Valls’ Use of “Islamo-fascists” Provokes Widespread Reaction, Does Term Reflect Reality?
Manuel Valls, France’s Socialist prime minister has caused a stir by describing Islamist extremists responsible for terror attacks in Paris and Copenhagen, as “Islamo-fascists”; thought to be the first-ever such public use by a European politician in office.
Valls said France is at war with “Islamo-fascism”, both within and outside the country. AFP reported February 16: “Following the shootings in Copenhagen, and the desecration of the Jewish cemetery in Sarre-Union (Bas-Rhin) Manuel Valls said ‘France has to combat Islamo-fascism –since that is what we must call it — and unity must be our strength. We must not give in to fear, nor to division. We must also deal with the problems: combating terrorism; mobilising society in support of secularism and fighting anti-Semitism’.” Manuel Valls called on Islam in France to assume “full responsibility” for its religion.
The left-wing Rue 89 website noted while the term “Islamo-fascist” is extensively favoured by conservative and grassroots opponents of Muslim immigration, “it is also used by people who cannot be suspected of collusion with the ‘new right’: philosopher Michel Onfray, in his ‘Traité d’athéologie‘, Green MP Noël Mamère or Bernard-Henri Levy (who devotes a chapter in one of his many books to ‘fascislamisme’) have all drawn parallels between Fascism and Islamism …”
French prime minister Manuel Valls uses the term “islamo-fascisme” for the first time http://t.co/gETezhxEYM”
— David Jolly (@davjolly) February 16, 2015
#PROFANATION #COPENHAGUE Manuel Valls utilise pour la première fois le terme “l’islamo-fascisme” http://t.co/XGjkrabpXe — francetv info (@francetvinfo) February 16, 2015 #PROFANATION #COPENHAGUE Manuel Valls utilise pour la première fois le terme “l’islamo-fascisme” http://t.co/XGjkrabpXe — francetv info (@francetvinfo) February 16, 2015
The problem is, as this report suggests further down, such easy sound bites, while useful to journalists and politicians, tend to be an oversimplification. For the confused and confusing multitude of strands within Islam, its continual backward-looking theology and its authoritarian rejection of the other, –reflected in the turmoil that has marked Arab lands for millennia — is not as easily dismissed as the description Islamo-fascism implies.
However the Prime Minister has form when it comes to not mincing his words.
Earlier, after the barbaric murder of French cartoonists, police and innocent Jewish shoppers by radicalised home-grown Islamist gunmen, he warned that France was in danger of becoming an “apartheid society” where Muslims were increasingly self-ghettoised. This too was hard-hitting and on-target criticism, as anyone with experience of life in formerly apartheid-ruled South Africa, could attest. Apartheid, also euphemistically called “separate development” by its Calvanistic White minority rulers, required an authoritarian, supremacist, despotic, reactionary structure for survival. This depended largely on fascist social controls to achieve its ends (according to Pierre L. Van Den Berghe in Apartheid, Fascism and the Golden Age)
The PM later went on to make an impassioned call on France to fight antisemitism wherever it reared its contemptuous head:
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls calls “anti-Semitism a symptom of a crisis in democracy”, condemns “Muslim racism” .
One example is not a trend but France 24 in a report on an increasing gap between France and its minority Muslim population, recounted the tale of a teacher of Algerian descent who had quit a job at France’s only state-funded Muslim faith school complaining of ‘insidious Islamism’. Philosophy teacher Sofiane Zitouni wrote in the left-leaning daily Libération on February 5 that the Averroès Lycée (high school) in the northern French city of Lille was a hotbed of ‘anti-Semitism, sectarianism and insidious Islamism’. Zitouni, who began teaching philosophy at the school in September, wrote: ‘The reality is that Averroès Lycée is a Muslim territory that is being funded by the state. It promotes a vision of Islam that is nothing other than Islamism. And it is doing it in an underhand and hidden way in order to maintain its [80 percent] state funding,’ France 24 added
Effectively this teacher had found himself confronted with one of France’s most pressing concerns – how to uphold an unyielding commitment to a secular state by obliging an unwilling-to-conform religion of 6 million Muslims to bend to Laïcité.
