How did we end up here?

Adam Shatz

In No Name in the Street, James Baldwin describes how, not long after he settled in France in 1948, he ‘had watched the police, one sunny afternoon, beat an old, one-armed Arab peanut vendor senseless in the streets, and I had watched the unconcerned faces of the French on the café terraces, and the congested faces of the Arabs.’ With a ‘generous smile’, Baldwin's friends reassured him that he was different from the Arabs: ‘Le noir américain est très évolué, voyons!’ He found the response perplexing, given what he knew of French views about the United States, so he asked a ‘very cunning question’:

If so crude a nation as the United States could produce so gloriously civilised a creature as myself, how was it that the French, armed with centuries of civilised grace, had been unable to civilise the Arab?

The response was breathtakingly simple: ‘The Arabs did not wish to be civilised.’ They, the Arabs, had their own traditions, and ‘the Arab was always hiding something; you couldn’t guess what he was thinking and couldn’t trust what he was saying. And they had a different attitude toward women, they were very brutal with them, in a word they were rapists, and they stole, and they carried knives.’

Aside from ageing veterans of the French-Algerian war, no one in France talks about ‘the Arabs’ any longer. Instead they speak of ‘the Muslims’. But France’s Muslims are the descendants of that Arab peanut vendor – and, all too often, targets of the same racist intolerance. Like the racism Baldwin encountered among his Parisian friends, it often wears an ennobling mask: anti-terrorist, secular, feminist.

Charlie Hebdo’s recent editorial ‘How did we end up here?’ is a case in point. The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels ‘are merely the visible part of a very large iceberg indeed,’ the cartoonist Laurent Sourisseau (‘Riss’) writes. The less visible parts of the ‘iceberg’ include the Swiss Muslim thinker Tariq Ramadan, who has been accused of speaking a ‘double language’, pretending to be a moderate but secretly lobbying for the imposition of sharia in Europe. To be sure, Riss jokes, he ‘is never going to grab a Kalashnikov with which to shoot journalists at an editorial meeting’, or ‘cook up a bomb to be used in an airport concourse. Others will be doing all that kind of stuff.’ And we shouldn't forget the ‘veiled woman’ on the street, or the local baker who no longer makes sandwiches with ham or bacon. No terrorist attack ‘can really happen without everyone's contribution’. Like the Arab in Baldwin’s time – or the Jew in an earlier era – the Muslim of today is ‘always hiding something’, either a terrorist plot or a plot to Islamicise France, or both. He preys on the bien pensant ‘dread of being treated as an Islamophobe or being called racist’.

The notion that the road to an Islamic France is being paved by tolerance and cultural relativism is an old argument, going back to the early days of Algérie Française. Its most articulate contemporary proponent is the philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, who was recently elected to the Académie française. Anti-racism, Finkielkraut says, is a dangerous ideology that ‘will be to the 21st century what communism was to the 20th’, and the most pernicious form of anti-racism is opposition to Islamophobia. Islam is such a threat to France, Finkielkraut believes, that, along with Nicolas Sarkozy, he added his signature to a petition in a far-right magazine protesting against the conversion of unused churches into mosques: the defence of laïcité now depends on the preservation of churches.

Such views are hardly surprising on the right. But Finkielkraut's claims have also been echoed by a number of prominent figures on the Socialist left, including the prime minister, Manuel Valls, who, in 2013, described Islamophobia as ‘the Trojan Horse of the Salafists’. More recently, the feminist philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, who once compared allowing the hijab in French schools to the Munich Agreement, has called for a boycott of fashion brands that manufacture headscarves and other Islamic clothing, and denounced the ‘Islamo-left’ for its indulgent attitude toward the hijab. The accusation of Islamophobia, Badinter said recently in Le Monde, is a ‘weapon that the Islamo-leftists have offered to extremists’. To attack Islam is not only not racist, on this view: it is a defence of French values, above all laïcité and the protection of women’s rights. It is an expression not of oppression, but of emancipation: the liberation of all French citizens, not least Muslim women who suffer under the tyranny of their fathers, brothers and neighbours in the banlieues.

