'political parties have joined in to say that French democracy will not succumb to terror. Religious leaders, and representatives of all faiths, have called for tolerance, insisting that Islam could never be the banner under which such a terrible act could be committed' ( Guardian editorial ).The problem when newspapers start making these statements as a well intentioned way of trying to limit any potential damage in 'community relations' is that it comes across as 'denial'. In fact, Islam is the banner under which terrible acts are committed and it is pointless to say it is not when it is.
However, Islam is not Islamism and there are different strands of broadly what could be considered Islamist thought and practice. Islam is a religion while Islamism is a political ideology and Al Qaida's brand is one with much in common with the European totalitarian terrorist tradition.
The Paris attack was a terrorist attack and it was one based on radical Islamist ideology and an expression of hatred for France and the anti-clerical leftists and journalists who defend it against the encroachment of religious ideas and religious 'oppression'.
The Kouachi brothers are connected to Al Qaida affiliated groups and very much see themselves as foot soldiers of God entrusted with the mission to punish and kill those who disrespect their religion, especially leftist radicals such as those of Charlie Hebro.
It is necessary to recognise that this is a tactic:by slaughtering French radicals and secularists it is possible to divide France between Muslims and non-Muslims. While Islam is not the same as Al Qaida's violent form of Islamism, it is a form of 'political religion' claiming to be the true expression of Islam.
While it is wrong to take that claim at face value, by endorsing ideas about an essential 'clash of civilisations' or the idea that Islam is inherently theocratic and terroristic, it is equally wrong to pretend that Islamism has no appeal to a fraction of French Muslims and that 'alienation' is an excuse.
Those who became foot soldiers for the Nazis in the 1920s and 1930s were also 'alienated' by unemployment and lack of employment prospects. Just because those sympathising with radical Islamism belong to a minority in France does not give them a 'victim status' which needs to be pandered to.
The French far-right feeds off the self censorship of the left, at least that part of it which was the hard-left in the past and has shifted towards seeing all criticism of Islam as 'racism'. The very word 'Islamophobia' is so vague in this respect that has made for more anger and confusion than clarity.
One reason for that is the pathetic attempt by 'anti-imperialists' to regenerate dying 'anti-establishment' creeds within the west by playing on the youthful discontent of a certain number of Muslims in the west and in Muslim lands as evidence of a 'systemic challenge' to western 'hegemony'.
'Islamophobia' ought to be rejected as a word and replaced by anti-Muslim hated or bigotry. The problem with 'Islamophobia' is it allows those who hate Muslims to get away with claiming it is only the religion they hate and that they have a right to oppose religion ( which they do ).
The problem is that 'religion' has become a pretext for those with atavistic hatreds of 'the other' to conceal what is simply hatred with the fig leaf of righteous outrage. It is not only the French far right doing that but also what can only be described as far-right Islamists
Islamist fanatics had plotted to attack Charlie Hebro for a while and the question should be as much 'how' they were able to do it as 'why'. The fact a Kouachi brother spent only three years in prison ( 2008-2011 ), clearly mulling his next attack, points to an absurdly lax justice system in France.
There is a need for all decent sides in France to start condemning the Islamist ideology that appeals to some young Muslims with its hatred and bigotry and to see it as equivalent with neo-Nazism. This was quite clear with Toulouse attacks in 2012 committed by Merah, a Jew hating Islamist fanatic.
As the Kouachi bothers have retreated into a print works north of Paris and took a hostage, the second terror attack and taking of six hostages on an East Paris kosher supermarket ( January 9 2015 ) reveals the Jew hatred is a motivating factor in this form of far-right Islamist ideology.