Laïcité a defining principle of French Republican values, is the concept of state secularism which emerged after the French Revolution, after a long struggle with the Roman Catholic Church and was consecrated in law in 1905. Laïcité governs the public life of France with a gloved yet iron hand which all religions except Islam have learnt to obey.
Manuel Valls, the hardline former Interior Minister, is a charismatic, firmly-spoken, conviction politician, seen by some commentators as the Socialist best-placed to beat the Front National leader Marine le Pen in the May 2017 presidential elections (though so far he has shown no public interest in the race.)
The Front National is widely-tipped (two years before the event) as likely to win the first round of that vital election but lose to the second round challenger.
Soon after Manuel Valls uttered the words “Islamo-fascists”, Google France searches for the term reportedly boomed while the Twitter hashtag #islamofascisme exploded with French users offering links and explanations, together with praise and condemnation in almost equal measure.
Below are just two such Twitter reactions:
In the first, backing Vall’s contentions, Brigitte Gabriel, a speaker in the clip is shown responding to a questioner: “The answer to those who speak of the peaceful Muslim majority is that there are 1.8 billion Muslims in the world. The extremists are estimated at 25%, which is a population the size of the United States. It is these radicals who kill and are committed to wiping out Western civilisation, which is why we are concerned. The time has come to take political correctness and throw it into the garbage can.”
— O. Buffet Timothé (@ObuffetTim) February 17, 2015
In the video below — offered in a tweet opposing the Prime Minister’s sally– an unidentified speaker towards the end of the clip (filmed before Valls used the term) , protests about Valls’ visit to the mosque at Évry, a Paris suburb. He claims that through his wife (he is married to Anne Gravoin, a famous French violinist, who is Jewish) Valls is a “compromised ally of Israel”. In perhaps the most significant part of the clip — for its sums up the dilemma of politicians seeking to integrate Muslims into advanced, secular Western societies, the speaker goes on to say “the real question here is that allowing the Prime Minister of France to enter our mosque is a way of subjugating our mosque to the power of the French State and that is not something that we (Muslims) can accept”.
Voici @manuelvalls à la mosquée d’#Évry, par la porte dérobée, en #cachette #islamofascisme http://t.co/YKdJx55IBa — ISLAMOTION (@islamotion) February 17, 2015 Voici @manuelvalls à la mosquée d’#Évry, par la porte dérobée, en #cachette #islamofascisme http://t.co/YKdJx55IBa — ISLAMOTION (@islamotion) February 17, 2015
[EXPLAINER: Many Koranic scholars insist that devout Muslims owe their undivided allegiance to the Ummah and to Islam and that they are Muslims first and (in this case) French second, if at all. The Muslim world is however riven (notably into majority Sunnis and minority Shiites) by arcane, millennial schisms, sectarianism and ideological conflicts that caution against over-generalisation. The same scholars further insist that believers in Islam are superior in every way to ‘Kafirs’ — the term they use for non-believers or the majority of those in the secular and modern societies playing host to their communities, whose fate is to be subjugated in an expanded state ruled by Islam. The ‘Salafists’, the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, is an extreme form of Islamic preaching inspired by Saudi Arabia-funded Wahhabism, and requiring followers to perform jihad. In the case of the self-styled caliphate or “Islamic State” – the Daesh –which has invaded and illegally occupied lands in the sovereign states of Syria and Iraq this requires killing the “infidel” within the territory it controls. Others have expanded this notion to include the butchering of the citizens of their host nations — most recently French and Danish — by way of punishment for “blasphemy” against Islam, despite the fact that there is no blasphemy law in the EU (except for Ireland). As the Times of London leader writer Daniel Finkelstein notes: “Declaring that something is blasphemy against Islam is not an ordinary claim that something is offensive. It is asserting the right of oppressive authorities to determine the boundaries of debate and free exchange. It is supporting the power grab of these oppressors as they seek to extend their rule internationally. The most important thing to understand is that the blasphemy claim is self-perpetuating. The only people who can decide what is blasphemous are the religious and political authorities who already hold power in Islam and the Islamic world.” For a comprehensive in-depth analysis of what the West faces from the Daesh, read this gripping piece: What ISIS Really Wants by Graeme Wood in the Atlantic. Below are three significant extracts.]
…Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So too are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above Sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God…
As one scholar notes, the Islamic State is deeply infused with religious vigour and Koranic quotation.
…Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required…”
Haykel goes on to point out other significant schizophrenic aspects of Islam for those who would be true followers:
…Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy…
Returning to Islamo-fascists Rue 89 continues: “This term was popularised by the British journalist Christopher Hitchens, (once a man of the far Left but who moved over to the neoconservative camp) who drew up a list of supposed parallels between Fascism and radical Islam: ‘Both movements are based on the cult of violence that exudes death and destruction and hate of life and the mind; both movements are hostile to modernity and violently nostalgic for past empires and lost glories; both movements are obsessed with the humiliations of history – real or imagined – and are eager for revenge; both movements are infected with toxic-Jewish paranoia; both movements are prone to the cult of personality and a unique focus on the power of a ‘Great’ Book; both movements are working to repress sexual ‘deviants’ and subjugate women;. both movements hate art and literature, which are themselves symptoms of degeneration and decadence.…”. Here is a reprint of that Christopher Hitchens article, which says in part “…It’s quite the done thing, in liberal academic circles, to sneer at any comparison between fascist and jihadist ideology. People … write to me to say, in effect, that it’s ahistorical and simplistic to do so. And in some media circles, another kind of reluctance applies: Alan Colmes thinks that one shouldn’t use the word Islamic even to designate jihad, because to do so is to risk incriminating an entire religion. He and others don’t want to tag Islam even in its most extreme form with a word as hideous as fascism. Finally, I have seen and heard it argued that the term is unfair or prejudiced because it isn’t applied to any other religion. Well, that last claim is certainly not true. It was once very common, especially on the left, to prefix the word fascism with the word clerical. This was to recognize the undeniable fact that, from Spain to Croatia to Slovakia, there was a very direct link between fascism and the Roman Catholic Church…”
The Prime Minister’s unsparing words to describe the Islam that currently presents itself to some of its followers in France, came just three days after the 900-member Union des démocrates musulmans de France (UDMF) announced it was launching an all Muslim political party to fight the March 2015 regional elections.
Khalid Majid, 36, one of the party’s candidates in Bobigny, told Agence France Presse (AFP) February 12 that for the first time, the Democratic Union of French Muslims (UDMF) will put up two candidates in the Paris suburb of Bobigny. Another seven UDMF candidates will run in Marseille, Lyon and Nice. The UDMF is known for a pro-Islam agenda that aims to promote Islamic finance, lift the hijab ban in French schools, promote the use of Arabic in schools and oppose the “dangerous stigmatization that equates Islam with terrorism,” the party’s founder Nagib Azergu said.
This news caused a frisson mainly because it seemed to be giving form to a fictional fantasy about a Muslim political takeover in France and described in great detail in “Soumission” (ed. Flammarion, 2015) the bestselling latest novel by controversial French author Michael Houellebecq. The book by sheer coincidence was released on the day of the Charlie Hebdo murders.
In a clear contradiction to some of the stated aims of the new Muslim party, the Prime Minister has made it clear he seeks to reorganise Islam in France and mould it into a religious group that accepts France’s commitment to a secular state — the complete separation of religion and the state— to end radical Islamic states like Saudi Arabia from funding French mosques and to implement training of French-speaking imams to run all mosque.
