Paris terror attack shines light on Islamisation in France and the West

13 December 2023

Public Policy Researcher Dr Carys Moseley writes on Islamic terror in France and the need to avoid Islamophobia definitions that curb free speech

Yet again, there has been an Islamist terrorist attack in Paris.

On 2 December 2023, Armand (born Imran) Rajabpour-Miyandoab, a French national of Iranian heritage, cried ‘Allahu Akbar!’ and stabbed tourists on and near the Bir-Hakeim bridge. One German tourist died and two other people, including a British citizen, were seriously injured.

Unsurprisingly, he gave the suffering of Muslims in Gaza as his excuse. Acquaintance with his criminal career reveals this to be a rather thin excuse, clearly intended to paint himself as an avenging victim fighting a so-called defensive jihad.

French Interior Minister blames inadequate psychiatric care

The Bir-Hakeim bridge gives a magnificent view of the Eiffel Tower, France’s most iconic tourist attraction. It is named after a battle the Free French forces won against the Nazi armies in Libya in 1942 during the Second World War. How distant this symbolism appears now, with the French Minister of the Interior, Gérard Darmanin, telling press that this attack was due to failure of psychiatric care for the terrorist.

This is the same minister who warned in 2018 that France could descend into civil war within five years due to its problems with radical Islam. Does he really believe more psychiatric care for known suspects will address the threat?

Terrorist had converted to Islam and intended to go to Syria

Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab came from an Iranian family that was ‘not religiously engaged’ according to the French authorities. However, he converted to Islam at the age of 18 in 2015. He then made contact with various jihadists in Syria and Iraq.

A year later, he had plans to join the Islamic State in Syria but instead turned his attention towards committing attacks in France.

Terrorist already arrested for previous plot in Paris business district

As is by now widely reported, the French security services already had Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab under surveillance, and he had links to multiple known terrorists.

He had previously been arrested for planning a terror attack at La Défense, the business district in the west of Paris, in 2016. He had been encouraged to do this by Maximilien Thibault, a French convert to Islam and terrorist based in Syria who used to belong to Forsane Alizza. Forsane Alizza was part of a Europe-wide network stretching to Anjem Choudhary’s Al-Muhajiroun in the UK, along with Muslims Against Crusades and Sharia4UK.

Terrorist had previously praised Nice jihad attack on 14 July 2016

According to Nice Matin, Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab had previously praised the jihad attack carried out by a van driver in Nice on 14 July 2016. He said:

“J’ai encore des pensées noires, je reconnais que l’attentat de Nice ne m’a pas déplu et je trouve que ce qui arrive est normal, vu l’implication de la France dans le conflit syrien. Je reconnais que mes pensées ne sont pas normales et je pense que j’ai besoin d’un suivi pour m’aider à travailler dessus”.


“I recognise that the Nice attack had not displeased me and I find that what happens is normal, considering France’s implication in the Syrian conflict. I recognise that my thoughts are not normal and I think that I need to be followed up to help me work on this.”

Terrorist was in contact with assassins of Samuel Paty and Fr. Jacques Hamel

Things don’t stop there. Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab was also in contact with Abdoullak Anzorov, the Chechen terrorist who assassinated schoolteacher Samuel Paty in Paris in October 2020.

This week, six pupils were convicted for their part in the murder of Samuel Paty. One girl had lied about what really happened in his class, and five more pupils were found guilty of helping Anzorov find Paty in the school grounds.

Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab was also in contact with Adel Kermiche, one of the terrorists who assassinated Roman Catholic priest Fr. Jacques Hamel in July 2016. Adel Kermiche and Abdel Malik Petitjean had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Finally, Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab was in contact with Larossi Abballa, who murdered a policeman and his partner in Magnanville in June 2016.

Terrorist lied about ‘deradicalising’ and leaving Islam

Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab had lied repeatedly to the French authorities, claiming he had deradicalised, given up his Islamist beliefs and indeed left Islam altogether. It is therefore good to see Le Figaro, one of France’s main newspapers, say that this was a case of taqiyya.

This is not the first time a jihadist terrorist has lied in this way. Adel Kermiche, with whom Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab was in contact, had lied to the French prison authorities pretending he had given up his Islamist beliefs. A report by American terrorism experts found that other terrorists hoping to break free from prison would contact jihadists who were successful liars to learn what to do.

All this is reminiscent of the case of Usman Khan, the terrorist responsible for the attack at Fishmongers’ Hall in London in 2017. Khan had previously been imprisoned for his part in the London Stock Exchange bomb plot. However, he then went through the Prevent programme for deradicalisation. He fooled the authorities into believing he had recanted and changed his beliefs.

Terrorist had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State

Armand Rajabpour-Miyandoab had opened an account on X (formerly Twitter) in October 2023. Shortly before he attacked tourists on 2 December, he uploaded a video onto his account pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.

As is often typical in such instances, he also pledged his support for jihadists in Africa, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen. Perhaps it’s not surprising that he appears to belong to several terror networks.

Increasing Islamic threat to rural areas of France

The wide geographical range of networks matches the increasingly wide threat by the Islamic State across France. Early next year, the trial will commence of those accused of a foiled plot led by a returning Islamic State fighter from Syria to kill all inhabitants of Breton village. Other targets included the naval base in Brest on the west coast of Brittany, Chinese New Year celebrations in France, a synagogue and football matches. The plot was foiled in 2019.

