Expert: Paris attacks a 'test' for French Muslims

ISIS's killing spree could be a litmus test for French Muslims, Dr. Dennis Sharvit explains. Will they condemn the attacks in full?

Shimon Cohen ,

Muslim woman in niqab, Paris (file)
Muslim woman in niqab, Paris (file)

Last week's Islamic State (ISIS) attack on Paris will change the face of French society, Dr. Dennis Sharvit, French culture expert and political science professor at the Open University explained Tuesday. 

"Recent events are forcing French society to clarify the dilemmas they have faced for years - the conflict between democracy, respect for human rights and the treatment of minorities, and security needs and ISIS's declaration of war on France," he said, in a special interview with Arutz Sheva

Sharvit agreed that this is a dilemma similar to that faced by the US after the World Trade Center disaster - but that it will be even more challenging for France. 

"We know three terrorists are Muslim born, and raised in France," he noted, adding that "there may have been more help from the inside." 

"In the US, there was no domestic enemy, there was no local cooperation, but foreigners who came and carried out the attack and the act of war on the United States was from the outside," Sharvit reflected. The issue, he said, then becomes an issue of human rights: treating France's Muslims humanely while also cracking down on extremism. 

"I am impressed that the French understand that there is no choice [but to address the situation]," he continued. "Unlike in the past, when the targets of the attacks were Jews or those who insulted Islam, this injury is in the stadium, restaurants and a concert hall - that is, an attempt to harm the fabric of French life, leisure and what the French take pride in."

"Today every Frenchman is a target." 

Sharvit emphasized that the dilemma will force the French to take their national security more seriously, now that it is "a matter of life and death." 

At the same time, however, the problem may present a whole host of social problems. 

"In the eyes of the French, the Muslims are French Muslims," he explained. "Most of the Muslims condemned the attack and do not identify with it. ISIS has hurt them, too." 

"The question is how to avoid a civil war, because the goal of the terrorists, beyond revenge, is calling upon Muslims to choose whether they are French or Muslims," Sharvit stated. "The dilemma is also for the Muslims who share a common faith with terrorists, but then should turn around say, 'No more - this interpretation [of our faith] is not acceptable to us."

Sharvit added that this will be an "interesting test" for French Muslims, drawing comparisons between this attack and the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January. Then, he said, a lot of Muslims condemned the attacks, but tempered their words with the fact that the magazine's anti-Islam cartoons had still offended them. 

"This time, this does not exist," he said. "This should cause an apparent awakening of the Muslim community to say that there's no excuses [for this]."