A backdrop to the massacre in Paris on Wednesday by self-professed al Qaeda terrorists is that city officials have increasingly ceded control of heavily Muslim neighborhoods to Islamists, block by block.
France has Europe’s largest population of Muslims, some of whom talk openly of ruling the country one day and casting aside Western legal systems for harsh, Islam-based Shariah law.
“The situation is out of control, and it is not reversible,” said Soeren Kern, an analyst at the Gatestone Institute and author of annual reports on the “Islamization of France.”
“Islam is a permanent part of France now. It is not going away,” Mr. Kern said. “I think the future looks very bleak. The problem is a lot of these younger-generation Muslims are not integrating into French society. Although they are French citizens, they don’t really have a future in French society. They feel very alienated from France. This is why radical Islam is so attractive because it gives them a sense of meaning in their life.”
While not a complete safe-haven for al Qaeda-type operatives, Paris and other French cities have become more fertile places for Muslim extremists in the past decade. City leaders have allowed virtual Islamic mini-states to thrive as Muslims gain power to govern in their own way.
“There are no-go areas not just in Paris, but all over France, where they are effectively in control,” said Robert Spencer, who directs JihadWatch.org, a nonprofit that monitors Muslim extremists.
“They’re operating with impunity, apparently secure in the knowledge that authorities cannot or will not act decisively to stop them,” he said. “And with the universal denial and obfuscation of the clear motive for the Charlie Hebdo attack, they have good reason to think that.”
The attackers who killed 12 people at the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo claimed to be members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen. Witnesses said they spoke perfect French, a strong indication that they are homegrown terrorists who received help from AQAP or another group.
Mr. Kern said the connection between the attack and the Islamization movement is that French jihadis are becoming bolder in trying to stamp out any criticism of Islam.
“What they are trying to do is shut down any sort of criticism of Islam, any sort of speech, cartoons, discussion, anything,” he said. “Essentially, the French government and the other European governments have lost control over the situation. It’s a snowball that is growing bigger and bigger, in particular over the past 10 years.”
Last year, AQAP put Charlie Hebdo editor and cartoonist Stephane Charbonnier on a “Most Wanted” poster for lampooning the Prophet Muhammad. He was among the 12 killed by hooded assailants firing assault rifles Wednesday morning at a weekly staff gathering.
The Middle East Media Research Institute reported that French jihadis on Twitter were openly chattering about how to retaliate against Charlie Hebdo for its comic book biography of Muhammad. One idea was to immediately start killing French nationals.
While French jihadis were plotting a wave of violence, Mr. Kern and the Gatestone Institute issued a report on the Islamization of France in 2013, and a follow-up in December.
The think tank, led by John R. Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said the country’s Muslim population last year reached 6.5 million, or 10 percent of its 66 million people. That makes France the European country with the largest Muslim minority.
Some Muslim activists gleefully predict that France will be a Muslim-majority country in the not-too-distant future.
“Who has the right to say that France in 30 or 40 years will not be a Muslim country? Who has the right in this country to deprive us of it?” said Marwan Muhammed, a spokesman for Collective Against Islamophobia in France.
Gatestone reports that an intelligence document leaked to Le Figaro said Muslims are creating a separate public school society “completely cut off from non-Muslim students.”
Over 1,000 French supermarkets are selling Islamic books that call for jihad and the killing of non-Muslims. A poll commissioned by the newspaper Le Monde last year found that 74 percent of French citizens view Islam as intolerant and as incompatible with French values.
Some French politicians are speaking out.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last year, “We are fighting terrorism outside of France, but we are also fighting an internal enemy since there are those French who fit into this process of radicalization. This enemy must be fought with the greatest determination.”
Said Mr. Kern, “Europe is very committed to multiculturalism. So any speech critical of Islam is immediately branded as being Islamophobic or racist or something like that. There’s not really an honest debate about what’s going on in Europe because the European elite have so much invested in this multicultural society that they’re trying to build.”