Saturday, February 21, 2015


"It is in this setting that recent French debates over laicity in the schools must be seen. The positions are highly polarized. Integrationists see an increasingly fundamentalist Islam as a threat to the French model and think that the schools should actively resist it by teaching secular values; classic republicans think that the state must keep religion completely out of the schools but should not interfere with private beliefs; and multiculturalists think that Islam is simply being stigmatized, that social exclusion is mainly to blame, and that differences of all sorts should be represented and celebrated in schools. ach of these views has problems, but it is the multiculturalist one that seems the least in touch with social and political reality today. Not because the French don’t need to learn to accommodate more differences, but because it refuses to recognize the very disturbing developments in the Islamic world today (which are anything but accommodating to differences) and how they have already affected French life. The current mantra, which President Hollande felt obliged to repeat, is that Islamic terrorism has “nothing to do with Islam” and that the most important thing is not to “make an amalgam” of all Muslims. (The Socialist mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, went even further, declaring the terrorists to be “without faith”—in other words, infidels.) But this attitude only reinforces an institutional and intellectual omertà that makes it difficult even to discuss what is really going on in the schools. The evidence has been there for anyone who cared to look for it, in books like those of Kepel and the growing literature of memoirs written by former teachers in the quartiers who gave up because they could not control their classes or enforce the principle of laicity. In 2004, for example, the Chirac government received a report it had commissioned on the presence of religious “signs and belonging” in the schools, which was promptly buried because its results were so disturbing. This Obin Report was based on on-site visits government inspectors made to over sixty middle and high schools across France, concentrating on disfavored quartiers. The extent to which life in many of them had been, to employ Kepel’s term, “halalized” shocked them. The report recounts stories of girls being under constant surveillance by self-appointed older brothers who mete out corporal punishment with fists and belts if they deem modesty to have been violated. Wearing skirts or dresses is impossible in many places, also for female teachers. There is an obsession with purity, as students and their parents demand separate swimming hours or refuse to let their children go on school trips where the sexes might mix. If they do go, some refuse to enter cathedrals or churches. There are fathers who won’t shake hands with female teachers, or let their wives speak alone to male teachers. There are cases of children refusing to sing, or dance, or learn an instrument, or draw a face, or use a mathematical symbol that resembles a cross. The question of dress and social mixing has led to the abandonment of gym classes in many places. Children also feel emboldened to refuse to read authors or books that they find religiously unacceptable: Rousseau, Molière, Madame Bovary. Certain subjects are taboo: evolution, sex ed, the Shoah. As one father told a teacher, “I forbid you to mention Jesus to my son....” The situation of Jewish students is far worse and a great number have transferred to private schools (though also because they, too, have become more observant). In 1996 a principal in Lyons had to arrange the departure of the last two Jewish students in his school because he could not assure their safety. As the report says, “there is a stupefying and cruel reality: in France, Jewish children, and Jewish children alone, cannot be educated in all of our schools.' "
Mark Lilla, "France on Fire". The New York Review of Books. 5 March 2015, in
"Another week and another completely random attack by a gunman hunting down cartoonists before inexplicably heading to the local synagogue. My guess is that events in Copenhagen yesterday have already been put down in many quarters to what President Obama describes as ‘a random bunch of folks’ being targeted by somebody who has ‘misunderstood’ what every Western leader agrees is an entirely peaceful and harmless religious tradition.... The first is that supporting an artist in 21st century Europe should have become a brave thing to do and that a conversation about free speech in Europe in 2015 should have — and need — substantial police protection. Today’s UK newspapers refer to Vilks as ‘controversial.’ But Vilks wouldn’t be ‘controversial’ if almost the entirety of the Western media and the political and arts establishments had not in recent years abandoned their principles and chosen to avoid mentioning anything negative or worthy of satire in one single religion. The jihadists just want to kill Lars Vilks. It was the Western media and political class that made him ‘controversial’. And then there is the second point — which is how many attacks like yesterday’s have to happen before there is a semblance of serious discussion around all this? A few years ago when the offices of Charlie Hebdo were firebombed in Paris the French Foreign Minister said about drawing cartoons of Mohammed and thus potentially ‘insulting’ Islam: ‘Is it really sensible or intelligent to pour oil on the fire?’ My reply to which is ‘Who made our societies into this powder-keg apparently able to catch fire at any moment Now the pretence of the current European political class continues to be that that’s all just fine. We’re all nice cool Europeans once we live under the same roof. When a Somali arrives in London they become as local as a cockney. And when an Arab Muslim arrives in Copenhagen they become as Danish as Carlsberg. Except that they don’t, do they? Or at least a substantial number certainly don’t. And although the vast majority of European Muslims obviously don’t want to gun down cartoonists and Jews, a certain percentage do, or are happy to carry water for those who do. But why worry when it’s just a ‘small percentage’ who want to do things like the Copenhagen gunman did yesterday? For the time being we are all meant to say how racist it would be to talk about immigration restrictions, and so countries like Sweden continue to commit a form of cultural suicide. And soon it becomes totally normal to point out to Europe’s remaining Jews and free speech advocates that they are kind of out numbered these days, aren’t they. The answer to which is yes, they are. And are likely to remain so. And what happens after that?"
Douglas Murray, "How many more terror attacks until we have a serious discussion about offending religions". The Spectator. 15 February 2015, in
The importance of Mark Lilla's essay appearing as it does in the premier intelligentsia periodical on this side of the Atlantic is that it fully gives the lie to the idea that Islamic radicalisation in the Western world and the concomitant tendency to repress criticism of the malevolent effects and influence that Islam and certain sectors of the Muslim diaspora have on life in Western countries is something that only conservatives, reactionaries and or 'Islamophobes' adhere to. And that Muslim extremism is merely a figment of the imagination. As can be fully seen from the evidence that Lilla presents, it is the multiculturalists among us, who are engaged in make-believe and wish-fulfillment. Something that Douglas Murray's own piece in the London Spectator is equally good at demonstrating. The fact is, that per contra to the prognostication of the futile 'Extremism Summit' in Washington this past week, Islam as it is practiced by many of its adherents worldwide, is very much a part, not mind you the entirety, but certainly a part of the problem 1. To argue, pace the American President this week, that the problems of Muslim extremism is caused in part by: "young people facing a lack of job or educational opportunities", is completely fallacious and without any empirical data 2. Something which the usually bien-pensant Financial Times admitted to-day 3. The very best counter-examples being: a) how many terrorists has the deep deprivation suffered by the gypsy population of Europe produced? Answer: less than one; b) how many terrorists has the widespread violence and discrimination suffered by the Christian community in the Near and Middle East produce? Answer: less than one. In short, as the writer Graeme Wood argues most cogently, in the American periodical, the Atlantic, concerning the ultra-extremists of ISIS:
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam 4.
Most pertinent to our argument, Wood quotes Princeton Professor Bernard Haykel, who is the leading expert on ISIS in the United States, to the effect that to argue, pace much of Muslim establishment, both in and out of the Near East, that ISIS is not really Islamic, is: “'interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition'” 5.
In short, the sooner that the West realises that Islam, qua a religious ideology is a considerable part, not the entirety surely, but a considerable part of the problem of Muslim extremism, the sooner that we will be able to come seriously to grips with this horrible phenomenon. Hopefully, before it is too late.
1. Geoff Dyer, "White House grapples with jihadi threat". The Financial Times. 20 February 2015, in
2. Geoff Dyer, "Isis is not about Islam, says Obama". The Financial Times. 19 February 2015, in
3. Dyer, "White House grapples", op. cit.
4. Grame Wood, "What ISIS really wants". The Atlantic. (March 2015), in
5. Ibid.


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