Mohammed Merah, the confessed murderer of three children and a rabbi at a Toulouse Jewish school this week, was not a lone wolf, and on Wednesday the testimonies poured in about his involvement with a Salafi (extreme strand of Sunni Islam) group named Forsane al-Izza (FA).
The “Knights of Pride”- as the group’s name means in English - was founded in France about a year ago and was outlawed at the beginning of 2012. Up until it was outlawed, the group’s main function was to keep French security forces out of neighborhoods with a Muslim majority. The group expressed its opposition to French democracy, striving to create a Islamic Caliphate in its place. Forsane al-Izza’s leader and spokesman, Mohamed Achamlane, is of Algerian descent.
Forsane al-Izza worked against a French law which banned the wearing of hijabs (a veil worn by Muslim women in public), even provocatively calling on French President Nicolas Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, to wear a hijab herself.
Meanwhile, the group has also posted videos on the Internet showing it was training for a future clash with French authorities. The “Knights” have also organized protest rallies in which they have called supporters “to fight against Sarkozy’s Jewish-Zionist government.”
Arab media has reported that while the group indeed mainly operates in France, it also had branches in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where its members have undergone training in al-Qaida camps.
The group’s website was shut down on Wednesday and the site’s homepage read: “Due to great pressures brought upon us, we have dismantled the Forsane al-Izza movement.”
Prior to the final announcement, their website carried a message saying “There is nothing but Islam. All Muslims must return to the ways of the original Islam, as it was thousands of years ago” – which is the main tenet at the core of Salafism.