War in Mali … Is Islam Compatible with France?

When last November Le Point published this front cover (below) there was angry condemnation from the Left. Now with France at war in Mali against what President Hollande calls Islamist “terrorist elements”  the same Left is being helpfully supportive.

Cet islam sans gêne- “This shameless Islam”


“French army forces (have) supported Malian units to fight against Islamist ‘terrorist elements’ ” – France 24

So were the headlines and reports in the Left-wing media a bare two months ago just politically correct grandstanding at the time? For the record these included: “Le Point Shocks with ‘Shameless Islam’ cover. Le Point, a leading French conservative leaning weekly has shocked the left with this controversial cover story entitled: Cet islam sans gêne- “This shameless Islam”. (Scroll down for more)

Indeed after the slaughter and bloodshed during the recent Algerian hostage-taking affair might it be fair to ask whether some on the French Left are having a Damascene conversion?

Certainly French public opinion seems overwhelmingly disenchanted with Islam. According to an Ipsos/Centre d’études politiques de Sciences Po (Cevipof)/ Fondation Jean-Jaurès opinion poll —  “France 2013 : les nouvelles fractures”  —  taken across the political spectrum and published in Le Monde and other papers on January 24,  74% of those questioned considered Islam to be intolerant and incompatible with French culture. The results also reflected widespread French exasperation with immigrants. Le Monde noted: “70% of respondents (83% and more of  UMP supporters ) believe that there “are too many foreigners in France” and 62% that the French “no longer feel at home as before”. Le Monde interviews Michel Winock, a specialist in contemporary French political history, who  compares the present situation to “that affecting France at the end of the XIXth century or the 1930s: the ingredients are there and the populism being expressed exceeds the number of voters supporting Marine Le Pen,” he tells the paper.

More darkly as Arthur Goldhammer notes on his blog: “Authoritarianism draws astonishing support. To the question ‘Does France need a real leader to restore order,’ more than 70% of members of all parties reply in the affirmative. Is it surprising that the parties of the right favor the authoritarian solution even more strongly than those of the left?”

“The survey plowed into a bevy of other topics as well. For example, it laid bare the dire level of confidence the French have in the mainstream media—73% thought that journalists caved to pressures from political powers. It exposed the French exasperation with immigrants. And it got caught up in the thorny thicket of religion, particularly Islam—74% considered it intolerant.”- Naked Capitalism

Indeed if the French electorate gained (translated?) access to the views of Melanie Phillips — a well known conservative columnist for the London-based Daily Mail and a polemical writer on Islam and the West – they might find themselves agreeing with sentiments such as these in a recent column after the Algerian hostage-taking:

“Only a display of uncompromising strength — including, most importantly, strength of resolve — has any chance of being a deterrent. The Algerians understand this very well. The West does not — instead assuming that everyone on the planet thinks like it does and is thus similarly governed by self-interest. But in dealing with Islamist fanatics who regard themselves as the army of God, and for whom death is the highest calling, this is a catastrophic mistake. The most devastating consequence has been the West’s refusal to acknowledge that it is not fighting a series of brush fires based on local political grievances, but a war of religion being conducted against the free world in order to destroy it … In a bitter irony, advanced Libyan weaponry that fell into terrorist hands after Colonel Gaddafi was ousted — courtesy of the UK, France and the U.S. — has been used against the French in Mali … Western governments have soft-pedalled Iran through fruitless negotiations and slow-burning sanctions, thus giving it time to build its nuclear bomb with which it hopes to finish off the West… This is demonstrated not just in the military sphere, but in the way in which it (the West) has allowed the radical Islamist agenda to make inroads into its own societies, courtesy of the perversities of human rights culture and the craven willingness to silence all such concerns on the grounds that they are ‘Islamophobic’… To win this great civilisational battle of our time and protect all our citizens — (we)  must abandon  current incoherence. That means holding the line against Sharia law …  and tearing up human rights law in order to deal properly with the human wrongs of Islamic terrorists…It means treating the Muslim Brotherhood as a deadly threat to freedom everywhere, rather than embracing them … as helpful to the West…It means a steely resolve to act against the whole continuum of extremism …. And it means no soft-pedalling or negotiation with those threatening violence against us or our interests abroad…Only if we display such moral clarity and unwavering resolve will this menace ever be defeated, both at home and abroad. Otherwise, we are all hostages now.”

As the online conservative news site Atlantico noted in a recent debate about the Ipsos poll with three writers and authors — Daoud Boughezala, assistant editor of the newspaper Causeur, Haoues Seniguer, a political scientist at IEP de Lyon and Claude Sicard, an economist and author of two books on Islam–: “A heavily secularised French society now wonders if it can absorb millions of immigrants who bring with them a culture and way of life, in which Islam is often preponderant. What we think abstractly about as the Muslim religion has little to do with the condition of Muslim immigrants currently living in France and sometimes in uneasy cohabitation with the “indigenous” population.

