If you fill your house with pigs, don’t complain when it turns into a swine house.
How the French Riviera became a hotspot for the jihadists: SUE REID reveals some immigrants are trying to replace European democracy with their own Islamic rules
- French Riviera is favourite of holidaying Britons and hosted upper classes
- But the area has a dangerous underbelly fuelled by Islamic extremism
- Nice was branded a ‘jihadist breeding ground’ by political violence expert
- Rising concern that population of immigrants in area refuse to assimilate
By Sue Reid for the Daily Mail
Published: 22:00, 15 July 2016
The French Riviera, with its upmarket seaside resorts of Nice and Cannes, has long been a favourite of holidaying Britons.
From the middle of the 18th century, this Mediterranean coast on the south-east corner of France hosted the British upper classes and became the playground of the rich, the famous and the royal, including wild-living King Edward VII when he was Prince of Wales.
Today, the long sandy beaches and magnificent Promenade des Anglais, lined with palm trees, are still a top destination for the well-heeled and well-connected wanting peace and privacy.
Chaos: This was the scene in Nice where the lorry raced the length of the famed Promenade des Anglais, leaving 84 dead in his wake.
Crime scene: The lorry used as a murder weapon remains on the French Riviera city’s famed waterfront promenade with police gathering evidence and marking put bullet casings with yellow numbered signs.
Yet this image of sophistication is little more than a veneer. The French Riviera has a dangerous underbelly fuelled by Islamic extremism. Nice, its largest city, was branded a ‘jihadist breeding ground’ yesterday by a leading expert on political violence.
Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College, London, said: ‘Dozens of people have gone from Nice to join the Islamic State… and the first recorded attempted attack in Europe was very nearby in Cannes.’
Society is changing rapidly in the south of France, and nowhere more than in Nice. With a growing population of immigrants, many second or third generation from Muslim countries of north Africa, there is rising concern that they refuse to assimilate and instead want to replace European democracy with their own Islamic rule book.
A poll for the respected French daily Le Figaro found recently that people from all ranks in society have a growing unease about this. In 2010, for instance, 39 per cent of France’s centre-Left Socialist Party voters felt Islam was too prominent in French society. The poll showed that this year a majority of 52 per cent thought that way.
So what is behind this change of heart? Shocking events such as the one that happened last month at the Vitis Cafe on the Nice seafront certainly have not helped.
Police launched a criminal investigation after a 30-year-old Muslim waitress with a Tunisian background was attacked for serving alcohol on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, when the Islamic faithful fast between dawn and dusk.
Devastated: A man appears emotional as he sits near a French flag along the beachfront the day after the attack.
Holidaygoers: People arrived back at the beach with their inflatables on Friday after the horrific attack the night before.
One of her assailants, who included an illegal migrant, shouted, ‘if I was God, I would have hung you’, and called her a whore. Politicians of all persuasions immediately claimed that the incident was an example of the growing influence of religious extremism in France.
Yet however unpleasant – and revealing – the assault on the waitress was, there are growing fears that Islamic extremism is now being linked to terror in what was once a delightful part of Europe.
Just two years ago, intelligence agencies in Nice foiled a bomb plot targeting the city’s famous carnival. A document by the General Directorate for Internal Security, France’s domestic intelligence agency, has revealed that Ibrahim Boudina, a young Frenchman born in Algeria, had planned to detonate explosives to maim and kill visitors.
Boudina was arrested near Cannes in February 2014, just two days before the start of the carnival and less than two months after returning to Europe from Syria. He had left for the war-torn country with a friend two years earlier, and intelligence officers believe that he was trained there as a bomb maker. He returned home, slipping in via Greece, and spent time in Nice, where police put him under surveillance before his timely arrest.
Carrying on: One women in Nice decided to sunbathe on a wall close to where the attack happened on the Promenade des Anglais.
Terror attack: At least 84 people were killed and dozens more critically injured last night when a terrorist killer, named locally as Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, drove this truck, riddled with bullets, through crowds celebrating Bastille day in Nice.
Nice was again in the headlines because of its connections to radical Islam the same year. An entire family of 11 left for Syria – including the eldest son, who was renowned for his extreme religious views – and simply disappeared.
Even more recently, Nice has been linked to one of France’s most prominent jihadists, Omar Diaby, whose Senegalese family moved to the city when he was five. Diaby, better known as Omar Omsen, is believed by counter-terrorism experts to be one of the most prolific recruiters of foreign fighters going from France to Syria. He boasts of recruiting more than 80 young people to the jihadist cause.
Whatever the truth of this, he is a dangerous young man. He is thought to have staged his own death in August last year to avert detection while getting medical help outside Syria. And, shockingly, he has appeared in a TV documentary voicing approval for the terror attacks in Paris in January and November last year.
Monster: Bouhlel, who shot indiscriminately at police and members of the public, was described by a cousin as a ‘s***’ and a ‘nasty piece of work’ who never observed the rules of Islam.
Worryingly, he boasted that he headed a katiba, or combat group, that included 50 men, of whom 15 were – like him – natives of Nice.
You don’t have to wander far from the glamorous tourist streets to find there is an edginess about the shabby areas where boys like him from the Muslim communities grow up in a different world from the grandeur of the Promenade des Anglais.
And has this unfairness fuelled resentment among Muslims who feel they are being elbowed out of society in this rich city?
Just two weeks ago a smart new mosque for 800 male worshippers was finally opened to serve the community after 15 years of political in-fighting about whether it should be allowed because it was owned by a Saudi Arabian politician.
The former mayor of Nice had halted the development of the mosque because he claimed the politician ‘advocated sharia’ and wanted to ‘destroy all the churches on the Arabian peninsula’.
Until then, the only mosque was in a former shop down a side street and so small that the Friday worshippers spilled out of the door.
The divisions over the new mosque split the Right-wing city, which has 60,000 residents with Islamic backgrounds.
But many in France believe that the real reason Nice has become a jihadist hotspot is because it is a symbol of decadent and fun-loving western lifestyles. And that could seal its fate.
Disaster zone: Bodies lie along the promenade showing the devastating route the lorry took as it went through huge crowds.
Atrocity: At least a dozen bodies of victims covered by sheets remain at the scene of the terror attack as the authorities try to identify them.
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