Opinion: Reflecting on the Toulouse murders

Addressing an audience of more than a thousand expatriate Iranians in Paris last Saturday, former Attorney General Michael Musasey praised the Iranian Resistance’s leader Maryam Radjavi, a known Muslim political leader, for having “opened the session by extending her sympathy to the Jewish community of Toulouse” over the violent killing of three schoolchildren and a rabbi last week in the city. 

The Iranian resistance’s leader was not the only Muslim figure condemning last week’s brutal killings at the Ozar Hatorah school.  Virtually all Muslim institutions in France condemned the attack, beginning with the highest such authority, the French Council of the Muslim Faith. A large number of Islamic associations followed by issuing statements of condemnation; especially stressing that prior to the school shooting, the killer had shot three Muslim French parachutists in separate incidents.

The strong unity shown by the Muslim and Jewish communities in the sad affair is valuable. It should however not hide social grounds inspiring such acts, isolated for the time being, but threatening to jeopardize the fragile unity if not cured properly. In fact, the shocking event was condemned with different perspectives in mind.

Condemning the killing of three Jewish schoolchildren and three Muslim parachutists as a whole can be misleading, especially by organizations who have in the recent past attacked other moderate Muslims in the country for “being too friendly towards Jews”. The schoolchildren were massacred because of their faith, but the three parachutists were killed simply because they were military personnel. The groups condemning the affair have differed considerably on the same issue before the sad happening.

Imam Hassan Chalgoumi, known for his open and conciliatory position towards other faiths including the Jewish, has been attacked continuously by individuals having founded an association named Cheikh Yassin. The violent group used to come to his mosque in the city of Drancy, north of Paris, on a daily basis, asking for his physical elimination. The imam was granted government protection after the death threats, but the group and its leader remain at large, organizing similar demonstrations elsewhere.  Queer enough, a lot of TV coverage was given to the group’s protests against the moderate Imam on the Arabic emission of Iranian regime’s television, with the main protesters hailing the Iranian president’s anti-Israeli positions in interviews with the TV.

In elections to the European Parliament in 2009, a party code-named Anti Zionist Party presented a list of candidates, who made the “tour de France” on a chartered bus diffusing anti-Israeli propaganda. Several candidates of the said “party” had good relations with Iran, and later made paid trips to that country and where received by no less a person than the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The same party has presented a candidate for the 2012 presidential elections, who apparently has difficulties collecting the 500 endorsements by local elected authorities needed for a candidate to stand national presidential elections. The anti-Israeli propaganda, inspiring hatred against the Jews is ongoing all the same whether there are enough endorsements or not. In fact, a Web site supporting his case is full of Iranian regime’s propaganda, from Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent common speech in Caracas to the obituary for Ahmadinejad’s father in Iran to Iran’s supreme leader’s call to violence addressed to the world’s Muslims prior to the Haj assembly. No surprise that no condemnation of the Toulouse killings appeared on the site.

The laissez-faire attitude in the country towards fundamentalist, even violent movements is coming to attention more and more.

As shocking as the news of the incident itself, a teacher in the north of the country asked her students to observe a moment’s silence for the man who gunned down the three children and the rabbi in Toulouse. The education minister was obliged to call for disciplinary proceedings against her. The request prompted most of the students to empty out of the classroom, but the sordid event shows how grounds are prepared for such atrocities.

In her speech in the Paris gathering, the Iranian resistance’s leader reiterated that “this tragedy is the functionality of fundamentalism under the guise of Islam.”  As the only country with such a fundamentalist Islamic trend in power in it is Iran, the opposition recommends “an alternative based on a democratic and tolerant Islam” as the only remedy for the flea.

With the same idea in mind in the French case, one would have wished for a more clear distinction to be made between moderate and tolerant versions of Islam and fundamentalist and dogmatic ones, rather than combining all trends together trying to squeeze skin-deep, conciliatory positions out of them. In fact, more than a superficial show of unity between all the trends in expressing vague condemnation of such crimes, one would have wished a revision of past positions and practices of everybody in order to strengthen the sound ones and isolate the astray, potentially dangerous ones.

That might permit avoiding future catastrophes.