PBS NewsHour

What fuels Islamic extremism in France?

People gather at Place de la Republique square to pay tribute to
         the victims of last year's shooting at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, in Paris

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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Beyond the United Kingdom, France has endured the worst terrorist attacks in Europe during the past two years, attacks that have killed 239 people. There was the assault on the offices of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” in January of 2015, followed by the mass shootings at a concert hall and cafes in Paris in November, and then last summer’s Bastille Day truck attack on pedestrians on the boardwalk in Nice.

In his latest book, “Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West,” Paris-based scholar Gilles Kepel delves into the undercurrents of these attacks.

I recently spoke to Kepel here in the studio.

What’s happening in France? Why is it different than the rest of Europe in terms of these attacks?

GILLES KEPEL, PARIS-BASED SCHOLAR/AUTHOR: Well, it was different because, as you said, we suffered 239 dead. The reason why we focused on France was that they thought they could take the French political hostage. They thought the more attacks there would be, then the more people would vote for the extreme right because they felt that almost they’re more of culprit (ph) or something, and — because you have to remember that the terrorist jihadist wants to proselytize among other Muslims, and they want to sort of bring them under their banner, because most of our Muslim compatriots just loathe them and hate them.

But, you know, they want to say, the French are racist, the French vote for the extreme right, therefore there is no way for you in Europe, and the only way for you to be safe is to rally with us and then to sow jihad and civil strife in country — in Europe, because, you know, this third-generation jihadism, which I describe in my book “Terror in France,” thinks that Europe is the soft underbelly of the West, and this is where they have to focus.

In Europe, they want to use a number of disenfranchised young Muslims whom they think see no future in Europe and then are sort of manipulated by the Salafists and think there is a break in values between Islam and European values. And therefore, you know, this is the sort of bolt and nut phenomenon that will lead to mobilization of the masses, because it’s easy to kill people, but it’s very difficult to mobilize the masses on your behalf. And this is the quandary of terrorism.

SREENIVASAN: We’ve had terror attacks before throughout the world. I mean, whether it’s Africa, or Indonesia, as you point out in the book. But they didn’t have the effect of destabilizing societies. And as you point out, there is a little bit more of a systematic thought given to what this third-generation of terrorists are doing.

KEPEL: Well, definitely. The issue is to destabilize society and to provoke retaliation, you know, from the majority societies. So as to lead to sort of enclave wars in Europe, you know, we have those values where impoverished young people, children of immigrants or others live with very high level of unemployment, rates that can reach up to 40 percent at times. So, for those people, there is not much hope. They went to school. They have no jobs. They do drugs or they go to jail. And therefore, this idea that the future is the Islamic State, is ISIS, was appealing to some.

SREENIVASAN: France and Belgium saw thousands of men go to training camps in Syria and then come back into Europe. Has that flow decreased? And if so, why?

KEPEL: Well, over the last year, there is no flow left because the borders between Turkey and the Islamic State have been sealed, and the Turks arrest whoever comes from France and they pick up in Turkey. So, to a large extent, this big threat that was envisaged that, you know, we have so many returnees who have been trained and brainwashed and would be very powerful in staging huge attacks has not been that salient as we thought it would be.

And then the people there on ISIS territory are, you know, suffer from the bombings and from the droning. And therefore, they’re sort of trapped there for the time being.

SREENIVASAN: One of the things that’s interesting also is you look at this notion of the lone wolf. It’s not absolutely accurate. You actually trace it back into ideology and how it’s been publicized and proselytized for years and years now. And one of the more unsettling conclusions is that the attack in San Bernardino, the attack in Orlando are not the end for the United States.

KEPEL: Definitely, and they’re not lone wolf issues. You know, you may — lone wolf is something that comes from an American concept. Someone, you know, the Columbine attack or whatever people who just read books and everything, and buy weapons and go on a shooting spree.

