The Gathering Storm

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Le Figaro | Gilles Kepel interviewed by Marie-Amélie Lombard-Latune
Islamic State plans to build the Caliphate on the ruins of Europe
2016-06-21

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Gilles Kepel : Crédits photo Sébastien SORIANO/Le Figaro

INTERVIEW – In the opinion of the expert on Islam , Gilles Kepel, if further bloody attacks are perpetrated, it is not impossible that the situation will explode.

LE FIGARO: With its attacks, Islamic State not only strikes at the spirit, but also threatens to destroy the cohesion of a country. Is the objective to provoke a civil war?

GILLES KEPEL: This strategy has been clearly defined since 2005 by the Islamic State’s theoretician, al-Souri, in his Appeal for Global Islamic Resistance. Europe is considered here as a ❝soft underbelly❞, where terrorism can traumatize the population, provoking a back-lash more or less in the form of pogroms. This is what al-Souri calls the ❝wars of the enclaves❞, between quartiers that have become ethnically homogeneous and exclusively of one religious confession. In due course, he wants to see European societies implode and the Caliphate built on their ruins…

Up to the present, such violent reactions have not taken place to any great extent.

There have been isolated incidents: pigs’ heads left at mosques; racist graffiti on their walls. In Corsica, clashes in the working-class district of Jardins de l’Empereur last December are more to be seen as the expression of an insular nationalist identity. From the standpoint of Islamic State, the attacks of January 2015 succeeded in establishing the opposing ❝I am Charlie [Hebdo]❞ and ❝I am not Charlie❞ movements, leading school-children to treat the minute’s silence with disrespect. This was not the case after the 13th November [2015], or after the 22nd March [2016] in Brussels. We didn’t see thousands of “likes” for Abaaoud on social media…. In this sense, the strategy to push inter-communal tensions to the point of provoking lethal violence, has failed.

Could the pressure build up again?

If further bloody attacks are perpetrated, it is not impossible that the situation will explode. The social climate is already atrocious. Everything is a pretext for denouncing a so-called Islamophobia,  a menace that never ceases to excite groups such as the Indigènes de la République [anti-racist organization. —Ed.] How is it possible to conceive the idea of organizing a ❝Hijab Day❞ at the Sciences Po [Political Sciences School, Paris. —Ed.], during which students are incited to wear the veil in order to understand how muslim women are stigmatized on a routine basis…? Today, the situation is worse than disquieting at university, where girls attend not just veiled, but wearing gloves!