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Nice and Avignon Islamist Attack and Far-Right Assault Destabilise France

Avignon, France: On October 29, 2020, a supporter of the far-right “Generation Identity” was short by police here after a failed terror attack. (Quelle: Flickr / Henri Sivonen / CC BY 2.0)

Europe is currently witnessing first-hand how the psychological pressure of the coronavirus pandemic mixes with conspiracy ideologies and discrimination, and how the propensity to violence is increasing in a wide variety of anti-democratic groups. Among ideologically entrenched groups, the strategy of constant harrowing attacks has a name: accelerationism (see Belltower.News). Violent attacks are intended to accelerate and advance the demise of the world as we know it and of democracy as a system. Depending on the ideology, an Islamist or fascist regime is then to emerge from the rubble.

Accelerationism: popular with Islamists and right-wing extremists

Perpetrators planning acts of terror motivated by Islamism or right-wing extremism in fact inspire each other and share each other’s instructions and strategies (see Belltower.News, ISD/Julia Ebner). Both ideologies focus not on the organisation of violence, but rather on fanatical supporters who become independently active when they perceive a pressure to act –  a pressure that ideological “masterminds” and “alternative” disinformation “media” continuously put in their minds. The individual deeds are not always spectacular but they do relay the deadly ideology.

In practical terms, this means that in addition to the threat of the deadly virus that the world is currently facing, there are acts of terror designed to shake democratic systems and values.

Incidents in Germany: Dresden and Berlin

In Germany, on October 4, 2020, a man was killed and his partner was seriously injured in an alleged homophobic attack by an Islamist in Dresden (see Belltower.News).

On October 25, 2020, there was an arson attack on a building in Berlin-Mitte, according to police reports, with a letter claiming responsibility by conspiracy-ideological “corona deniers”. The target of the attack is still unclear but could have to do with scientific research (see rbb). On the same day, “corona deniers” had already attacked a branch of the Robert Koch Institute (a research institute advising the public and government on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic) with an explosive device (see Belltower.News).

Incidents in France: Paris, Nice and Avignon

On October 16, 2020, France was shaken by the Islamist-motivated assassination of the teacher Samuel Paty, who was beheaded by an 18-year-old for showing Mohammed cartoons in a class on freedom of expression (see Spiegel). While French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron campaigned for freedom of expression at the memorial ceremony, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, for example, criticised this message – which comes across as a justification for the violent act.

Less than two weeks later, more violent terrorist acts occurred in France. In Nice on October 29, 2020, a 21-year-old Tunisian attacked people with a knife in the Catholic basilica of Notre Dame. Two women and the sexton of the church were killed and at least six others were injured. A 70-year-old woman and the sexton died in the cathedral, a 40-year-old woman was able to escape from the building, but then succumbed to her injuries (see Spiegel). Here too, the perpetrator seemingly tried to behead everyone. Among other things, he carried a Koran with him and shouted “Allahu akbar” during the attack (see RTL).

When the police prevented another act of violence in the village of Montfavet near Avignon a little later, the French media first declared that it was a second Islamist attacker who threatened passers-by with a pistol and was shot by the police. However, during the day, it emerged that this second perpetrator was not an Islamist but a supporter of the far-right organisation “Generation Identity” which started as the “Génération Identitaire” in France in 2011 (see Belltower.News) and continues to have many followers there.

Avignon: attacker was fan of “Identitarians”

One of them was the 33-year-old who charged at pedestrians with a pistol, including a black taxi driver according to witnesses. Because he did not want to drop his gun when the police approached him, police officers finally fired to prevent an act of violence. The 33-year-old assailant was fatally hit and died. For his attack, he had put on a jacket of the “Generation Identity” (see Independent, Ouest-France). The jacket was part of a racist “border control” action in the context of the 2018 “Defend Europe” campaign by “Identitarians” primarily from France, Germany, and Austria in the Alps (see Belltower.News).

The public prosecutor’s office has meanwhile confirmed that the attacker was indeed wearing such a jacket belonging to the “Identitarian” movement. According to reports by French researchers and journalists, the perpetrator is said to have announced his support for “Generation Identity” on social media. “Generation Identity” in France distanced itself from the perpetrator – as was to be expected. According to them, anyone could buy the jacket – whether this is true is still unclear – and they allegedly did not know the attacker.

See “IB Doku” on Twitter: https://twitter.com/IbDoku/status/1321847527998693376




“Identitarian” head Martin Sellner was quick to distance himself on Telegram: “Attack in Avignon – Generation Identity has nothing to do with it! This Thursday, October 29, the police shot a person – who was first portrayed as a jihadist by the press – under unclear circumstances. Apart from him, there are no more dead or injured in this incident. A couple of hours later, the media allege close ties to Generation Identity. After we inspected the photo which did the rounds on social media, we can confirm with certainty that this person has never been an activist or a known sympathiser of our organisation”

The trivialisation of ideology as “mental illness”

After the public prosecutor’s office had reported that the assailant had previously been in psychiatric treatment, this narrative was also adopted by the head of the “Identitarians”, Martin Sellner: The attacker was supposedly not an “Identitarian” fan, but mentally ill. Interestingly, this was a line of argumentation that was also adopted in media reporting: As long as an Islamist motivation was assumed, there was talk of a second terrorist attack. When the right-wing extremist motivation of the perpetrator became clear, “mental illness” suddenly became the focus of attention. The public prosecutor’s office even explicitly stated that there was no terrorist motive – although the political motivation of the perpetrator, who donned the jacket of a far-right group to commit a crime, should at least constitute grounds for investigation. In Germany, in light of the attacks in Hanau, there has recently been extensive public discussion that it is very much possible to have a far-right ideology and mental health problems at the same time: In fact, political ideology gives delusion a concrete goal (see Belltower.News).

“Identitarians” and terrorism

For the “Identitarians”, it is not the first act of terrorism seemingly in their name: Although these right-wing extremists always emphasise their “peaceful nature”, their conspiracy narrative of the “Great Replacement” has been invoked by, among others, the Christchurch shooter (2019) and the Halle attacker (2019); the Christchurch shooter had also made donations to “Generation Identity”.

Hate speech online incites attacks offline

In a Telegram chat of the French “Identitarian” leader Damien Rieu, French journalists found a short conversation with an as yet still unknown person, in which this person announced: “Thinking about attacking a mosque with a friend. Might result in two or three deaths.” The brief but not dismissive answer: “Don’t post this here.”

Conversation between French “Identitarians” about an attack on a mosque (Source: Twitter / Taha Bouhafs)

In France, right-wing extremists again increasingly called for Islamophobic violence after the murder of Samuel Paty – including in numerous postings and videos on social media. This can foster motivation and a sense of pressure to act and thus incite attacks.

It is clear at this point how acts of violence from the Islamist and far-right spectrums directly contribute to the aggravation of public discourses, the diminishing of differentiation, and thus to the momentum of accelerationism. So when Islamophobia and racist exclusion rise again after an Islamist attack, this, in turn, drives more people with experiences of discrimination into the hands of the Islamists. Only the combining of all democratic forces can help, taking decisive action against Islamism and right-wing extremism without drawing on blanket discrimination.

This article was originally published in German: https://www.belltower.news/nizza-und-avignon-islamistisches-attentat-und-rechtsextremer-angriff-destabilisieren-frankreich-105935/

The article image was published under the licence CC BY 2.0.



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