In the discussion Claude Sicard said: “Islam and Christianity are two different civilizations that have been fighting for the last 13 centuries. These two worlds are in opposition for doctrinal, historical and psychological reasons. Muslims who have settled in Europe do not want to give up their identity, and we can not blame them. They cannot blend into our civilization because that would be to betray their own, especially as Muhammad taught them that they are  “the best community God has created.”

Furthermore on doctrinal issues, Muhammad taught his followers that Christians were wrong: “Jesus is not the son of God, he did not die on a cross and was not resurrected  …  the Christian Trinity is, to Muslim eyes, a tale of polygamy and Islam fights polygamy, for God has no ‘partners’.

“On a psychological level Muslim teaching about the centuries of struggle against the Christian crusaders, the defeat at Potiers, Constantinople, the Ottoman empire etc are all historic events with enormous repercussions: Muslims criticise us for the Crusades, the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, 19th century colonisation, plundering of Arab resources and non-recognition by the West of contributions by Muslim culture in Xth, XIth and XIIth centuries to civilization. In the collective Muslim subconscious there is between West and Islam a constant struggle to the point that Muslims often call Westerners ‘crusaders’ … Muslims are fed a diet of victimhood and protest, they feel humiliated, subjected to Western hegemony, victims of injustice, and suffering at the hands of an ancient Judeo-Christian conspiracy”.

Turning to the issue of more community dialogue, two of the participants diverged strongly. Haoues Seniguer said: “There is certainly insufficient dialogue. Indeed, it is precisely the lack of a Muslim dialogue with non-Muslims that causes so many misunderstandings and tensions in French society. A good way for French Muslims to reconnect the broken wire would be to further open their structures to Muslim youth born and socialized in France as they tend to have achieved more acculturation, and to make a clean break with hyper-normative readings and interpretations of Islam. Muslims also need to be more accepting of contradictory debate about religious doctrine.”

However Claude Sicard noted: “Dialogue between Christians and Muslims is impossible. First of all Muslims would deviate from the Quran if they accepted that “Christians” are not second class citizens or “dhimmis.” Moreover, the Quran tells Muslims: “O believers take no friends among Jews and Christians” (5.51). All this bodes poorly for any fruitful dialogue between Muslims and Christians.”

Turning to solutions Haoues Seniguer said: “There are ways of making the religions reconcilable. A majority of Muslims in the country are French and are particularly proud of that and would be open to working from both the Muslims and non–Muslim side, in opening up cultural, religious and philosophical debates in the pluralistic framework of a multicultural society.” But Claude Sicard was implacable: “For there to be reconciliation European Muslims must adopt a reformed Islam, and move away from literal readings of the Koran. They must work towards an “Islam of France” just as Indonesian Muslims have adopted a “reformed Islam”. Many Muslims in Europe are in favour of a reformed Islam”.

So returning to the controversial cover image above, here were some of the media reactions at the time: Did Le Point go too far asked Le Midi, a paper whose editorial line is broadly Socialist–supporting, while the leftwing Rue 89 labelled the cover and the main story  “uninhibited” in a surprising show of understatement.

At the time and to make their points more firmly the papers asked how the public might react to covers such as those below. With hindsight and given the results of the Ipsos poll above, the question may now be redundant.

The covers say “Judaism without shame, words printed across the face of Bernard-Henri Lévy, a French-born Jewish intellectual and author, while the one below translates as “These homos without shame”.


The Le Point cover story at the time (No 2094, 1 November 2012) offered a detailed account of what it called “points of friction with Islam”  reported regularly in “hospitals, canteens and swimming pools, and issues with French skirts and school programmes”. It called its report “an inquiry into religious demands that make a mockery of laïcité (or secularism, a concept denoting the absence of religious involvement in government and social affairs) in France”.  Of particular concern it said, is the pressure Islamic purists and what it called “burqua proselytisers” put on medical staff at hospitals “making demands for special treatment,  female doctors  for female patients on wards and in operating theatres”, to name just some of the issues covered in the 17-page story.

Le Point’s reportage was welcomed by Socialist Interior Minister Manuel Valls who interviewed at the time on Grand Journal de Canal + (below)said he believed the report “reflected reality .. there is in Islam a minority which seeks to impose its views about many of these issues. Mainly the problem lies with a radical Islam linked to Salafism (…) we must fight against these phenomena,” he added.  Read his earlier uncompromising stance here.

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LE GRAND JOURNAL du 30/10/12 – Part. 1 : Avec Manuel Valls

Story: Ken Pottinger

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2 Responses to War in Mali … Is Islam Compatible with France?

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