02 Aug Paris Report: August 2016
REGINA is an international Magazine with correspondents on the ground in more than a dozen countries. Today, REGINA's Paris-based correspondent, 35, discusses the realities she is living today.
REGINA: What's happening now?
PARIS: There have been so many controversies about the last two terror attacks: the one in Nice, and early this week, while he was celebrating mass, a priest who was held hostage by two Islamist terrorists who finally cut his throat and tried to kill the other people attending this weekday mass. And now, the French police blog has reported that in Belgium, a couple days ago, a priest was stabbed to death by a Syrian migrant. But no word of it in the big French media, of course. Would anger people even more.
REGINA: And what is your government saying?
PARIS: And the French president is saying all has been done to protect us against Islamist terror.
REGINA: How are French people receiving this?
PARIS: That's like saying you citizens are potential targets and we, the country's leaders, will not do anything but sit and watch it happen.
REGINA: And what are the people saying about this?
PARIS: A country's leaders' first duty is to protect the country's citizens. Our leaders are so incompetent.
REGINA: What is the government response?
PARIS: They're saying things like, let's understand our Muslim brothers who are “the first victims” of terrorism. No kidding?! There's no word to adequately describe the government's attitude and rhetoric.
REGINA: One of the terrorists who beheaded the priest was under observation and had to wear a locator device, except for a few hours a day. It was during that time that he committed the atrocity. PARIS: The French government is only taking baby steps against terrorists. One of them in jail has been allowed a private cell with a private gym, because, so they say, he needs to be in good shape for his trial. Can you believe this? France is afraid of what the European Commission on Human Rights will say if it cracks down too hard on terrorists, on would-be terrorists, if they restrict freedoms too much for the sake of safety and security. Their philosophy right now is : better terrorists free to commit their crimes and thousands slaughtered than a few innocents surveilled or arrested by mistake.
REGINA: What do you think most French people are thinking, in their hearts?
PARIS: Those terrorists are France's enemy, or traitors when they're French and should be handled as such. But they're not because Muslims can't be stigmatized by France, in the name of Human Rights, but any of us, hundreds of us, honest non-Muslim citizens may be slaughtered, that's okay.
REGINA: Hungary’s prime minister has state unequivocally that they do not need migrants. Are any other countries also taking a different stance?
PARIS: Poland could not care less about what that European commission says about their practices, for the better. But we, the French, drape ourselves in virtue and good conscience, so we can't go against what the EU says we should do. Too bad if innocent citizens are killed because of that. The exception to this is the Corsicans. French leaders may be scared, but not in Corsica. There, the main organization for the independence of Corsica has publicly stated: if ISIS agents start killing Corsicans, we'll do the same to them. Not to say that that's the right thing to say and/or do. But many in France say well, at least they have guts.
REGINA: Where does the French Church stand in all of this?
PARIS: At the beginning of the current president's Hollande’s term, four years ago, his minister of Education said Catholicism was threatening democracy in France. Today the French Catholic church is saying to its flock: let's love those who are slaughtering us.
REGINA: Nothing else?
PARIS: No. Nothing like ‘this is just intolerable, awful, horrible, we are so damn mad, those terrorists are evil.’
REGINA: What do French Catholics in the pews think about what the Church hierarchy is saying?
PARIS: The Pope least of all. Our priests, bishops and archbishops are offering us in sacrifice. That's as simple as that.
REGINA: We hear the same thing.
PARIS: Okay, when you're Christian, talking of love and peace makes sense even in the worse situations. But damn it, at least say something to condemn the evil and those who're committing it, to say you understand your flock's outrage. No. Nothing.
On TV, one priest even said we should consider forgiving. Really ? The Church will not allow the divorced and remarried to go to communion, for example, but as a terrorist, especially if you slaughter a priest, you may be forgiven, just like that? Plus, nobody has asked for forgiveness.
REGINA: We hear the same thing.
PARIS: But to be fair, I have read about one army chaplain and the bishop to the French armed forces who have said things to the effect that it's never said in the Scriptures that Christ is against all violence. Accepting to be crucified is very violent. Christ has kicked the merchants out of the temple. Violence may be legitimate when you use it to defend yourself, your loved ones, your country. It has never been asked of Christians to offer themselves, their priests, their children in sacrifice to evil. But those who dare say such things are not the priests or bishops interviewed in the media.
REGINA: This morning, our Facebook friends reported, “Three police guarding a packed Mass in Cannes, France.” Have you seen this or heard this from anyone?
PARIS: Soldiers standing guard in front of churches is useless. Those terrorists do not care. Nothing will deter them from killing, taking their own lives or being killed and die as martyrs as they say.
REGINA: English-speaking media is blaring that Muslims are attending Catholic masses ‘in solidarity' today. Have you seen this or heard this from anyone?
PARIS: On Sunday, imams invited Muslims to attend mass in solidarity with Catholics. Many people are not sure what to think of that. And then, they are doing that now, but did they express solidarity with the Jews when that Islamic terrorist entered a Jewish school in Paris and slaughtered children? Did they express solidarity when three French soldiers were shot down near their base? They did not.
REGINA: France has a huge Muslim population. Is no one speaking up about this travesty?
PARIS: On a radio (RMC) talk show, a listener called to say he was Muslim and as such was so mad at France's being way too kind with the Islamic terrorists, that he's sick and tired of terrorists being so well treated, that in Algeria or Morocco, they would be treated as the worst criminals. Hopefully, many Muslims think the same. We don't know as there's often what is said to the media, and what is really thought.
REGINA: What has the government done vis a vis stopping the spread of radical Islam?
PARIS: They say they have been closing mosques where radical imams are preaching. You know what? They close these mosques for some time, and then you learn in the press that the same mosques have been allowed to re-open. Yesterday, there was a meeting between the minister of the Interior and imams' representatives: the latter promised for the umpteenth time to reform their practices. They have been promising that for years, but nothing has been done. And, say some specialists, they can't change the Koran, anyway.
REGINA: What do you read into the actions of the current French government?
PARIS: Our leaders are scared of being labeled racists, anti-Muslims, extremists, politically incorrect, etc. Too bad if that kills thousands of citizens. Finally, there are people who say that it makes sense that the Church does want to make things worse by having harsh words on Islam or Muslims. The Church and the government are scared of one thing: that a clandestine organization will start acting against Muslims or even that there will be civil war.