The seven savage killings of four Jews and three Muslims by French born Islamic radical Mohammed Merah is not only devastating for loved ones of the victims, but sad for the French nation as they confront the crisis of our time.
Merah, the son of Algerian immigrants, was born in France and raised in the Toulouse, where he would later commit his atrocities. He was one of the hundreds of thousands unemployed Muslim youth that reside in France. With a string of petty crimes and short prison record since his late teens, Merah traveled both Afghanistan and Pakistan where he completed his radicalization, which started from watching Jihadist videos on the internet. Merah explained his reasoning for murder was revenge for the death of Palestinian children, during whose executions Merah shouted “Allah Akbar” or “God is great”.
Merah may have been a lone wolf in the sense he did not have an accomplice in the physical murder, but he now has a cult following. One of those supporters is Abdelkader Merah, the older brother of the murder, who said he was, “proud” of his brothers actions. The elder Merah has been taken into custody after explosive materials were discovered in his car.
The political response has been completely tone deaf from the left-wing and centre-right spheres of French political parties. President Nicholas Sarkozy asked the people of France to come together in unity, while centrist candidate Francois Bayrou said, “because of their origin, of the religion of the family,” are linked “to a growing climate of intolerance”. Only a moderate could blame his own countrymen for intolerance after a radical Muslim carried out a plan to wipe out the infidels. Socialist candidate Francois Hollande wanted to immediately return to discussing the economy and austerity, when right-wing National Front leader Marine Le Pen said, “Islamic fundamentalist threat has been underestimated in our country and political-religious groups are developing due to a certain [laxity],” Hollande responded by calling Le Pen, “a vulture”.
The media was devastated when their first announcement that the killer was a white nationalist and supporter of Le Pen turned out to be incorrect.
Had Merah been a lone incident, had Paris not experienced car burnings during the past few summers and honor killings not becoming more and more frequent; the response by French politicians and media may have been acceptable.