- From the Editor
The year 2014 was as tumultuous a year in the Mediterranean as any, and 2015 looks to be much more of the same, headlined by the 7 January 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. The attacks by the two French-born sons of Algerian immigrants associated with al Qaeda in Yemen, brothers Chérif and Saïd Kouachi, are the deadliest acts of domestic terrorism in France since twenty-eight people were killed in the 1961 Vitry-Le-François train bombing by the Organisation de l’armée secrète during the bloody Algerian War of 1954–62. The twelve people who died and eleven who were injured during the murderous rampage at the Charlie Hebdo office building, the subsequent two-day manhunt that had France under a police lockdown, and the culmination of events in the form of a nine-hour standoff near Charles de Gaulle Airport attest to the complicated and increasingly difficult relationship between Western Europe — in particular France, with its sizeable Algerian minority population — and the neighboring Muslim societies in the Middle East and North Africa.
The public outpouring of support throughout France in the aftermath of the killings was certainly a seminal moment for the West to express support for a free press as part of a thriving Western democracy. That the Kouachi brothers were little more than petty criminals who were not considered high-level terrorists in al Qaeda, yet could bring France to a standstill for two intense days, demonstrated the fragility of an open society with a free press to some of its own disenchanted citizens. That the first issue of Charlie Hebdo following the shooting had a cartoon on the cover of a tearful Prophet Mohammad holding a sign reading “Je suis Charlie” to show unity with those opposed to Islamic-based violence reminded people that this Western value would not be [End Page 1] so easily undermined — no matter how offensive the cover might be to some. It is perhaps with some irony that this issue sold over 7 million copies in six languages when a normal run of the weekly magazine sells only approximately sixty thousand copies in France. Nevertheless, these recent events are testament to the strong feelings of incompatibility between some open Western European societies and members of their sizeable Muslim minorities who may favor a closed society that adheres to stricter forms of Islam.
The first three essays in the current Mediterranean Quarterly focus on this issue from various perspectives. Barbara Franz, professor of political science at Rider University, takes on this issue head-on with her essay “Popjihadism: Why Young European Muslims Are Joining the Islamic State.” She examines in detail the factors that exist in European societies and within immigrant families that push young Muslims — who cannot or will not fully embrace the Western society in which they were born and grew up — to join a “holy war” against the West. Beyond describing these youths’ sense of simple disenfranchisement, Franz demonstrates some of the deeper issues at play, such as a broken family structure, which pushes some Europeans of Middle Eastern extraction to become warriors in search of a foreign adventure to bring meaning to their beleaguered lives within their Western host countries.
Meanwhile, Anthony N. Celso, associate professor of security studies at Angelo State University in San Angelo, Texas, examines the birth, development, and workings of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in his essay “Zarqawi’s Legacy: Al Qaeda’s ISIS ‘Renegade.’” It is an important essay in light of the rapid growth of ISIS in 2014. Until January 2014, President Barack Obama had deliberately avoided addressing the ISIS threat, going so far as to mention the organization pejoratively in passing as only “a jayvee team.” Since then, however, Washington and its allies have been forced to confront growing public pressure from ISIS, which has turned to public beheadings of captured foreigners and most recently the public burning of a downed Jordanian pilot to try to extort huge sums of Western money to fund its de facto terrorist state and, quite simply, to terrify the rest of the world. As of February...