Are we ready to go beyond labels and hashtags and find real answers?
One and a half million Parisians, joined by 40 world leaders, turned out Sunday to pay tribute to the 17 victims of the three attacks last week and in solidarity against Islamic terrorism. The unity they displayed certainly was the best response to terrorism.
But was it necessary to wait until 17 people were shot dead to achieve this: to see millions of citizens from all backgrounds, religions, political parties, march peacefully in the streets of Paris and other European cities, singing the Marseillaise, proud to be French without being accused of radicalism? Even the police did not hide their surprise at being applauded by the crowd.
Yes, we had to touch bottom in the bloodiest way in order to bounce back and face a blank page upon which we can write… write what? No one knows yet, while thousands of innocent people are being slaughtered daily by Boko Haram in Nigeria, or by Daesh in Iraq or Syria, and while thousands of apprentice jihadists are among us, maybe ready to take action like the three terrorists killed this week, or maybe not.
In the history of France, January 11, 2015, will remain the date of an unprecedented rally against terrorism, a rare picture of solidarity, brotherhood and unity in adversity. It also proved that despite the picture of 40 leaders with arms locked, the French did not wait for the politicians’ invitation to express their emotions in the street, in a mix of tears and solemnness.
But in order for January 11 to become historic, France first had to experience three days of bloodshed. France is at war. The national tribute does not silence the fears of either the Jewish community (the number of departures to Israel having doubled between 2013 and 2014) or the general population. Because the fight against what we call tastefully, with our politicians’ sense of sophistication, "foreign fighters" (or, "Daesh," rather than "Islamic State," "terrorist" instead of "Islamist") forces us to highlight a real French fiasco.
In a few months France has become by far the leading European provider of fighters to the Middle East—young people in search of an identit, fanaticized, used, who massacre civilians and soldiers and fight even our own troops in Iraq. Young people who have returned to France as easily as they left it. How can we forget the ridiculous scene of the young men arriving back from Jihad, surprised at not having been arrested on their arrival in Marseille (supposedly because of an outdated computer system), giving themselves up to the police? The ex-foreign fighters: how many divisions are there? They are so numerous that the resources and staff of our intelligence forces, who have identified about 1,000 (how many are they, really?), would not be able to track or monitor them all. Let’s just hope, unlike the ones that took action in recent days, we are watching the right ones…
Almost a year ago, the world was moved by the kidnapping of nearly 200 girls by Boko Haram. A hashtag went around the world (#BringBackOurGirls). They never returned. Today, it’s #JeSuisCharlie that has moved the world and made us rally round in a surge of solidarity typical of immediate and fleeting emotion, stirred up by social networks. But to rebuild national pride, a “living together” that has been fragmented, and educate a generation without bearings will require much more than a march and a hashtag.
Now that tomorrow has come, what future are we, each in our own way, going to draw on this blank page?
Judikael Hirel is the managingeditor of Aleteia’s French edition.This article originally appeared on January 11.