By Christmas 2014, there had been three attacks across Paris. None were fatal, but all had worrying lone wolf jihadi similarities, and France was on high alert. More troops were on the streets, everyone was on edge.
Across the border in Germany, xenophobic and Islamophobic rallies organised by a group called Pegida were drawing tens of thousands, as were counter-protests.
Then the attack on Charlie Hedbo happened. From two brothers who had previously been identified as suspicious. The attack was followed by related attacks that were also fatal. One American name seem to be related to their radicalisation, Awlaki, the American jihadi killed extra judicially by a CIA drone in 2011.
World media exploded. Cartoons, in sympathy, protests, vigils, and more were held throughout the world. But there were less sympathetic reactions. European governments, already worried by the threat of fighters returning from jihad abroad, lone wolf attacks, and more, are increasingly looking to harsher legal restrictions. Islamophobic protests are continuing in many countries. And France’s own Muslim population, the largest in Europe, is struggling without state support to reconcile alienation from French and Western society, without necessarily turning to anti-French or foreign jihad.