By Hend Kortam
CAIRO, Nov. 14 (Aswat Masriya) – The Islamic State Fighters in Iraq and Syria group, known as ISIS, claimed on Saturday responsibility for a series of coordinated deadly attacks that struck Paris Friday night and were widely condemned internationally.
The group said in a statement circulated on social media and shared on an unofficial website for the group that it targeted the “capital of immorality and vice” and the “bearer of the banner of the cross in Europe.”
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The French capital lived through a terrifying night on Friday, described in the French media as a “carnage” after six simultaneous attacks including one at a football stadium where French President Francois Hollande was watching France and Germany’s national teams in a friendly game.
Attackers used suicide belts and carried out shootings, leaving at least 128 dead, according to a report by Reuters quoting French prosecutors.
Following a meeting of the French Defence Council on Saturday, Hollande said the attacks were an “act of war” by ISIS, in a video statement posted on the French presidency’s website.
Hollande said earlier on Twitter in the early hours of Saturday that France will “once again, defeat the terrorists.”
In its statement, which was released in both Arabic and French, ISIS said France and “those who follow its path” will remain high on its targets, adding that the smell of blood will not leave “their noses” since they have led the “crusade” and “dared to insult our prophet.” An audio recording was also released.
This is the second series of attacks to hit the French capital this year. Paris started off 2015 with a series of deadly attacks in January, that began when gunmen opened fire at Charlie Hebdo in revenge for its past publication of satirical images of Prophet Muhammad.
In response to the deadly attacks, France has declared a state of emergency and the French police is advising people through its Twitter accounts to limit their movement in public.
Schools and universities were closed today and a series of security measures are being adopted which make it “possible for any person whose activity is dangerous to be put under house arrest, for performance halls and meeting-places to be provisionally closed, for weapons to be handed over and for police searches to be carried out,” the presidency said.
Internationally, the attacks in Paris have been condemned by many including U.S. President Barack Obama who said the attacks “were an outrageous attempt to terroise innocent civilians” and British Prime Minister David Cameron who told the French people, “We are with you. United,” in a message on Twitter.
The Egyptian presidency said it “condemns in the strongest terms the heinous terrorist incidents” and asserted Egyptian solidarity.
While many Egyptians on social media were in fact sympathetic, others were using the attacks to draw comparisons between the global reaction to the Paris attacks and the reaction to the Russian plane which crashed in Egypt on Oct. 31.
The U.S. and the UK have officially entertained the possibility that the attack was caused by a bombing, and the UK and Russia have limited air links with Egypt.
From inside Egypt, Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam, Ahmed al-Tayeb also condmened the attacks.
One Muslim’s Comments from Paris
With many Muslims already feeling marginalised in France, these attacks made matters worse. An Egyptian woman who preferred to be anonymous told Aswat Masriya, “my father told me last night to remove the hijab.”
The hijab is the traditional veil that covers the hair and neck, donned by Muslim women. In Egypt veiled women are the majority but in France, which has officially banned the full face veil (niqab), she has had to adapt to being a minority because people made her feel that way, she said.
She took part in a protest held in La Republique to condemn the Charlie Hebdo attacks, keen to gauge people’s reaction to her being a veiled woman.
Following attacks like these, she said she is not sure how people may retaliate on the street.
“Someone might pull me from my veil,” she said.
A Paris resident for three years, she had already been subjected to many ridicule and prejudiced comments because she wears the hijab and was once even hit on the head by a man in public transportation. Reflecting on how marginalised she feels, she said “the French do not need terrorism to be racist.”
Reactions on Social Media
In a Facebook post, journalist Monica Marks, quoted non-resident fellow at Washington-based think tank The Atlantic Council as saying: “Last night I saw notifications on Facebook from an app I’d never seen letting me know my friends [in Paris] were safe. And I was happy. But I wondered where was this app was in Beirut two days ago? In Baghdad? Their blood also means something- they are not other, they are us.”
She added that this echoes the postings of many of her French friends and colleagues (who by and large research issues related to Islam and Middle Eastern politics) “who appreciate the world’s concern, but are struck by the extent to which the disproportionate focus on Paris highlights the lack of attention or sympathy with the overwhelming majority of ISIS victims, who are Muslim and living in the Middle East & North Africa.
She continued: “This mistaken focus on Paris is echoed in statements of political leaders in Europe and the United States, many of whom have used this attack as justification to close doors on Syrian refugees, as if they are perpetrators of ISIS terrorism somehow, rather than its primary victims (along with Iraqis).”
Egyptian former parliamentarian and blogger Mostafa Naggar said in Facebook post: “Terrorism is the greatest enemy for humanity, but we can stop it with justice and law enforcement. Refugees in Europe, they shouldn’t be treated like criminals for they have come to their lands to escape ISIS and dictatorship #ParisAttacks.”