Editorials

The jihadists within

THEY ARE ONE: A woman holds a poster reading ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) during a vigil in London’s Trafalgar Square for victims of the terrorist attack in Paris on Jan. 7. There were similar demonstrations on Sunday in Paris.
THEY ARE ONE: A woman holds a poster reading ‘Je suis Charlie’ (I am Charlie) during a vigil in London’s Trafalgar Square for victims of the terrorist attack in Paris on Jan. 7. There were similar demonstrations on Sunday in Paris. GETTY IMAGES

The French, united — as Sunday’s march through Paris showed — will fight back, President François Hollande vowed after last week’s horrific massacre of journalists, police officers and civilians. They have to — their security is under threat. And so is that of the United States and the rest of the civilized world.

President Hollande made it clear to his nation that this horrible chapter is not over yet.

This brand of Muslim-inspired “retail terrorism,’’ the kind that erupts in malls, delis and other public spaces, cannot become the Western world’s new normal, and France has been thrust onto the front lines, as the United States was on that awful September day in 2001.

The French have not faced a bigger threat to their values since the Nazis occupied their country in 1940. But this is not an external enemy, it is an internal foe.

“We have to use force — but with solidarity,” President Hollande said, while discouraging racist attacks against followers of Islam, the religion that the extremists say guides them. Before they died in violent standoffs with police, they made it clear they were acting on behalf of the Prophet Mohammed.

They did terrible damage to a nation’s psyche: In a matter of three days, this “sleeper” terror cell of young, al Qaida-radicalized Parisian friends working in coordination shook the very foundation of their country. They attacked a nation’s freedom of expression with the Charlie Hebdo newspaper massacre; they executed two police officers; and they trampled on religion, including their own, by storming a kosher deli and murdering four hostages in an apparent act of anti-Semitism.

The United States and international community can’t look the other way. For once, maybe since 9/11, this terror attack doesn’t feel a world away to Americans. The United States and France have had each other’s backs from this nation’s founding to World War II. “The United States stands with France, one of our oldest allies,” said Mr. Obama. In the near future, we will see just what that entails.

The Paris attacks give rise to the age-old question sparked by random violence: What was the motivation of these three young men and a woman who grew up in France to attack their country? Were they disenfranchised, hopeless members of society?

In 2009, one of the terrorists, Amedy Coulibaly, 26, gave an interview to a French newspaper as part of a group of 500 youths meeting with the president to discuss youth unemployment. The snapshot of Coulibaly reveals an anger in his face that obviously grew. He died in a hail of police bullets Friday inside the kosher market.

Through the ages, disenfranchised youths seeking to belong have joined gangs or turned to drugs and crime. Now, a disturbing number, like the terrorist Kouachi brothers, turn to the Islamic State and al Qaida — home-grown terrorists, the jihadists within.

Islamic terror groups like IS, al Qaida and AQAP, its Yemen branch, which took credit for ordering the carnage at Charlie Hebdo, are competing for the hearts and minds of these disaffected youths. The United States is not immune. In 2009, the FBI zeroed in on what looked like terrorist groups’ mass recruitment of young Somali men — with U.S. passports — gone missing in Minnesota.

Israeli leaders often claim that Americans doesn’t get what it’s like to live with the fear of dying in a terrorist attack during the course of a mundane day. They’re right. And it’s more imperative than ever to ensure that we never know such fear.

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