The exposure of a French terror cell over the past week throws France in general, and the Jewish community in particular, into a very disturbing reality: The new French terrorism is "made in France" and works completely within the country's boundaries. French President François Hollande needs to calm people at this time. To this end, he met with Jewish leaders and promised to increase security around Jewish institutions and promote anti-terror legislation.
We aren't in Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen, nor are we on the triangular border between Mali, Mauritania and Algeria. But what can we do if France in 2012 produces not only cheese and wine, but also terrorism?
It is even possible to identify the formula for terrorists coming off the production line: young offenders who have had at least one criminal stint in jail, young converts to Islam who joined radical Islamic parties and Salafi groups. They are filled with hatred, especially against the Jew, who is the source of all evil in the world. You certainly can't accuse them of originality.
The terror cell that was uncovered and its members who were arrested in Paris, Tours, Strasbourg and Cannes, proves that a real threat hovers over members of the Jewish community in France. Although Jews are not the only targets on this terror cell's list, they appear at the top. This bitter hatred toward Jews is inconceivable.
The case of one cell member, Jeremy Felix Louis Sydney, age 32, who was shot dead during his arrest in Strasbourg on Saturday after firing at police, is an example of the new local production of terrorists threatening the security of French society. Jeremy Felix was born in Melun, France, convicted of drug trafficking in 2008 and sent to prison for two years. He converted to Islam and, during his two years of incarceration became increasingly extreme in his views. In October 2011, just after his release, he founded a small sales company in Torcy. Some saw this as a positive step and spoke of rehabilitation from a troubled youth. But the reality was somewhat different. The new company was just a cover; the money was used for unholy business, though it was clearly holy from his point of view.
The company helped Jeremy Felix to promote his true goal: the establishment of a terrorist network. He wanted real action. He wanted blood; his fingerprints were found on the grenade thrown last month into a kosher grocery story in Sarcelles. Just like Mohamed Merah, the terrorist who attacked the Otzar Hatorah Jewish School in Toulouse, Jeremy was also not afraid to die. He even wrote as such in his will, which he addressed to Allah.
France is discovering that Merah was actually a different profile than the classic French terrorist. Merah received his training at camps in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan and in Syria. He was trained as a jihadist. Jeremy Felix trained independently in France, just like other comrades in his network.
French converts to Islam who turn to terror join the Salafi movement. Before the terror cell members were arrested, two weeks ago, the newspaper Libération devoted its cover story to French Salafis. We are not in Egypt here, we are in France.
Jeremy Felix is not alone. One of the other cell members, Jan Ansako, was born in the Congo; in the past, he played soccer in Bradford, England. He was arrested in Cannes. He was addicted to fundamentalist websites and uploaded photos of dead Palestinian babies and a photograph of an Israeli soldier aiming his weapon to his website. "How can you not hate this cursed nation?" he wrote.
The French judge and examining magistrate Jean-Louis Brugger, the man most identified with the war on terror in France, said yesterday in an interview that converts are the most dangerous. He was struck by last month's discovery that French Salafis did not hesitate to demonstrate outside the U.S. Embassy following the release of the film against the Prophet Muhammad. For the first time, he argued, the demonstration firmly proved that radical Islam has grown roots within our western society and successfully uses social networks to recruit supporters.
Hollande beat former President Nicolas Sarkozy in the May elections because he projected an attitude of moderation and because he chose to present a more humane France. Who would have thought that less than six months after the election, he would have to manage the wars Sarkozy warned of.
Islamic terrorism is alive and well in Europe. It will not disappear just because it is ignored.