Claude S., an 84-year-old man, tried Monday morning to set fire to the mosque in Bayonne, southern France. He was surprised by two men at the main entrance of the building and opened fire. The two men, 74 years old and 78 years old, were seriously injured, but are out of danger. The suspect was arrested in the evening at his home in Saint-Martin-de-Seignanx, 20 kilometers away.
According to the prefecture, S. resisted his arrest and threatened to use hand grenades. During a subsequent search, the police found several guns but no explosives. The former soldier had permits that gave him the right to own firearms. According to the French news channel, this 84-year-old man confessed Tuesday night.
Even if there are no official findings on the motive of man, the information that gives him his environment, the image of a man obsessed with political issues and having a misanthropic and racist world view. The BFM TV channel interviewed neighbors and acquaintances of S. and quoted them as saying: "He had racist views and did not hide them".
Officials from the Bayonne City Council told AFP that S. had not been allowed to enter the town hall for a long time, verbally attacking the mayor and his staff. S. had started his career as a retired sculptor and wanted to persuade the administration to exhibit his work in public spaces. "It was someone who had obsessions," said Francis Giraudie, an employee of the AFP mayor.
The regional newspaper South West is a letter to the editor-in-chief of S. announcing his intention to sue French President Emmanuel Macron. The newspaper decided not to publish the letter "because of its xenophobic, discriminatory and defamatory content".
The author presented himself at the 2015 National Front
In 2015, S. was a candidate for the Right National Regional Front. The party was founded in the 1970s by Jean-Marie Le Pen, openly racist and anti-Semitic. Today, the daughter of Le Pen, Marine, heads the party and has renamed National Rally (RN). His father, who among other things calls the Holocaust "a detail of history," for its part excluded Marine Le Pen from the party, but the fundamental identity of the RN still rests on the rejection of everything that is declared "foreign". The party focuses primarily on the exclusion and defamation of French Muslims.
It is said in an official statement about S. that he had been expelled from the party after the 2015 elections, after making "statements" that "contradict the spirit and political line of the National Gathering. ". What were these expressions, the RN does not announce. On Twitter, the head of the RN, Le Pen, responded to the attack on the mosque by talking about an "assassination attempt", an "incredible act" that " would be in contradiction with all the values of our movement ".
French President Emmanuel Macron also commented on Twitter Monday night. He wrote that he "decided to condemn this terrible attack". And: "The Republic should never tolerate hate, everything is done to punish the guilty and protect our fellow Muslims, and I promise to respect it."
The attempted attack strikes France at a time when the country is once again arguing over the place of Islam in society. The debate currently raises the question of whether Muslim women wearing headscarves are allowed to accompany their own children on school trips. The law has clearly defined these cases: they are allowed to act as private persons and not as pedagogical staff. Macron and his prime minister, Édouard Philippe, have tried several times to dramatize the headscarf debate in recent days, highlighting the clear legal situation.
At the same time, however, the public debate continues to give the impression of the assassination of an alleged Islamist in the Paris police headquarters. On October 3, an employee of the agency shot dead four of his colleagues and killed after learning that there were various secret warnings revealing the latter's proximity to the radical Islamist wave of Salafism.
Since the assassination, Macron and his Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, increasingly support that "communitarianism", ie the emergence of Islamic parallel societies , calls for a resolute fight against Islamism. However, Castaner does not always manage to draw a clear dividing line between justified vigilance and the danger of placing Muslims under suspicion in general. He was strongly criticized, notably by French Muslims and leftists, for having declared that the wearing of a beard by a Muslim could be interpreted as a possible indication of radicalization.
Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, told AFP: "In the current climate of stigmatization of Islam and Muslims, it is not no wonder such acts are perpetrated ".