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Recent attacks in Paris show it’s France that’s actually in crisis

A frenzied attack reportedly carried out against two French Algerian women by two women of “European” appearance is not being described by the police and media as an act of terrorism. In fact, it’s barely being reported at all.

Several demonstrations all over France were held following the killing of school teacher Samuel Paty, who was attacked and beheaded last Friday by the Chechen teen Abdoulakh Anzorov. Before being shot by police, Anzorov reportedly uploaded a video and admitted to the killing.

Anzorov’s motive was that Paty had shown Muslim students derogatory and highly offensive images of the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam) in order to promote the idea of ‘freedom of expression’. Some Muslim parents took to campaigning against Paty and accused him of Islamophobia.

The French President Emanuel Macron swiftly condemned the attack on Paty and called it an “Islamist terrorist attack”, even though Anzorov had not been known to French security services. Speaking from the scene of the crime, Macron promised, “They won’t win… We will act.”

Pinning the blame on an entire community

Without explicitly explaining who “they” were, Macron had already made his views clear before the attack when he unveiled a long-anticipated plan at the start of October to tackle “Islamist radicalism”. Macron began by asserting that “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today; we are not just seeing this in our country.”[1]

Now, there is no doubt that many Muslim nations are in a state of crisis; existentially, in some cases. It may be fair to say that some who profess to live within the purview of Islam act outside of its tenets. Yet to say that “Islam is in crisis” is to place the blame for one, or even all, terrorist attacks on the shoulders of an entire way of life and its followers.

There are two obvious problems with this. Firstly, it is untrue: EU statistics show that Muslims account for a small fraction of terrorism in Europe. Secondly, lies on Islam and Muslims and claiming “Islam is in crisis” are constantly peddled by the far right as fact.

This is a global effort. The leader of communist China uses the same argument to justify putting three million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps and force them to renounce Islam. The leader of capitalist USA claims that “Islam hates us” – whatever that means.[2]

Islam in France: an introspection

Macron’s awaited response to the attacks against the two Muslim women under the Eiffel Tower should begin with an honest look in the mirror. This might start with a concession that France has a deep-rooted and historic connection with eugenicist racism, so much so that France celebrated the decapitation of Algerian fighters who resisted their occupation,[3] keeping their heads as trophies in a Paris museum only to return them earlier this year in July.

A humbler and more courageous move might have been for Macron to remind the nation about the context of France’s own violence. Half of his country collaborated with and welcomed the Nazis during World War II.[4] Colonialist attitudes continue to plague France’s collective memory and inspire the far right and Muslim-haters to stab women in front of their children while calling them “dirty Arabs”.

Had Macron done this, his views might finally show some true leadership and gain some traction.

Perhaps following the devastating explosions in Beirut, Macron might admit that France continues to wallow in delusions of colonial grandeur by throwing its support behind Lebanon but making it conditional on accepting French ‘advice’ on political reform.

Then there are France’s numerous military incursions in the Sahel, Mali, Iraq, and Syria – lands where the majority of people are Muslim.[5]

But Macron will not say anything on any of this. All this speaks of a deep crisis within France and how it sees itself on the world stage.

State violence against Muslims will only degrade France further

History and foreign policy aside, there are even more pronounced problems with France’s domestic policies.

A day before Anzorov’s attack, French police raided the home of Idriss Sihamedi, the head of one of the largest Muslim charities in France, BarakaCity, and beat him in front of his wife and children.[6] Sihamedi led a campaign against the new laws planned by Macron that seek to rid Islam in France from “separatism” and “foreign influences”.

Sihamedi was also a vocal opponent of Charlie Hebdo, the relatively unknown French magazine that gained notoriety after publishing inflammatory images that attempted to depict the Prophet Muhammad (sall Allāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam).

