News from France: French Reaction to Bin Laden's Death

By Michael Barrett

France’s reaction to Osama Bin Laden’s death

The death of Osama Bin Laden has sparked celebrations as well as debate and controversy. What do the French think?

There have been many big media events in the past few months, from the Japanese earthquakes and tsunami and the Arab Spring to the Royal Wedding.

The death of Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden has perhaps provoked the biggest media coverage of them all. You can get thorough international coverage and background from BBCNew York Times and The Economist.

With Al-Qaida confirming Bin Laden’s death and vowing revenge, the debate about whether or not to release the official picture of Osama seems a bit moot now. There was also controversy surrounding the nature of the celebrations over his death in the US, which sociologists contribute to a cathartic release of emotion.Osama Bin Laden ©LeFigaro, photo credit: Rahimullah Yousafzai/AP

Reactions to Bin Laden's death: polls and French media

First, to get some context, you can see special coverage in the French media by publications such as Le Monde, Libération and Le Figaro (which also did a video report). According to a poll by Le Figaro, the majority of respondents (about 61%) said that the US should not have to publish the Bin Laden corpse picture.

French Middle East expert commentary

French Middle East expert Olivier Roy wrote an opinion piece in Le Monde, stating that Osama’s death will further weaken a terrorist movement that never truly gained a strong foothold among the majority of the Arab peoples, who have instead recently risen up in several countries for democracy.

Reaction by Muslims in France

France has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe. What do they think? The Rector of the Mosque of Paris Dalil Boubakeur said that Bin Laden’s death is a “victory for peace and democracy.”

Osama Bin Laden ©The Economist, photo credit: dapdEven though Al-Qaida has certainly been weakened, most people are aware that the threat is not completely decimated. Claude Guéant, French Interior Minister, said that France could face revenge attacks by supporters of Bin Laden and should be very cautious in this environment.

President Sarkozy and France's role in Afghanistan

President Sarkozy himself said, “The scourge of terrorism has suffered a historic defeat but it's not the end of al-Qaeda.” Also, the Director of the DCRI, France’s intelligence services, said that France has been a terrorist target for several months.

What about France’s role in Afghanistan? Their involvement in the war has been the source of fierce debate in France since the beginning, and recently French Defense Minister Alain Juppé said he is planning for a French exit before 2014.

The debate will be ongoing about what the future holds, but just as in the US where there are diverging opinions about the operation that killed the world’s most wanted criminal, the French will also certainly keep their finger on the pulse of the news.

 

Michael Barrett writes the BonjourParis weekly news roundups from France. More at his blog American Expat in France.

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