The brutal beheading of Samuel Patty by a Chechnyan Islamist on 16th of October 2020 has reignited the debate about the French secularism and its co-existence with Islam. It is the latest edition in the series of Islamist terror attacks witnessed by France in the past more than five years since the deadly attack on the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris on 7th January 2015. Although France has witnessed terrorist attacks on its soil since late 1950’s, the recent acts of terrorism are different from most of them in their motivation. They are a serious challenge thrown at the liberal-secular values of French Republic which are the defining features of French society. Let’s first examine the factors responsible for the genesis of this problem.
The laïcité (French word for secularism) is practised in letter and spirit in France where State completely separates itself from the religious affairs of its citizens. The French society believes in these principles and the French state doesn’t let politics and religion mix with each other. The French secular values are results of a long drawn struggle between the Church and State and hence these values are second nature for the French citizens.
On the other hand most of the Muslims residing in France, citizens or refugees, are immigrants in France. With a population of more than five million France has one of the highest populations of Muslims in Europe. While most of them are concentrated in the coastal city of Marseille and Paris their population is spread out all around France. Most of these populations live in banlieues (French terms for suburbs). These areas unlike the established definition of suburbs are, in fact, self-imposed ghettos of Muslims where rule of law doesn’t exist as it does in other places.
While staying within once own community is a not an abnormality per se but in an open society such as France this behaviour does raise concerns and these concerns becomes cause of worry when this apparent self-imposed insularity of Muslims is in fact a religious duty for them. Chapter 3rd verse number 28 and Chapter 9 verse number 29 of Al-Quran gives clear injunction to Muslims for not getting friendly with non-Muslims. If Quran itself gives clear instructions to them in this regard then one need not to imagine the possible causes of this ghetto mentality of Muslims.
It can be reasonably argued that most of the Muslims residing in France, coming from orthodox Islamic societies, have quite a clear perspective vis-à-vis the indigenous French population. No wonder that most of the suburban riots that occurred in France from 1979 till date involved youth of North African origins. Coming as refugees in a county while fleeing from their countries for various reasons the majority of the Muslim population don’t try to integrate with or accept the French civilizational values. The self-imposed insularity leads to consolidation of their prejudgements against the host population and it leads to a heightened sense of anger which results in violence and proclamation of victimhood card post the violence.
On the other hand the 2300 mosques in France, and millions others around the world, invite the faithful five times a day and on the grand assembly of Friday to proclaim “Allahu-Akbar”, which translates as “Allah is the Greatest” implying that all the rest are lesser Gods than Allah. It’s like a bully teasing you on every occasion without fail and claiming victimhood and committing violence on you if you even try to retaliate. The pattern is same all around the World and many Western countries try to accommodate Muslims; the reasons ranging from an absurd sense of political correctness to appeasement of political constituencies.
But as France is the birthplace of modern secularism and it has taken the measures to curb the increased manifestation of Islamic fundamentalism the retaliation from Islamists is violent and deadly. From the Charlie Hebdo attack to beheading of Samuel Patty the chasm between the insular community and French society is increasing exponentially. While the French laïcité seeks to separate politics and religion the Islamic fundamentalism is nothing but the manifestation of Political Islam. Muslims wanting to live in the 07th Century Arabia can be of little problem to any society the least for French society. But their insistence on expansion of their cult and converting or killing people for the resistance they offer is a pure war cry against the civilized world.
Therefore the only way forward present in front of the French state is to assert its Secular values with more firmness and not bowing down in front of any form of violence that aims to change the character of French people. The latest response of the French society by projecting the cartoons of Muhammad on the public building is not only an act of defiance but that of assertion; assertion of absolute freedom of expression that is non-negotiable for France.
In addition there is a need to break the insularity of Muslims and re-educating them in the secular traditions of French society. While it would be, in a way, going against the long cherished principle of the French laïcité, it is imperative for French state given the large population of Muslim in French society. Finally there is a need to promote open and fearless debate on all aspects of Islam the way it is done with respect to Christianity and other faiths. There is an urgent need for the non-Muslims all around the world to study Islamic thought process so that the allegation of misinterpretations and the myth of “True Islam” can be busted for once and all. Open debates and fearless opposition of Islamists is the way forward to societies around the world to demystify and deconstruct the myth of Islamic victimhood and destroy the designs of Political Islam to over-run the civilized world.
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