Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

Office of News & Public Affairs

Boston College Expert: Terrorist Attack in France

office of news & public affairs

Jonathan Laurence

Jonathan Laurence
Associate Professor of Political Science
cell: 617-230-0387
Faculty website

Laurence is nonresident senior fellow in Foreign Policy studies at the Brookings Institution. His research interests are transatlantic relations, Islam in the West, European politics, and North Africa/Turkey. He is the author of two critically acclaimed books: Integrating Islam: Political and Religious Challenges in Contemporary France (Brookings Institution Press, 2006) and  The Emancipation of Europe’s Muslims: The State’s Role in Minority Integration (Princeton University Press 2012). Prof. Laurence’s research has been featured in the Washington Post and on National Public Radio, and his articles have been published by European Political Science, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, International Crisis Group, Le Monde, The New York Times, Perspectives on Politics, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Der Tagesspiegel  and other US and European periodicals and think tanks.  He is completing a new book comparing the evolution of state-Islam relations in North Africa and Turkey.



“The attack clearly seeks to drive a wedge between all Muslims and the non-Muslim majority society; Muslim leaders in France immediately condemned the assassinations to resist this temptation. 

This is the latest crisis of free speech — and the freedom to offend religious sentiments — which has been a major theme for 25 years: from the Salman Rushdie fatwa, through the Van Gogh murder and Danish cartoon crisis. 

Even though France is militarily engaged in the fight against radical violent Islam in Libya, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, the attackers chose a satirical newspaper and not a military target. This is consistent with the strategy of terror that ISIL employs in Syria and Iraq. 

This is the second time in one year that a military-style attack by French fighters on European civilians has taken place — the first was at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Two years earlier, a Frenchman killed three soldiers and four schoolchildren and a teacher around the city of Toulouse. 

It shows that death threats are deadly serious and will change the way that sensitive buildings are protected, especially since Charlie Hebdo already experienced a bomb attack.

This should be dissociated from the apparent rise in populist parties, which do a fine trade based on cultural and religious differences of Muslim citizens alone. But they have a unique opportunity now to capitalize on the fear and anger that will follow."


Media Note:

Contact information for additional Boston College faculty sources on a range of subjects is available at: /offices/pubaf/journalist/experts.html


Sean Hennessey
Associate Director
Office of News and Public Affairs
Boston College

(617) 552-3630 (office)
(617) 943-4323 (cell)