His remarks were followed up and reinforced by the head of state himself. President François Hollande “reaffirmed his commitment to the spirit of secularism… and vowed to devote extra resources to the country’s educational system…” Secularism, which has been enshrined in French law since 1905, has proved a divisive concept since two Islamic radicals attacked the headquarters of satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo for printing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
However as Nadia Henni-Moulaï in Middle East Eye noted, quoting Samia Hathroubi, head of the Europe department of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU): “Although Valls addressed the issue of imam training in France by saying that France ‘must encourage the coming closer of the academic rules and standards with higher education institutions,’ he did not address the underlying issues… ‘Everyone knows that in Alsace, where the Concordat is still effective, it would be quite possible to create courses in cooperation with the universities to train imams.’ Hathroubi believes that the 1801 Concordat – which aimed to heal rifts between the Catholic Church and France after the revolution and allows the state to organise the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Jewish worships and therefore to remunerate their ministers – could be extended to Muslim worship and should be considered as a possible option. ‘I confirm this, except that nobody wants to do it. Alsace could very well be used as a laboratory to train imams in France, but in the absence of political will and therefore of funds, how can we move forward?’ Hathroubi said. “
On February 3rd the conservative weekly magazine L’Express published a cover story entitled La République face à l’Islam. Claire Chartier, the editor who wrote the piece, set out to define the challenges facing France in integrating followers of Islam in a firmly secular state and in the wake of the Paris attacks.
Christophe Barbier, the magazine’s editor explains:
Muslims may have been rooted in France for more than 40 years, but “Islam still arouses deep mistrust in the country”, Claire Chartier noted. In the past 30 years, the number of places of Muslim worship has increased from 900 to 2300 across France. Muslims now account for 4 to 5 million people, or 8% of the population.
Despite a survey by the Pew Research Center in 2014, showing 74% of French have a good opinion of Islam, some 51% of them now believe that Islam is incompatible with French values, according to a poll conducted by Ipsos shortly after the attacks in Paris.
“There is a part of the French public which does not regard Islam as rooted in France,” notes CNRS researcher Franck Fregosi. “This is understandable given that mosques are funded from abroad, up to 20% on average, while 80% of the 1,800 imams working in the country are not French. The remaining 20% come mainly from Algeria and Morocco which pay their salaries. Additionally there is the weight of French secularism to add to the mix … Islam in France has yet to prove it can be part of our deeply secularized country. This is brought even more sharply into relief by the fact that currently fundamentalist Salafists run at least 100 mosques in France. Since the early 1990s they have pushed for a right to veil their women, a public manifestation of the visibility of the religion, and to have access to halal food in schools, prisons and elsewhere – in contradiction with republican universalism”.
France has attempted to use higher education as a solution to the tensions. Curricula are offered in Strasbourg, Lyon, Aix, Montpellier and Bordeaux. The Ministry of Interior, seeks to shape an academic Islamic theology curricula at public universities to help Muslim representatives establish a “republican-compatible” Islamic norm for French followers. This involves training for French imams, religious leaders, Rectors, leaders of associations, and teachers in Koranic schools and developing appropriate teaching models.
Meanwhile some fear that while the state holds firmly to secularism politicians closer to the frontline like local Mayors tend to compromise on many issues regarding schools, veils and mosques in a bid to defuse explosive tensions, the Express article concludes.
After such a broad survey of the social issue facing a France trying to tame its Islam, a conservative observer might be forgiven for concluding that the excessively generous policy of importing millions of Islam-following immigrants over the past 40 years, has meant France and many other European countries have also inherited a religious conflict of Biblical proportions — one that has plagued Arab lands since the 7th century CE (Common Era).
The terms “Islamo-fascists” and “apartheid”, deployed with such deadly accuracy by the French Prime Minister in the wake of the latest round of Islamist atrocities, are a clear response to growing concern in France , across Europe and in many advanced societies, about the militancy emerging in long-established Muslim immigrant communities.