There is a certain logic to this argument. The term ‘Islamophobia’ is imprecise, and can make it difficult to distinguish between criticisms of the religion – as expressed, for example, by Arab intellectuals including Adonis and Kamel Daoud – and a more general slur against the people who practise it or were born into families of Muslim origin. Defenders of traditionalist Islam have an interest in blurring the distinction. So does Islamic State, which seeks recruits among young European Muslims who feel lost or rejected.

But a robust contribution to this amalgame, or conflation, between Islam and citizens of Muslim faith or origin, is also being made by people who claim to be merely criticising Islam, but go out of their way to insult Muslims. They deploy a tactical ambiguity, not unlike those who deplored the influence of Judaism in French life in the late 19th century, and accused anyone who denounced anti-Semitism of suppressing free speech. (Edouard Drumont's anti-Semitic magazine, founded in 1892, was called La Libre Parole.) Very few of them express old-fashioned ‘biological’ racism; instead, their ‘cultural racism’ portrays Muslims as an irremediable, jihadist fifth column. Their fear of Islam has less to do with the religion than with the people who practise it.

Badinter’s case is more complicated. She couches her positions in the outwardly progressive language of secular feminism. In her classically Jacobin conviction that all citizens are potential French republicans like herself, not natural-born cultural pariahs, she is an anti-racist. Faced with a Muslim woman in a hijab, she does not see a potential soldier in an Islamic invasion. Yet she can’t fathom that a woman might choose to wear the hijab; she can see only a subjugated woman who must be forced to be free, like those ‘nègres’ supporters of American slavery invoked, for similar reasons, by Laurence Rossignol, the French minister for families, children and women’s rights. (Badinter defended Rossignol: ‘The minister chose an unfortunate word … but she was perfectly right at the core.’) The desire to liberate Muslim women fits into a long history of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’ (as Gayatri Spivak put it): a colonial project that is now being reimagined, in France, as a defence of secular values in the ‘lost territories of the Republic’.

It isn’t clear whether France's values are being upheld or perverted by such a far-reaching defence. As Arun Kapil put it to me, ‘the laïcards are the new fundamentalists.’ The 1905 law on the separation of churches and the state, which established laïcité, was based on the neutrality of the state towards religious institutions; it not only stripped the Catholic Church of its powers, it also freed Jews and Protestants to practise their faith more freely. Today's defenders of laïcité, on both the right and the centre left, have abandoned any pretence of neutrality. It’s no wonder that, for many Muslims in France, including the silent majority who seldom if ever set foot in a mosque – Charlie’s ‘very large iceberg’ – it seems like a code word for keeping them in their place.

Read more in the London Review of Books

Jeremy Harding: Marianne gets rid of the veil · 19 February 2004

Slavoj Žižek: In the Grey Zone · 5 February 2015

Jacqueline Rose: Dreyfus in Our Times · 10 June 2010

Colm Tóibín: James Baldwin · 20 September 2001


  • 5 April 2016 at 4:41pm
    Rufo says:
    Last night I bought a lahmacun from a Turkish shop on rue du Faubourg St Denis. The man who served me started telling me - for no apparent reason - that it was always "les Arabes" who caused problems in his shop. We didn't get round to discussing his own religious beliefs but for him Arab was clearly an ethnic designation. In a similar fashion Shatz refers to the Syrian poet, Adonis, and the Algerian novelist, Kamel Daoud, as "Arab" rather than "Muslim". It isn't just aging veterans of the French-Algerian War who use the term Arab to refer to Arabs.

    Shatz criticizes Charlie Hebdo for suggesting that people like Tariq Ramadan are using subterfuge to advance their goals but then describes Elisabeth Badinter as couching her positions in the "outwardly progressive language of secular feminism" as if Badinter's feminist positions (which she has defended all her career) are merely a disguise.

