Homegrown jihadists, second to fifth generation offspring of migrant families, have been identified in sharia zones of the French Riviera. Just a mile or more from the opulent Nice coastline are impoverished housing estates where underemployed Islamic youths are bombarded by preachings of radical imams.
French Interior Ministry data show that the French Riviera’s Alpes-Maritimes area, including Nice and Cannes, known to be the playground of the rich, is one of France’s prime breeding grounds for homegrown jihadists. Authorities are monitoring over more than 200 people suspected of terrorist ties in the area that has contributed one in ten French volunteers for Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.
According to BBC, Islamic preachers have been targeting disaffected youths in the area’s sharia enclaves, and playing on resentments about local poverty and discrimination, to give a homegrown flavor to jihadists. The youths are told they would always be treated as foreigners in France.
Nice area youth worker Kamel claims that the Salafist ideology transformed into a homegrown code of behavior justifies the actions of petty criminals who assume the role of jihadists.
“The kids are told that they are in a land of unbelievers, so when they steal and attack people it is justifiable; the petty criminal is turned into a holy warrior, and is promised status, sexual gratification and eternal life.”
Northeastern Nice councillor Fatima Khaldi worries about the number of young homegrown Islamists who define themselves as Moroccan, Algerian, or Tunisian because such alienation turns them into jihadists.
“It’s worrying to see third, fourth or fifth-generation children who do not feel French. People like me, who are from the second generation, cannot understand that.”
According to Politico, a homegrown plot thwarted by police in 2014 was the result of jihadists acting up in the underbelly of the French Riviera. The same environment produced Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a 31-year-old Tunisian delivery man who lived in a housing development from which he emerged on Thursday, July 14, 2016, to kill 84 Bastille Day revelers by driving a truck through a cordoned-off boulevard.
France’s Muslims offer prayers in wake of Nice killings [Photo by Thierry Chesnot
In a report by the Independent, Peter Neumann of King’s College London alluded to the homegrown scenario of the Nice area being a jihadists’ breeding ground. The director of the college’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence casts doubt on border security as the complete solution.
“Securing the borders would have been some kind of solution in relation to the Paris attacks, where the attackers came from Belgium, but we will have to see in this particular case whether the attackers are from outside or actually from Nice. Because Nice, for anyone who has been following this, has been a jihadist breeding ground for a number of years. We’ve seen dozens of people going from Nice to the Islamic State, to Syria, and the first recorded attempted attack in Europe was very nearby in Cannes, so it’s likely the attackers are from within the vicinity, rather than abroad.”
Psychoanalyst Patrick Amoyel of “Entr’Autres,” a Nice-based association against homegrown radicalization, stresses that jihadists reach out to the House of Islam. In a memorable speech prior to the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, he made the following uncanny prediction.
“You can either wage Jihad by the tongue and by the mouth — that is ideological jihad — or by the hand and the sword. Those are the official categories of jihad. And jihad by the hand and the sword can be done here in France with cars and knives.”
According to Catholic Online, there are 751 “no-go” zones in France today. These so-called “no-go” zones are areas in France that the government does not control because they are Muslim-dominated neighborhoods. It is a locally known fact that non-Muslims dare not set foot into these homegrown clusters of jihadists where sharia is supreme.
Officially, the no-go zones are referred to as Zones Urbaines Sensibles (ZUS), or Sensitive Urban Zones. Statistics show that there is hardly a town in France that does not have this homegrown pod for jihadists.
Clinical psychologist Amelie Boukhobza thought of homegrown jihad as soon as she heard of a truck plowing through crowds on the Promenade des Anglais. Having worked with jihadists and their families in the area for more than a decade, she had this to say.
“Immediately, we knew that’s what we were dealing with. We knew that Nice would get hit; we were just not expecting it last night.”
The expert view is that homegrown jihadists have become a permanent fixture in the French Riviera.
[Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images]