The dream of the Left — Social Democrats and Socialists — who for the past 40 years have encouraged the settlement of millions of immigrants from less well-developed countries many of the Muslim, to meet a demand for cheap labour and to reverse falling indigenous population growth, appears to be turning into a nightmare.
The seven-year long eurozone economic crisis fomented by captured politicians and criminal financial oligarchs coupled with growing voter disillusion over issues which include immigration, is feeding the rise of fringe parties in dozens of EU states.
“Apartheid” with its emphasis on separate but unequal development, appears to be an apt description for the supremacist and reactionary religious ideology propagated by the Islamist extremists in the Daesh and the resultant terror employed by credulous, fanatical followers in Europe.
Story: Ken Pottinger
There are naturally many divergent views on the issue of migrants in France (and implicitly therefore many critics of the Prime Minister’s controversial shock and awe assessment). French cinema has dedicated considerable time and effort to the issue . One of the most recent films ‘Qu’Allah bénisse la France’ (May Allah Bless France), a biopic of Abd al Malik, has been used by the Paris based academic Arun Kapil in a long analysis of the subject here: “The film could have also delved more into what the title strongly suggests, which is Abd al Malik’s (positive) relationship with France. His life experiences and trajectory give the lie to the crap one hears almost daily about problems of integration in France—whatever “integration” is supposed to mean and which I will insist is not a problem in this country—as Abd al Malik is clearly a success story of the Republic (among other things, he has published books with titles like La guerre des banlieues n’aura pas lieu and L’islam au secours de la République). It all goes to show that, yeah, one can be a rap-singing convert to Islam of 100% African stock and love France all the same”.
This article has been changed to correct a typo from BCE (Before Common Era) to CE.
Writing in Quadrant, an Australian magazine, Mark Durie, a theologian, human rights activist, and Adjunct Research Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Islam and Other Faiths at Melbourne School of Theology notes:
“… THE PROBLEM is that as long as Muslims allow derogatory words like mushrik ‘associator, polytheist’ and kafir ‘infidel’ to be applied to Christians, while also preaching Qur’anic verses which denigrate non-Muslims, the hostility and hatred can only continue. As long as the highest legal authorities of the Islamic mainstream continue to assert the right of Muslims to kill those who leave Islam, bursts of extreme religious hatred such as we have just seen in Libya can only continue. As long as Muslims claim that the well-documented brutal slaughters of Islamic conquest and the ensuing oppression of nations under the Islamic system of dhimmitude were a mercy to the world, the ‘opening’ up (al-futuh) of dark nations to light and truth, hatred towards non-Muslims will continue to arise in the house of Islam. The fundamental problem is not peculiar variants of extreme religious worldview, it is a deeply engrained religious worldview that is not acknowledged by many who hold it…“
In the interest of further balance readers might care to follow these links for two later pieces that follow on from the extensive What ISIS Really Wants piece in The Atlantic and quoted in our report above. The New Yorker’s Robert Wright in The Clash of Civilization That Isn’t writes to express his concern that thanks to Wood’s piece among others, the clash of civilisations meme is again in danger of becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy. Meanwhile Jack Jenkins in the leftwing US magazine Think Progress reports on an interview with Graeme Wood’s main source on Islamism. His piece is headlined: What The Atlantic Left Out About ISIS According To Their Own Expert.
France 24 reporting on the the president’s plan against anti-Semitism outlined at a Jewish annual dinner in Paris, cites our report on the use of the term “Islamo-fascism” by Prime Minister Valls.
Also worth a read:
- Seven Million Copies of Post-Massacre Charlie Hebdo Sold Worldwide
- A Primer for Foreign Francophiles Struggling to Understand Charlie Hebdo and Free Speech
- In Defence of Liberté and Free Speech – France is Charlie Hebdo – We Are All Charlie Hebdo
- Mohammed on Charlie Hebdo’s Latest Cover: “All Is Forgiven – Je Suis Charlie”
- Isis: the Inside Story (Guardian)