    I would rather live in Badinter's France than Ramadan's. Check out Ramadan's conspiratorial rantings on the shootings at the Brussels Jewish Museum:

    "Is this a case of anti-Semitism or a maneuver to divert attention from the real motives of the executioners? We oppose all slaying of innocents and racism but at the same time, it’s time they stopped taking us for fools.” (May 30, 2014)

    Or indeed the interview he gave to Al Jazeera directly after the Charlie Hebdo shootings where he implies that they were a false flag operation mounted by the French secret service (round about 7:00).

    There is certainly no love lost between Charlie Hebdo and Tariq Ramadan and on this particular point I have to agree with Charlie Hebdo. Ramadan's is not a voice of peace and tolerance and his repeated invocation of conspiracy theories is not worthy of an Oxford professor.

    I find the rest of Riis' editorial cheap and incoherent. But, given what he and his colleagues have been through, maybe cut him a little slack…

    • 5 April 2016 at 7:11pm
      babouchka says: @ Rufo
      Yes, let's cut him a little slack. After all its not one editorial that will change anything about more than a century of France's racist and white-supremacist violence towards Muslims and North Africans. One thing we will never hear though is let's cut French Muslims a little slack. Only a certain class of human beings are worthy of compassion, are seen as humans in their response to violence and abuse. Baldwin was right of course," Algerians were his brothers", something he easily understood because of common experiences.

    • 5 April 2016 at 8:01pm
      Ed W says: @ Rufo
      You know, I've always thought that the robust Enlightenment culture some people appear to be so keen on (when it comes to Muslim immigrants at any rate) involved such things as careful reading of texts. I'm not sure how you got from A:

      "Aside from ageing veterans of the French-Algerian war, no one in France talks about ‘the Arabs’ any longer. Instead they speak of ‘the Muslims’.

      to B:

      "Shatz refers to the Syrian poet, Adonis, and the Algerian novelist, Kamel Daoud, as “Arab” rather than “Muslim”. It isn’t just aging veterans of the French-Algerian War who use the term Arab to refer to Arabs."

      And your example of a Turkish shopkeeper is hardly telling: you would hardly expect him to refer in a hostile manner to 'the Muslims', when he is presumably a Muslim himself.

    • 5 April 2016 at 8:12pm
      Rufo says: @ babouchka
      Like I said, I find the editorial cheap in its sentiments, badly written, badly thought out, incoherent. And to be honest I have never found Charlie Hebdo particularly funny. But he is a cartoonist, not a philosopher - and he is clearly under stress which the murders in Brussels have stirred up again. That is why I say to be tolerant in your judgment. How would we both react in comparable circumstances?

      I have posted various comments from Francophone North Africans in a separate post below. Feel free to respond if you wish. Or alternatively to comment on the remarks of Tariq Ramadan that I highlight above.

    • 5 April 2016 at 8:25pm
      babouchka says: @ Rufo
      Independently of what Tariq Ramadan said (conspiracy theories are uttered day in day out by French officials and "philosophers" as a mean to dismiss activists or intellectuals who hold anti-racist or favorable views towards marginalized communities), my point remains, the humanity of a whole class of individuals is never recognized or considered. The horrors that CH journalists experienced is enough to excuse another layer of festering bigotry. The abuse Muslims have experienced for decades at the hands of the state is never seen under a compassionate light.

    • 5 April 2016 at 8:57pm
      Rufo says: @ babouchka
      Tariq Ramadan is a Professor at Oxford University and also holds university positions in Qatar and Malaysia. He advises the UK government on freedom of belief and religion. If he genuinely thinks that the shootings at the Jewish Museum in Brussels were an inside job by Mossad or that the Charlie Hebdo shootings were an action of the French State or that 9/11 was planned by the CIA then he doesn't deserve any of those jobs. If he doesn't believe these positions then one has to wonder why he is spreading such nonsense. This stuff is absolute poison; someone in his position should be trying to refute these lies not propagating them.

      Elisabeth Badinter is not a festering bigot - read what she said and what she has done all her life in fighting for women's rights. She is opposed to a certain interpretation of Islam which says that women's bodies need to be hidden away.