But this is different. I mean, because you have this ideology in place. There are works by a Syrian engineer called Abu Musab al-Suri who posted on the Internet in 2005 a very lengthy book in Arabic called “Global Islamic Resistance Call” where he says those attacks in your neighborhood, this is the solution, that people imbued with this Islamist radical ideology. And, then, you know, you take a knife, you take a gun, you take your car, and then you kill as many kufar or infidels as possible and then they will retaliate. They will, say, desecrate a mosque or something, and this will create a sort of a system of provocation and repression, which will lead up to the breakup of society.

SREENIVASAN: So, the goal is to break society up from the inside, to create civil strife.

KEPEL: Exactly.

SREENIVASAN: How do the French intelligence agencies and the authorities deal with, this and what lessons can be applied to the United States? Because if it is distributed, if you can’t stop the Internet or turn it off, how do you try to win hearts and minds or at least protect hearts and minds from going to the other side?

KEPEL: Well, you know, there is a program economy of jihadism that, you know, it’s easy to kill people, but after a while, when you do not manage to mobilize the masses on your behalf, then violence turns against its perpetrators, and you have to find a new means.

SREENIVASAN: What’s the right mix of policy for the United States on the diplomatic front and also the security front? How — I mean, the administration has already put forth their ideas on how to tighten the borders. Now, you also have laptops that are banned from certain airplanes that are coming into the United States.

But are these cosmetic? Are these structurally sound? Will they work?

KEPEL: Well, you have to deal with the symptoms. And you have to monitor, you have security and to understand the ideology. I guess this is sort of the mix that newly elected President Macron wants to make because he thought he’s going to have sort of task, a terrorist task force in the Elysees Palace, mixing with security, diplomacy, justice, the military, education, of course.

And, you know, this is a big challenge, which I believe is also a means for us to think about our own society. Terrorism is not something which is somewhere apart in disguise or only in the projects. It’s something that we have to wonder why this has happened. And if we understand that correctly, I think it could allow us to fix what is going wrong in our society, specifically in Europe today.

SREENIVASAN: All right. The book is called “Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West” — author and professor Gilles Keppel, thanks so much.

KEPEL: My pleasure.

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Italian riot police tear gas G-7 protesters

Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos

Demonstrators run away from tear gas during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos, Sicily, Italy, on May 27, 2017. Photo by Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

TAORMINA, Sicily — Italian police have used tear gas against anarchists, communists and other anti-global protesters after the Group of Seven summit in Sicily.

A stand-off is underway between Italian riot police and the protesters on Saturday evening in Giardini Naxos, a seaside town down the hill from Taormina, where leaders of seven large industrialized democracies had gathered for a two-day summit.

The leaders had all left before the protest began.

         face police during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos near Taormina

Protesters face police during a demonstration against the G7 summit in Giardini Naxos near Taormina, Sicily, Italy, on May 27, 2017. Photo by Yara Nardi/Reuters

Many of the protesters carried flags or wore bandanas over their faces with the hammer and sickle symbol, a communist symbol.

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British Airways cancels all flights out of London after computer system failure

british airways

British Airways aircraft taxi at Heathrow Airport near London, Britain October 11, 2016. Photo By Stefan Wermuth/File Photo/Reuters

British Airways canceled all its flights in and out of London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday after a major computer system failure.

Thousands of airline passengers, many who were travelling during a holiday weekend in the United Kingdom, were stranded due to the outage, while the airline’s fleet was left grounded on runways.

“It’s a complete nightmare,” one person stuck at Heathrow told Reuters, also describing long waits and confusion among the airline’s staff. “There’s just hundreds and thousands of people accumulating in the departures bit.”

British Airways has not revealed the source of the computer failure but said there has been no evidence it was caused by a cyber attack.

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Officials at Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world and a major hub for British Airways, said in a statement on Twitter it was working with the airline to assist passengers who are stranded.

“All passengers booked onto these flights should not travel to the airport today,” the statement read.

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Trump calls first trip abroad ‘home run’ as challenges await

U.S. President Trump waves before boarding Air Force One along with first lady Melania Trump at Sigonella Air Force Base
         in Sigonella

President Donald Trump waves before boarding Air Force One along with first lady Melania Trump at Sigonella Air Force Base in Sigonella, Sicily, Italy, May 27, 2017. Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

NAVAL AIR STATION SIGONELLA, Sicily — President Donald Trump on Saturday said his maiden first trip abroad was a “home run” and he vowed to overcome the threat of terrorism, concluding a grueling five-stop sprint that ended with the promise of an imminent decision on the much-discussed Paris climate accord.

