Hate Killings Test France's Fragile Harmony
With a presidential election only a month away the country is faced with a difficult choice. Should it continue to pressure immigrants to conform to the French lifestyle, or back off to avoid confrontations.
The nation watched all day Wednesday and into the night to see what would happen to the Algerian-born Toulouse resident who has killed seven to revenge purported crimes against Muslims in Afghanistan, children in Palestine, and a new law banning women from wearing the full face veil.
The 24-year-old suspect, Mohammed Merah, reportedly confessed to killing three soldiers, a rabbi and three Jewish students. Authorities said records indicating he had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, possibly undergoing guerrilla training.
Some in France see the country repeating the role it played in 732, when Charles “The Hammer” Martell stopped the northward advance of the Moors cavalry in the Battle of Tours (Poitier).
France has more Muslims, nearly 5 million or almost 8 percent, than any other Western European nation. These killings could make any chance of the two sides achieving harmony a lost hope.
It also serves to support Western generals who claim Al Qaeda remains a threat to Christendom. An early barometer of how the country reacts could be how right-winger Marine Le Pen, an opponent of immigration from Islamic countries, does in polls.
Before the violence she was considered unlikely to make it to the second round of voting.