      None of this is to deny racist sentiment against Arabs in France but Shatz's article seemed to leap all over the place and tar everyone with the same brush.

    • 6 April 2016 at 8:43am
      Rufo says: @ Ed W
      I have an Italian name - does that make me a Catholic? You have an Anglo-Saxon name - does that make you a Protestant? Why do you presume a Turkish man is Muslim? And by what logic does Shatz claim that today's Muslims are the descendants of yesterday's Arabs? A Turkish Muslim wouldn't see himself as descended from Arabs. Many Egyptians hate "the Arabs" - they view them as the uneducated, uncultured, oil rich fundamentalists over the water. An Arab Christian would be irate at being labelled a Muslim, as would an Arab atheist (he or she would also be killed or imprisoned in many Islamic countries).

      Is the logic that says yesterday's Arab is today's Muslim not a strict linear descent but rather a lineage of shared suffering? Well if so then maybe yesterday's Arab is today's Jew - they are the ones being butchered in France for their religion or ethnicity.

      As for close reading what do you make of Shatz's assertion that Elisabeth Badinter and Laurence Rossignol's " desire to liberate Muslim women fits into a long history of ‘white men saving brown women from brown men’ ". Is he literally claiming that Badinter and Rossignol are "white men"? Or is anyone who doesn't share his opinions an ideological "white man" regardless of their gender?

      I tried to post a series of comments by brown men and brown women in a separate post but they have not been accepted by the moderator. Maybe because they were written in French? If I have time I will translate them and repost - it is too easy to set up a straw man (in this case a poorly written and poorly thought out editorial) and knock it down. How about engaging with the criticisms of Islam's treatment of women that come from the mouth of Arab and Muslim thinkers?

    • 7 January 2017 at 11:41pm
      John Cowan says: @ Rufo
      The assumption that a Turk is a Muslim is pretty safe: only about 5% of Turkish citizens are non-Muslims.

  • 5 April 2016 at 5:15pm
    brotherrandor says:
    The stated hostility of some French thinkers to the values of a subset of citizens who take their primary instructions in life from a magical being who lives in the sky is not only legitimate, it is a moral duty. The Thirty-Years-War influenced freedom-of-religion position of the American Founding Fathers has transmogrified in modern times into the kind of intellectually second-rate nuttiness above wherein French critics of a medieval-minded superstitious cult infecting their society are attacked, not on the merit of the their position, but as being closet racists.

    • 5 April 2016 at 7:54pm
      babouchka says: @ brotherrandor
      Essentialism and logical fallacies apart, do you extend your moral duty to other superstitions of religious and national types to "purify" France or are you solely focusing your vitriol on the usual convenient targets ?

    • 5 April 2016 at 8:04pm
      Ed W says: @ brotherrandor
      When I hear someone refer to North African immigrants in France as the followers of a 'cult' which is 'infecting their society', I'd never accuse them of being a closet racist. Let's leave the closets out of it.

  • 5 April 2016 at 6:57pm
    Timothy Rogers says:
    This is an interesting discussion, fraught with logical pitfalls and false equations. It seems possible that a defender of laicite can be both rational, committed to his or her progressive principles, and still be a racist. If such a person is going to be even-handed, he or she should be using the ferocious language of “brotherrandor” to assail all branches of Christianity, Judaism, and all of the world’s other major and minor religions (extending the insult from "medieval” to late Stone-Age superstitions and bringing it forward to “new age” ones – they all still flourish in our world). But, of course, people don’t think that way, given our intellectual inertia, which allows all kinds of internal inconsistencies in our attitudes.