A few weeks ago, a teenage boy was killed in a knife attack on young white French people by gang members with Muslim names at a village fête in Crépol near Valence in the east of France. French government officials fear this could be a tipping point for France, given widespread public anger spreading to rural areas. These rural attacks are a step up from the mostly urban riots across France in June 2023. They are particularly concerning given that French people have been leaving the cities due to the spread of Islamic influence for some time, but especially since the riots last summer.

Securitised schools and gated communities

Parts of French society have responded to the increasing threat of Islam-motivated violence and subjugation through adopting a fortress mentality. Soon after the 7 October pogrom by Hamas against Israel, an Islamist murdered a schoolteacher in Arras, in northern France. President Macron then increased security around schools and Jewish sites, with 7,000 soldiers being deployed.

There has also been a rise for some time of French people choosing to turn their neighbourhoods into gated communities in response to the rise in violent crime. This is most visible in Marseille, where last September Le Monde newspaper reported that nearly a third of dwellings are situated in a gated community.

Bomb threats to the Louvre Museum and Palace of Versailles

After the murder of the school teacher in Arras, there was a bomb threat to the Louvre Museum in Paris. There were also six hoax bomb threats in one week to the Palace of Versailles near Paris, a key tourist attraction.

These symbolic attacks on national monuments in broad daylight are a step up from the multiple night-time attacks to all sorts of social institutions and infrastructure during the Islamist riots across France last summer.

Prohibition of Islamophobia enshrined in law

If France is to tackle all these terror-related social problems linked to Islam, its population – especially its politicians and journalists – needs to be free to criticise Islam. Yves Mamou, a former journalist with Le Monde, has written an exhaustive account of how major French institutions have compromised with Islamist campaigns in the last forty years. The prohibition against Islamophobia-as-a-form-of-racism has been more deeply entrenched in France than in the UK.

In recent years, numerous French public figures have been fined thousands of euros for criticising Islam. One of them is high-profile journalist and political activist Eric Zemmour.

The case of Eric Zemmour

In an interview on television station France 5 in 2016, Zemmour claimed that France had been undergoing an ‘invasion’ for the past thirty years, and that in the inner city areas there was a campaign to Islamise territory – ‘a jihad’. He said that Muslims should be required to choose between France and Islam. He also claimed that ‘all Muslims, whether or not they say so’, consider jihadists to be ‘good Muslims’. These statements are certainly contentious and will have been debated by many for years. However, should they really be punished?

In 2018 the Court of Appeal of Paris fined Zemmour 5000 euros for incitement to racial hatred due to Islamophobic statements, breaching France’s Freedom of the Press Act of 1881. Section 24(7) of the act prohibits “incitement discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or group on grounds of origin or of membership or non-membership of a particular ethnicity, nation, race or religion.”

The court considered Zemmour to be addressing Muslims in general, and his words to constitute ‘an implicit exhortation to discrimination’. When his appeal to the Cour de Cassation, France’s highest court, failed in 2019, Zemmour took his case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

The ECHR ruled against him in December 2022. The press release said this:

“The Court was of the opinion that his remarks had not been confined to criticism of Islam but had, in view of the context of terrorist violence in which they had occurred, been made with discriminatory intent such as to call on viewers to reject and exclude the Muslim community. The Court concluded that the grounds on which the domestic courts had convicted the applicant and sentenced him to a fine, the amount of which was not excessive, had been sufficient and relevant.”

Is criticism of Islam and Islamisation really protected?

On the face of it, the ECHR protected criticism of Islam whilst upholding the penalisation of incitement. It is interesting that it had nothing to say about the concept of Islamisation – an Islamic concept, as well as one used openly by academics and governments to describe how non-European countries can be transformed. But in practice, it is not hard to see unspoken limits placed around this.

Generalisation about the beliefs of Muslims about Islam, and about how many Muslims tend to practise Islam – e.g. a struggle for Islamising the territory where they live – fell under suspicion. The courts considered Zemmour’s intent to be more important than his words. The fact that the law can be used to micro-manage and punish analysis of such a fundamental question for the future of the country is deeply troubling.

The dangerous consequences of fear of free speech

Emmanuel Macron’s government opposed Zemmour in the courts. This shows that the French government, at the highest level, supports the codification of the concept of Islamophobia in statute law and in the courts. It could have supported various public figures to debate with Zemmour, to ensure that incitement was challenged openly. Instead, Macron’s government chose the stealthy route of the courts, sacrificing free speech to resolve controversial policy disputes.

It is not an accident that as France has seen public figures fined thousands of euros for criticising Islam, there have been more and more concerns expressed about the possibility of the country being plunged into a civil war.

Terror threat masks a deeper problem

The ever-present Islamist terror threat in France masks a deeper problem, namely that Islamic influence is wider and deeper. There has been compromise at the highest level. The Islamic State has turned to targeting rural and provincial areas. A fortress mentality has set in.

If France wants to resolve its problems, it is going to have to give its citizens assurance of freedom to have open, uncensored debates about Islam and Islamisation. Otherwise, the underground jihad will continue to win, with catastrophic consequences for Europe and the West.

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