in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis, a northeastern suburb (banlieue) of Paris that has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims in France.
Looking at the entire department of Seine-Saint-Denis (which includes the aforementioned suburb where the terrorists were staying), the research paper noted that, out of a population of 1.4 million, there are 600,000 Muslims, mostly immigrants from North and West Africa. Kern’s distillation of the paper’s conclusions is worth quoting at length:
Seine-Saint-Denis is divided into 40 administrative districts called communes (townships), 36 of which are on the French government’s official list of “sensitive urban zones” or ZUS [i.e., “no-go” zones.] . . . [It] has one of the highest unemployment rates in France; more than 40% of those under the age of 25 are jobless. The area is plagued with drug dealing and suffers from some of the highest rates of violent crime in France.
In October 2011, a landmark 2,200-page report, “Banlieue de la République” (Suburbs of the Republic) found that Seine-Saint-Denis and other Parisian suburbs are becoming “separate Islamic societies” cut off from the French state, and where Islamic Sharia law is rapidly displacing French civil law. The report said that Muslim immigrants are increasingly rejecting French values and instead are immersing themselves in radical Islam. . . .
France — which now has 6.5 million Muslims (the largest Muslim population in the European Union) — is on the brink of a major social explosion because of the failure of Muslims to integrate into French society. . . . [T]he problem is being exacerbated by radical Muslim preachers, who are promoting the social marginalization of Muslim immigrants in order to create a parallel Muslim society in France that is ruled by Sharia law.
The research was primarily carried out in the Seine-Saint-Denis townships of Clichy-sous-Bois and Montfermeil, two suburbs that were ground zero for Muslim riots in the fall of 2005, when Muslim mobs torched more than 9,000 cars.
The report described Seine-Saint-Denis as a “wasteland of de-industrialization” and said that in some areas, “a third of the population of the town does not hold French nationality, and many residents are drawn to an Islamic identity.”
Another township of Seine-Saint-Denis is Aubervilliers. Sometimes referred to as one of the “lost territories of the French Republic,” it is effectively a Muslim city: more than 70% of the population is Muslim. Three quarters of young people under 18 in the township are foreign or French of foreign origin, mainly from the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. French police are said to rarely venture into some of the most dangerous parts of the township.
Looking at France as a whole, Kern further observes that there has been no shortage of Internet traffic suggesting, for example, “the killing of France’s ambassadors, just as the manly Libyan fighters killed the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi.” The torching of automobiles that grabbed public attention in 2005 has settled into a commonplace rarely covered in the press, with as many as 40,000 cars burned annually.
Perhaps most alarmingly, more than a thousand French Muslims, more than from any other Western country, are estimated to have traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS. That means many will return to the country as trained, battle-hardened jihadists — just as one of last Friday’s attackers is suspected of having done.
Now, let’s move beyond direct ISIS participants and consider the ISIS support system. Recent polling found that 16 percent of French citizens express some degree of support for ISIS. That is alarming, but how surprised should we be to hear it? Nearly a decade ago, when the Muslim population was significantly smaller than it is now, Pew polling indicated that 35 percent of French Muslims believed suicide bombings of civilian targets to defend Islam could be justified at least some of the time (16 percent said “often or sometimes,” and 19 percent said “rarely”).
This last is the point to bear in mind as President Obama continues to demagogue opponents of his plan to keep importing thousands of refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East.
Many Beltway Republicans miniaturize the problem this plan presents. Stating the obvious, they argue that our government cannot conceivably vet these immigrants. Therefore, the argument goes, we cannot figure out who is a legitimate refugee and who is an ISIS terrorist — like the suicide jihadist, believed to be from Syria, who recently entered Europe with the tide of immigrants and helped carry out last week’s attacks in Paris.
But identifying terrorists is not the half of it. The bigger challenge is the infiltration of a population of people schooled to resist assimilation. As I’ve explained a number of times, including in Islam and Free Speech (a Broadside published by Encounter Books after the Charlie Hebdo massacre), highly influential Islamic leaders are embarked on a conquest strategy referred to as “voluntary apartheid”: the establishment of sharia enclaves that would eventually merge into an Islamic state that dominates Europe and the United States.
Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, regarded by many, including the Muslim Brotherhood, as the world’s most respected sharia jurist, instructs Muslims that the “quest for an Islamic state” calls for integrating into Europe and then pressuring Western leaders to accept a Muslim “right to live according to our faith — ideologically, legislatively, and ethically.” The Organization of Islamic Cooperation — a bloc of 56 Muslim countries (plus the Palestinian Authority) — has decreed that “Muslims should not be marginalized or attempted to be assimilated, but should be accommodated.” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey who has systematically dismantled that country’s secular, pro-Western system, similarly pronounces that pressuring Muslims to assimilate in the West “is a crime against humanity.”
On immigration, our national-security challenge is not limited to keeping Islamist terrorists out. It demands the exclusion of populations that breed, encourage, aid, abet, and materially support Islamist terrorism, particularly Islamists themselves: Muslims who adhere to an interpretation of Islam that promotes the sharia system of governance. That interpretation is mainstream in the places from which Obama, Hillary Clinton, and other Washington politicians want us to accept immigrants by the thousand.
Like us, France has a big problem in Syria. Unlike us, France has a bigger problem in Saint-Denis. When we can see how that problem is rending French society, why would we voluntarily replicate it here?
— Andrew C. McCarthy is a policy fellow at the National Review Institute. His latest book is Faithless Execution: Building the Political Case for Obama’s Impeachment.