    I imagine that many French citizens (not just intellectuals) are basically atheists or agnostics when it comes to religion, but they may also observe religious holidays in some form or other as part of their inheritance, believing that Christianity and Judaism have been institutionally “tamed” in France (i.e., relegated to the realm of personal behavior with no political or cultural ambitions or consequences). I don’t know if this is actually true – in any event it would be only “statistically correct” for a stated percentage of people living in France. This is the easy-going world that many of us like, therefore we are seldom, if ever, upset by the vestiges, fripperies, and general nonsense that go along with dwelling in societies that honor their “Judeo-Christian” heritage in a very loose and non-obligatory fashion. (Naturally, both present-day Christian and Jewish fundamentalists would love see women assume the roles they had in patriarchal and puritanical societies, differing little from Muslims who share this wish - but the rest of us -- I hope -- have absolutely no interest in this and do not wish to cede an inch to our own fundamentalists. ) We also like to preserve monuments and edifices built to advertise beliefs we no longer hold (and this seems the right thing to do, rather than whitewashing history by destroying its leavings, many of which are great achievements).

    Right now it’s difficult to fit Islam (and not just “Islamic fundamentalism”) into this picture of “tolerance through indifference”. By the way, what does Adam Shatz’s, “Their fear of Islam has less to do with the religion than with the people who practise it,” mean? It’s one of those distinctions without a difference. There is no religion in any meaningful sense without doctrine (or superstition) being put into practice by believers in the doctrine. Religion is a thoroughly social phenomenon (not just a bunch of ideas or metaphysical musings meant for fondling on occasion).

  • 5 April 2016 at 8:02pm
    Rufo says:
    This article has irritated me more than I realized.

    Shatz states that Elisabeth Badinter and Laurence Rossignol's "desire to liberate Muslim women fits into a long history of ‘white men (sic) saving brown women from brown men’". Leaving aside Shatz's gender trouble this statement seems to imply that an intervention by a white man (even one who happens to be a woman) is less valid than the same intervention made by a brown man.

    Here is the Tunisian poet, Abdelwahab Meddeb, who happened to be both an Arab and a Muslim, comparing contemporary puritanical Islam with its sensual past:

    "Or, la tradition qui voue un culte au corps semble disparaitre de certaines terres d'islam ravagées par l'ordre moral qu'imposent des semi-lettrés, malades du ressentiment. Le Caire, l'Egypte, d'un paradis se sont transformés en enfer; pour s'en convaincre, il suffit de voir les corps de ces femmes livides, souffrant de la chaleur, accablées par leurs foulards ou leurs voiles noirs… Aujourd'hui, nous assistons à une curieuse inversion dans la politique et l'économie du corps. L'islam propose une cité pudibonde, dont les habitants sont malades du nihilisme et du ressentiment. Tandis que le corps occidental s'est libéré des contraintes héritées. Extravagante inversion dont les sujets d'islam n'ont pas conscience puisqu'ils sont assez fiers de leur état pour proposer leur société vertueuse en contre-exemple à la société occidentale qui serait celle du vice."

    Here is Kamel Daoud, a brown man, writing before the attacks of people like Shatz led him to abandon journalism:

    "Le rapport à la femme est le nœud gordien, en Algérie et ailleurs. Nous ne pouvons pas avancer sans guérir ce rapport trouble à l’imaginaire, à la maternité, à l’amour, au désir, au corps et à la vie entière. Les islamistes sont obsédés par le corps des femmes, ils le voilent car il les terrifie. Pour eux, la vie est une perte de temps avant l’éternité. Or, qui représente la perpétuation de la vie ? La femme, le désir. Donc autant les tuer. J’appelle cela le porno-islamisme. Ils sont contre la pornographie et complètement pornographes dans leur tête. Il existe deux sortes de peuples. Ceux qui respectent leurs femmes avancent dans la vie, deviennent libres, ont des créateurs, savent jouir de la vie et avoir du plaisir. Les autres, ceux qui entretiennent un rapport trouble à la femme, sont des peuples maudits. Quand les hommes bougent, c’est une émeute. Quand les femmes sont présentes, c’est une révolution.. Libérez la femme et vous aurez la liberté."