Sihamedi was insulted, beaten, handcuffed, and arrested in his own home by armed officers while his wife and children were forced to keep their hands in the air. He was released without charge the following day, but following the Paris attack, he was informed by police officers in the middle of the night that the government had begun proceedings seeking to shut down BarakaCity.[7]

Sihamedi’s voice is one that challenges the pronounced Islamophobia and racism of the French government from a place of confidence and strength. This, however, openly challenges the narrative of those who wish to blame Muslims and migrants for everything.

Repeating terrible historical mistakes

Surprisingly for some, France has been a breeding ground for the far right since France’s dalliance with Hitler during World War II, despite its principles of “equality, fraternity and liberty”.

Until recently, the far-right National Front (FN) enjoyed up to 25% of the vote during general elections. In more recent years, FN leaders failed against Macron’s dynamism, but it is their fear of North African Muslims and darker-skinned migrants that permeates French society.[8]

One particular group, Generation Identity (GI),[9] is a movement that began in France with the explicit anti-Muslim aim of “stopping the Islamification of Europe”. Their tactics involve threats and intimidation against Muslims. In 2012, the group stormed and occupied a new mosque in the western city of Poitiers.[10]

The fear-based ideology of GI has spread throughout Europe, and it is one of a multitude of far-right groups that enjoy growing support in Europe, and France in particular.

And yet, in the battle of ideas, the mainstream media favours the intellectually-defeated Muslim that tries to assimilate.

Sadly, even this position is not good enough and is still rejected by the far right. In a 2015 ‘debate’ between a Muslim woman and a GI member recorded by the BBC,[11] the GI member states: “If Muslims were not living in France, we would never have terrorism.”

After the Muslim woman replied how Muslims are victims too and that “we are all in this together”, she continues to explain how she hates terrorists and that they are “not her brothers”. Unsatisfied with this, the GI member then adds how he cannot live peacefully with Muslims, but the Muslim woman replies: “We can live peacefully if there are people like you.”

Stepping up

This public faux pas aside, there is a strong and growing cohort of confident, articulate, and unapologetic Muslims prepared to challenge the far right and those within the French government who adopt their arguments. It is those voices that must be heard in equal measure, and they must be protected.

A reasonable argument and the weight of intellectuality is needed at this time more than ever. This is the force that will surely counter the bullies on the far right and make actions such as Macron’s aim to close down scores of Muslim-led institutions seem to be exactly what they are: fuel for the far right and a beckoning towards the worst to come.

There are reportedly stickers plastered all around French cities that claim “Islam is worse than Nazism”.[12] For a nation whose majority actually welcomed the Nazis, this is hardly an insult – it is simply more evidence of France’s ongoing split identity, its unwillingness to look honestly in the mirror of history and the present, and a deep fear that shows that, if anything, its crisis is with itself.

Source: www.islam21c.com

Notes:

[1] https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/10/2/macron-announces-new-plan-to-regulate-islam-in-france

[2] https://www.washingtonpost.com/gdpr-consent/?next_url=https%3a%2f%2fwww.washingtonpost.com%2fnews%2fpost-politics%2fwp%2f2017%2f05%2f20%2fi-think-islam-hates-us-a-timeline-of-trumps-comments-about-islam-and-muslims%2f

[3] https://www.trtworld.com/africa/algeria-receives-remains-of-algerians-who-fought-french-colonisation-37848

[4] https://www.france24.com/en/20180919-depth-french-police-collaboration-with-nazis-revealed

[5] https://www.gouvernement.fr/en/french-military-forces-deployed-in-operations-abroad

[6] https://5pillarsuk.com/2020/10/14/french-police-arrest-muslim-activist-after-he-launched-anti-islamophobia-campaign/

[7] https://twitter.com/IdrissSihamedi/status/1318667984894832641?s=20

[8] https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/frances-national-front-dead-politics-alive-well/

[9] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cwcl03xIkGg

[10] https://www.france24.com/en/20121020-france-french-far-right-group-hold-sit-protest-against-new-mosque-islam-generation-identity

[11] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-54579403

[12] https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/frances-national-front-dead-politics-alive-well/

The views expressed on Islam21c and its connected channels do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation.

