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Paris is reeling from its second major terror attack within the span of a year. Friday night’s series of attacks on a sports stadium, concert hall, and several restaurants come just 10 months after the attacks on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which resulted in 17 deaths. Additionally, in August, three American men, two of them military service members on vacation, helped take down a gunman on a train between Amsterdam and Paris. The most recent attack on Paris killed 129 people and injured more than 350 others. The Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, claimed responsibility for the attacks in a statement released on Saturday morning. The statement has not been verified, but its authors write that the attack was in response to France's “insulting the Prophet, bragging of fighting Islam in France and for attacking Muslims in the Caliphate with their planes.” The statement warns: “This attack is only the beginning of a storm and an advertisement for those who wish to think on its lessons.”
France, because it was attacked cowardly, shamelessly, violently, France will be merciless against the barbarians...
François Hollande, French president
French President François Hollande spoke out harshly following Friday's devastation: "My dear compatriots. What happened last night in Paris, and in Saint Denis by the Stade de France, is an act of war. France, because it was attacked cowardly, shamelessly, violently, France will be merciless against the barbarians of Daesh [the Islamic State]." World leaders, including President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron, have expressed support and willingness to stand with France as further events unfold. After the death and devastation on Friday, many around the world are asking: Why France? According to the Pew Research Center, France is home to the second-largest population of Muslims in the European Union, second only to Germany. However, French Muslims make up a larger percentage of the country’s population than they do in Germany, comprising 7.5% of the French population. There is also a high rate of immigration from North Africa to France, bringing in immigrants who are often Muslim. Between immigration and birth rates, the Muslim population in France is expected to rise from 4.7 million in 2010 to 6.9 million in 2030, an increase of nearly 150%.
France's non-Muslim and Muslim residents have sometimes been at odds. Laws banning the display of religious symbols in schools has caused tension and public service employees have been criticized for unfairly impacting Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab. In 2011, France passed a law specifically banning niqabs and burqas, two different types of face-concealing garments that are sometimes worn by conservative Muslim women. In late 2005, the death of two teenage boys ignited a set of riots around France in which racism and discrimination against Muslims were suggested as contributing factors. France also has its problems with homegrown terrorism. According to The Guardian, nearly half of the more than 3,000 Europeans who have traveled to join ISIS are coming from France. The secular-leaning nation has made efforts to stem the tide of radicalization, but is hampered in part by its own incarceration system.
The BBC reports that three of the four perpetrators of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks met in prison, where at least one of the members, Amedy Coulibaly, seems to have been radicalized. Much like American prisons, French prisons suffer from demographic issues — more than half of those imprisoned in France are Muslim, making it easy for jailed militants to recruit for their cause from those already marginalized by society. Friday's attacks, like the Charlie Hebdo attacks, which targeted the magazine's offices and a kosher supermarket, were mostly carried out at businesses and venues likely to be frequented by locals. Rather than the Eiffel Tower or the Champs-Elysées, the attackers targeted restaurants and a music venue in the trendy Right Bank, where they were more likely to find Parisian youth than an international crowd. The choice of targets echoes the ISIS statement that it is France, in particular, that is the target.