    And here is Houria Abdelouahed, a brown women no less, so presumably her voice counts double:

    "Au Maroc, des femmes commencent à fréquenter des associations pour dénoncer le viol conjugal. Les femmes prennent conscience qu'elles sont parfois le lieu de réalisation des fantasmes les plus fous de leurs époux. Néanmoins, il n'existe pas encore de terme juridique en arabe pour désigner le viol conjugal. C'est-à-dire que pour dénoncer le viol conjugal, le sexisme, le machisme… il faut passer par une langue occidentale. Notre langue si belle demeure pauvre lorsqu'il s'agit de penser les rapports homme-femme au sein de la société d'aujourd'hui."

    • 6 April 2016 at 7:02pm
      LCorax says: @ Rufo
      Some quick translations of the above, for the non-francophones.

      Meddeb: "And yet this tradition which dedicates its religion to the body seems to disappear from certain Islamic lands ravaged by the moral order imposed by semi-literates sick with *ressentiment* [no context but I think meant in the Nietzschean sense]. Cairo, Egypt, have been transformed from paradise into hell; if you need to be convinced of this, only look at the bodies of these pallid women, suffering from the heat, overladen with their scarves or black veils… Today we are witnessing a curious inversion of the politics and economy of the body. Islam proposes a puritanical society whose inhabitants are sick with nihilism and *ressentiment*. Meanwhile, the Western body has liberated itself from inherited constraints: an extravagant inversion which the followers of Islam are unaware of, proud as they are of their state for proposing their virtuous society as a counter-example to the depravity of the West."

      Daoud: "Our relationship to women is a Gordian Knot, in Algeria and elsewhere. We cannot move forward without healing this troubled relationship to the imagination, to maternity, to love, desire, the body—to life in its entirety. Islamists are obsessed with the female body, they cover it up because it terrifies them. For them, life is a mere waste of time before eternity. And yet, what is it that represents the perpetuation of life? Woman, desire. Reason enough to kill them. I call this porno-islamism. They rail against pornography while, mentally, they are out-and-out pornographers. There are two kinds of peoples. The ones that respect their women move forward in life, become free, promote creativity, learn how to enjoy life and take pleasure in it. The others, the ones that maintain a troubled relationship with women, are cursed. When men take action, it’s a riot. When women are present, it’s a revolution. Liberate women and you yourselves will be free."

      Abdelouahed: "In Morocco, women have begun forming societies to denounce marital rape. Women are becoming aware that they serve sometimes as the setting for their spouses most insane fantasies. Nonetheless, there is still no legal term in Arabic to refer to marital rape. Which is to say that there is no way to denounce marital rape, sexism, male chauvinism… except through a Western language. Our own language, beautiful as it is, remains inadequate when it comes to thinking about the relationships between men and women that are central to society today."

  • 6 April 2016 at 12:05am
    ranctunab says:
    Taking a dump on Charlie Hebdo is cowardly, Adam. You should be ashamed of yourself. There is a struggle within Islam between theocratic fascists and secular, progressive Muslims. You are doing the work of the theocrats for them.

    Charlie Hebdo is not racist. It is not provoking bigotry against Muslims as secular, progressive Muslims all know from the Muslim Reform Movement to Quilliam to Muslims for Progressive Values.

    Charlie Hebdo was making the very valid point that terrorist attacks do not occur in a vacuum they spring from a politcal philosophy that is also spread in peaceful ways, culturally, by political Islamists within the community. Their main point was that secularism is in retreat and that is a bad thing as secularism is the only guarantor of peaceful coexistence between different religions.

    This is obviously exactly what is happening. It is self evident.

    You have a choice, Adam. You can pretend this isn't true and call Charlie Hebdo racist for noticing or you could try to tackle the issue in a mature and non-bigoted way. You could choose to stand together with progressive and secular Muslims and address the issue.

    Because it is self evident that there is a problem with Islamist theocratic fascism, the first option, which you took, is a dead end. Let me tell you where that dead end leads.

    When you silence debate about political Islamism you increase tension in society. You tell people who can clearly see there is something wrong that they are not allowed to notice.

    And when you do that and it is obvious there is not just something wrong but a violently wrong threat to their civilisation, you create Pegida. You create Donald Trump.

