Several hundred people gathered in the courtyard of Les Invalides on Friday, November 27, 2015, to remember the 130 victims of the Paris attacks.
I listened to live coverage on RMC.
You could have heard a pin drop.
There were no coughs. No sneezes. No sounds of shoes on cobbles.
Then the band of the Republican Guard played La Marseillaise. Singers from the academy at the Opera reprised it later.
As a riposte to the terrorists’ objection to music, much of the ceremony was comprised of melodious classics from Bach to Brel. In his speech, François Hollande said:
We will sing even more. We will hold even more concerts and shows.
Not everyone who was invited went. Some, as the radio commentator explained, were still deep in mourning. Others were upset with the security services and police for not having prevented the attacks or intervened earlier.
Yet, so many affected, including the wounded survivors, did gather. Several people were in wheelchairs. The Telegraph spoke to a few:
Jeremy Nichaux, a 35-year-old nurse, who treated survivors in the aftermath of the attacks, felt compelled to come. Many of his patients have left hospital, he said, but they remain traumatised.
“I took care of them and shared moments with them,” he said. “I wanted to share this moment.
“I haven’t been to where the attacks took place, but it is important to me to be here with the French people. I wanted to think about those who died.”
Among the survivors, Carine Merlino was relatively lucky. The 42-year-old was drinking wine with a friend inside the Le Carillon restaurant when it was struck. She was wounded in the back by a fragment of metal but was able to walk away.
“We wondered whether we should come,” she said. “But we needed to be here with the people.”
It was the first time civilians had been honoured in this way at Les Invalides, however, Hollande considered this tribute only right as France is at war. These people were honoured as military heroes.
Hollande also noted that the dead and the injured represented life, liberty and the French republic.
The government encouraged everyone in the country to display the Tricolore from windows that Friday. Those who could not afford to buy one were urged to print an image of it instead for this national day of remembrance.
Another article in The Telegraph examined the opposition to music from certain quarters over recent years:
Is this the clash of civilisations reduced to the petty meanness of particularly violent party-poopers, determined that if they can’t have a good time, no one else will? Some Muslim fundamentalists seem to loathe culture in general and music in particular.
The use of music is, at best, a grey area in Koranic law, with reductive interpretations claiming music should only be made to worship Allah; others still more draconian forbid music altogether.
Under the Taliban rule of Afghanistan it was a crime to possess a radio. When Sharia was imposed on parts of Northern Mali in 2012 during the civil war, musical expression was outlawed, punishable by death. Militants destroyed recording studios, dismantled radio stations and amputated the limbs of people caught playing instruments.
This is a vision Isil would impose on the rest of us: a world without melody. It is how a bunch of mad zealots can convince themselves that unarmed kids spending their leisure time listening to a favourite band are legitimate military targets.
The young imam of Brest who spends a lot of his time answering questions from his contemporaries on Islam says that music is meant only for monkeys (Jewish people) and pigs (Christians). His words.
Meanwhile, France’s state of emergency had some strange components. Whilst Parisians wasted no time in getting back to the cafés in the wake of the attacks, the Socialists in the North imposed a ban on purchasing alcohol after 8 p.m. Although one could drink in cafés and restaurants, one could not buy bottles of wine, beer or spirits to take home after that hour. Nor was drinking allowed in public thoroughfares or parks.
So many shopkeepers complained that the préfecture du Nord decided not renew the law when it expired on November 27. Supposedly, it was intended to free police from dealing with drink-related public or domestic disturbances so that they could focus on terror suspects instead. Hmm. A slippery slope that, one of which the imam of Brest and others would certainly have approved.
Over 1600 search warrants have been issued over the past two weeks for mosques and prayer rooms. These have resulted in 211 arrests, 181 persons detained and 293 weapons seized. Not surprisingly, fundamentalist Muslim observers have termed such moves ‘political’ and islamophobic.
For now, French security services are swamped by a flurry of activity. However, Le Monde points out the difficulty they have in co-ordinating efforts not only amongst themselves in the various agencies but also with their counterparts in other countries, particularly Belgium. There is much information to analyse and paperwork to complete.
A spokesman from the DGSI, which unlike its sister the DGSE, deals with threats at a national level says it is daunting processing all the leads on possible targets, such as concerts, and keeping track of terrorist cells and networks. Both must be managed. The problem is what to prioritise in each.
After the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve created a new security structure aimed at co-ordinating the various agencies. Unfortunately, it is still generating reams of paperwork for a database intended to be used and expanded by all.
One security expert told Le Monde:
The difficulty is that, at any one time, we’re looking at [someone like] Yassine Salhi, who from one day to the next decides to decapitate his boss, and at Abbaoud [killed in the Saint-Denis siege on November 18]. We have 3000 agents for 4000 targets. And then, in Paris and Saint-Denis we have Belgians and other men we haven’t even identified yet. We don’t have the infrastructure to manage a phenomenon of this magnitude.
Finally, there is, added to this, either the lack of identity papers or stolen and forged passports.
It will be a long road ahead for France, especially when the Stop Jihadisme hotline is ringing off the hook.