Trump ended his nine-day trip with a speech to U.S. troops in Sicily, where he recounted his visits to Saudi Arabia, Israel, Belgium and Italy and his work to counter terrorism. The president said recent terrorist attacks in Manchester, England and Egypt underscored the need for the U.S. to “defeat terrorism and protect civilization.”

“Terrorism is a threat, bad threat to all of humanity,” Trump said, standing in front of a massive American flag at Naval Air Station Sigonella. “And together we will overcome this threat. We will win.”

Trump tweeted earlier in the day that he would make a final decision next week on whether to withdraw from the climate pact. European leaders he met with at the Group of 7 summit in Sicily have been pressuring Trump to stay in the accord, arguing that America’s leadership on climate is crucial.

Besides reaching a decision on the climate agreement once back in Washington, Trump will also face a new crush of Russia-related controversies. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner spoke with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. about setting up secret communications with Moscow.

Trump held no news conferences during the nine-day trip, which allowed him to avoid questions about the Russia investigations. His top economic and national security advisers refused to answer questions about Kushner during a press briefing Saturday.

The White House had hoped to use Trump’s five-stop trip as a moment to reset. The president was warmly received on his opening stops in Saudi Arabia and Israel, though he has come under more pressure in Europe, particularly over the Paris accord.

Trump was cajoled for three days – first in Brussels at meetings of NATO and the European Union, then in Sicily for G-7 – but will leave Italy without making clear where he stands.

As the G-7 summit came to a close Saturday, the six other members – Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan – renewed their commitment to the accord. The summit’s communique noted that the Trump administration would take more time to consider whether it will remain committed to the 2015 Paris deal to rein in greenhouse gas emissions.

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Backing out of the climate accord had been a central plank of Trump’s campaign and aides have been exploring whether they can adjust the framework of the deal even if they don’t opt out entirely. Other G-7 nations leaned heavily on Trump to stay in the climate deal, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying “we put forward very many arguments.”

The president’s trip has largely gone off without a major misstep, with the administration touting the president’s efforts to birth a new coalition to fight terrorism, while admonishing partners in an old alliance to pay their fair share.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” Trump told the soldiers. He also touted his meetings with NATO members, adding, “We’re behind NATO all the way.” He reiterated a renewed commitment by NATO members to spend more on defense.

Trump was referring to a vow by NATO countries to move toward spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. Only five of NATO’s 28 members meet the target: Britain, Estonia, debt-laden Greece, Poland and the United States, which spends more on defense than all the other allies combined.

“The U.S. is currently paying much more than any other nation and that is not fair to the United States or the United States taxpayer. So we’re working on it and I will tell you, a big difference over the last year, money is actually starting to pour into NATO from countries that would not have been doing what they’re doing now had I not been elected, I can tell you that. Money is starting to pour in,” Trump said, echoing a tweet earlier Saturday on the subject.

There is no evidence that money has begun to “pour in” and countries do not pay the U.S. or NATO directly. But Germany, for instance, has been increasing its defense spending with the goal of reaching the 2 percent target by 2024.

After the pomp of presidential travel overseas, Trump will return to Washington and many of the problems he left behind.

As a newly appointed special counsel is beginning to investigate links between the Trump campaign and Russian officials, Kushner has become a focus of the probe. Kushner’s lawyer said he will cooperate with investigators.

James Comey, the former FBI director who led the Russian probe until Trump abruptly fired him, is still expected to testify before Congress about memos he kept on conversations with the president that involved the investigation. Meanwhile, the search for a new FBI director continues.

And Trump’s policy agenda has run into problems. The GOP health care bill that passed the House faces uncertain prospects in the Senate after a Congressional Budget Office analysis that it would leave 23 million more Americans uninsured by 2026. The president’s budget was widely criticized for deep cuts to safety net programs. And some are starting to question the chances for Trump’s pledge to overhaul the U.S. tax code.

Associated Press writers David McHugh and Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

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