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About Moazzam Begg

5 comments

  1. Do Muslims really need the likes of Moazzam Begg to speak for us? Do we really need someone who took himself and his young family to Afghanistan in a warzone, got himself involved with supporting Syrian jihadis and shows his own ‘ delusions of colonial grandeur’ by supporting supremacist ideals like support for a Caliphate to give advice to Muslims about the ‘battle of ideas’?

    We need Muslims integrated and contributing positively into their home countries in the West to represent us to the wider community. People with both feet here, not with one eye on Lebanon or whichever other ’cause of the week’ piques their fancies. People with a stake in successfully living in the West. We need activists who will talk about housing, employment opportunities with knowledge and passion and a whole host of other ‘unsexy’ subjects that take the focus away from our lived life experiences to a international game of Risk about geopolitical issues the average British or French Muslims knows little about and cares even less.

    I’m just not interested in showing how evil the West is when all nations look after no 1. I’m not interested in fighting an abstract ‘battle of ideas’. I’d rather that we focused on this murder of a teacher rather than equate it to mere posters of our Prophet (PBUH) or to support people who want a minority of a minority to forcibly change foreign policy. I just want to live in peace in the country I was born in with my family. We need real admission about problems that plague our communities, not empty but grand gestures and arguments.

    • You carry on with your head under the sand mate & forget that the Muslim ummah is suffering everywhere. Yes, Muslims – Your brother & sisters! Oh but wait! Let’s talk about “real issues” @ Forhad!

  2. “Article after article from Muslim spokesmen (Islam21c, 5pillars, other mainstream organisations) fail to condemn or even mention the brutal murder on Samuel Paty.”

    Several demonstrations all over France were held following the killing of school teacher Samuel Paty, who was attacked and beheaded last Friday by the Chechen teen Abdoulakh Anzorov.

    Reading the article. It helps.
    Also the article is not about Paty’s case. It is about France’s crackdown that began with Macron’s plan announcement which has been precipitated by Paty’s murder. Again, read the article before baselessly critizing it.

    “By not condemning the attack and other attacks that can be justified under Islamic law”

    Can you prove that Moazzam does not condemn the murder?
    And can you prove that the murder and other attacks can be islamically justified ? ie. Can you prove that vigilantism is islamically justified?
    Spoiler: you won’t because can’t.

    “Why should the majority they then care when the violent attacks are then made against muslims in France?”
    Because they are victim of a victim of a crime fuelled by the anti-islam climate in France?

    “The answer is that Mozamm et al, do not see Paty’s action as a crime under Islamic law.”

    Again, can you prove that Moazzam does not condemn the murder?
    And can you prove that the murder and other attacks can be islamically justified ? ie. Can you prove that vigilantism is islamically justified?
    Spoiler2: you won’t because can’t.

    Through your response, you apply a faulty logic: Muslim should not talk about the 2 Muslim victims because apparently Islam condones Paty’s murder.
    This is absolutely illogical and factually false.

    Your comment is a horrible one to an nevertheless EXCELLENT article.

  3. Interesting response. Article after article from Muslim spokesmen (Islam21c, 5pillars, other mainstream organisations) fail to condemn or even mention the brutal murder on Samuel Paty. Instead They focus horrendous attack on the two muslim women. Yet wasn’t the brutal killing of Paty worse? Nonmuslims aren’t stupid By not condemning the attack and other attacks that can be justified under Islamic law you put muslims in a dubious light. They are the minority in Europe remember. Why should the majority they then care when the violent attacks are then made against muslims in France?

    The answer is that Mozamm et al, do not see Paty’s action as a crime under Islamic law. They can’t say it aloud because the howling they will get from the media. In my opinion they think they are putting god’s law above that of manmade justice. Yet the Nonmuslim can never believe this as they don’t believe in Allah’s law so it will appear to them that muslims are hypocrites.
    Begg and etc fail to understand that there is a price to pay for this elitist Islamic attitude- a mountain of ill -feeling that is now beginning to topple on the heads of muslim minorities.

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