It appears Al Qaida chose Paris because they perceive France to have a base of 'sympathisers'. As with the Maghreb, in the banlieues there are those who believe the French state is the sole cause of the suffering of the transnational Islamic ummah or the 'Muslim community' worldwide.
France is loathed by Islamists who regard dictatorships in North Africa, especially Algeria ( a French colony until 1962 ), as ones backed by French money and arms the better to enrich the French while impoverishing Arab Muslims whose demand for entrance into France is thus a form of economic direct action.
In this sense, the banlieues are said to be inner colonies of the 'disenfranchised' outside the centre of Paris and the capital of a France which once colonised Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The banlieues are compared to the subjugation of Muslim Arabs both within France and its 'near abroad' across the Mediterranean.
Under President Hollande, there have been attempts to improve France's standing in Algeria and among the Algeria descended population in France as on December 20, 2012 when he denounced the brutality and injustice of the era of French colonialism before the Algerian Parliament.
France attempted to buy goodwill during the Arab Spring of 2011 by coming out in qualified support of democracy because the Muslim Brotherhood was backed by Qatar. France imports more and more liquefied natural gas from the gas rich emirate and has a lucrative arms export market with Doha.
When the Arab Spring went badly wrong and Libya collapsed into violent chaos after a French led attempt to remove Gaddafi and 'promote democracy', jihadist forces across the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa were emboldened and strengthened by the copious supplies of arms they had access to.
With Algeria's unpopular regime still supported by France, due to oil interests and maintaining a corridor for the French military to operate in central Africa, Paris has found itself aligned with Washington in a renewed drone led war on terror in its ex-colonies. The stakes are access to oil and minerals.
The posited 'long war' between France and the 'Muslim World' is one based an ideology in which Islamists regard the entire nature of the French state as a hypocritical fraud. 'Human rights' and 'universalism' are merely used as a pretext to justify 'colonising' Muslim lands to control their resources.
Post-colonial French governments act militarily out of 'responsibility' and the greed connected to the underlying assertion of resource interests that can only reveal it as 'hypocritical'. This ratchets up the resentment and impulse to get revenge amongst those who detest the west and especially France.
It is important to understand the tactical context of what appears an Al Qaida attack. In late 2014 France was deploying forces in cooperation with the US to attack Al Qaida in Mali and the group needed to attack the west in order to reposition itself ideologically against competition from ISIS.
Al Qaida and IS militants thrive where states are collapsing due to global warming induced drought and resource conflicts: they have every interest in provoking the western states into intervening militarily in Muslim lands so that they can publicise the inevitable deaths from 'collateral damage'.
While there is no essential 'clash of civilisations', Islamists have consistently tried to exploit the hypocrisy and double standards of the west in backing dictatorships where it suits their resource interests or else 'promoting democracy' by military force to the same end.
Though many Islamists are by no means supporters of Al Qaida, there is a wide constituency of those resentful of 'the west', especially in France due to memories of the brutal Algerian War of Independence and the alleged role of France in backing the slaughter of Islamists by the Algerian state in the 1990s.
As Camille Pecastaing wrote in the World Affairs Journal,
'The huge task before Hollande is to mop up the mess in the Sahara created by the 1990s Algerian civil war as well as the recent revolution in Libya. And he has to do so without being stigmatized as imperialist, because the erring of French foreign policy in the Muslim world can come home to roost.'Yet one of the first statements made by President Hollande in a press conference today was that France was 'at war' with Al Qaida in Mali and in Somalia. Clearly, this is an attempt to use the terror attacks in Paris as a means to justify further military intervention in Muslim regions of Africa.
The danger with promoting this 'war on terror' is that it threatens to draw France deeper and deeper into unstable lands in military operations using drones as in Afghanistan, Syria and against ISIS in Iraq. If Sunni Muslims get killed, Al Qaida can then exploit that to boost its recruitment base.
The lesson is that the French government is not going to strengthen its position at home or abroad, in the so-called 'Muslim World', by trying to improve its image by apologising for the past while pursuing contradictory policies bound to be resented anyway given its fraught history with the Maghreb.