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Terror in Europe

France's Twin Threat From Within: Angry Youth, Cynical Politics

France is not only a target for ISIS. The country must also admit that terrorism profits from its internal fractures.

On the RER train between Paris and the Mitry suburb.
On the RER train between Paris and the Mitry suburb.
Richard Werly

NICE — Will the French authorities have the courage to "tell all" about the Nice tragedy and its perpetrator, Tunisian-born Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel? It looks that way, as the anti-terrorism team led by the respected Paris prosecutor, François Molins, demonstrated its commitment to sharing objective information with the public during last year's attacks, both in January and November.

How, then, can we explain this doubt that has started to creep in, which has taken form in accusations launched by the former mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, by leaders of the traditional French conservatives parties, and by the president of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen? The brutal truth is that 230 people have been killed by terrorists since January 2015. And that shows an increasingly disturbing reality, after six months of living in a state of emergency: If France is indeed a priority target for ISIS, because of its military commitments in Africa and the Middle East, it is also a victim of the fractures and blindness within its own society.

The first fracture is the abandonment of too many neighborhoods where Muslim youth are prey to Islamist recruiters. It is not to say that ISIS controls these areas that have been beaten down by unemployment and trafficking: On the contrary, many Muslims and non-Muslims have successfully battled it to avoid the worst.

However, six months of special public powers in the state of emergency are not nearly enough to close gaps opened in recent years. That a psychologically unstable person was able to "rapidly radicalize" is revealing. Inflamed by ISIS propaganda, a part of French and immigrant youth — the one now pursuing jihad — is ready to turn its hate towards the French Republic by any means.

The second fracture is around security and politics. Like it or not, Marine Le Pen is right in saying that in other countries, the Interior Minister would have offered his resignation after such a string of tragedies. We cannot forget that this Bastille Day was the last of François Hollande's five-year-term, as he seeks reelection in spite of disastrous approval ratings. The greatest risk is that the truth is going to be sacrificed, or altered, by politicians settling scores — a fear voiced by more and more police and security officials. At this stage, to avoid the spreading gangrene of suspicion, the president is duty-bound to exhibit complete transparency.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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