    It is this refusal to have a mature discussion about the problem of Islamist theocratic fascism that is creating the polarisation of our societies.

    Where was your column when theocratic fascists gunned down cartoonists for drawing Mohammad? How despicable to dump on that same magazine which had half its staff murdered and now intellectually you want to kill the other half.

    Shame on you. The only Islamophobe here is you because you are frightened of Islamists who might call you racist and because you equate Islamist theocratic fascism with all of Islam. You help the religious right wing to oppress the secular and progressive voices within their Western minority.

    • 14 April 2016 at 5:47pm
      Croyal says: @ ranctunab
      Perfect analysis. Bravo!
      In French we say "CQFD" : Ce Qu'il Faut Dire ("what must be said").

    • 15 July 2016 at 8:35pm
      Bob Jones says: @ ranctunab
      Nailed it. THANK YOU!

  • 6 April 2016 at 5:13am
    David Sharp says:
    Adam Shatz is right, but the current situation in France reflects a wider problem, which can be found in varying forms in Britain, the US, Belgium and I suspect all other major western states.
    That problem is a catastrophic inability to acknowledge, and therefore come to terms with, their imperial and colonial pasts.
    The reaction to the series of terrorist attacks that began last year has opened my eyes to this: there has been an outpouring of what can only be described as "French exceptionalism".
    In the media, it has become practically forbidden to even suggest that the attacks might in some way be linked to France's past and present actions. Making things worse, both the political élite and the media have generally paid little attention to the country's foreign policy, which under both Sarkozy and Hollande have been disastrous.
    Unfortunately, there are few voices on the left to combat this view, and there is no French equivalent of the Stop the War Coalition.
    The current atmosphere is poisonous in the extreme.

  • 6 April 2016 at 8:01am
    farthington says:
    If we want to go the whole hog on laicité the French need to dismantle the entire sectarian school system.
    Of course, post 1905, the massive Catholic system couldn't be readily dismantled because of its scale, so a compromise was effected.
    But the existence of that system facilitated the later establishment of other sectarian systems, notably the Jewish and now Islamic.
    Out damned spot.
    It won't happen because even the principled Elisabeth Badinter is not that purist.
    As for Charlie Hebdo, the murders were heinous.
    But it was part of the long denigration of Arabs to which AS refers.
    Charlie was not about freedom of speech but, since Philippe Val's era, a vehicle for peddling cheap unfunny prejudice.

  • 6 April 2016 at 4:41pm
    Graucho says:
    There is a cancer of intolerance afflicting modern Islam. God knows from the crusades to Bush's incredibly stupid Iraq invasion western civilisation has done everything it can to create it, but it is still a reality. By all means acknowledge the past, but "The moving finger ..." and all that. As outrage follows outrage, the standard palliative statements are made and we try to comfort ourselves with the idea that these are the acts of a few deranged individuals. Well, when Salman Taseer was assassinated by his body guard for having the temerity to file a mercy petition for a Christian girl convicted to death under Pakistan's blasphemy laws and his murderer was bought to justice, what happened ? Tens of thousands of demonstrators besieged the parliament building, demanding sharia law and supporting the utterly disgusting piece of legislation that had condemned the poor girl. This malignancy is far more widespread and popular than many think and not only is it killing people, the vast majority of its victims are muslim, around a million in the middle east these past 20 odd years and counting. Whatever the remedy is, it isn't trying to rationalise it.

  • 6 April 2016 at 6:33pm
    WaNo says:
    Algerians are not, have never been and will never be "arabs" nor "muslims". They are among other things "arabophone" (tamazight, Algerian language and French are there other languages spoken in Algeria).

    Anthropologically, ethnically, geographically, historically, Algerians are North-Africans and Amazigh who have been invaded and colonized by different invaders including Arabs (from the Arab peninsula, the only Arabs).

    Islam is a religion, a faith, a belief. There is no such thing as "Muslim origin". "Racialisation" of Islam as any religion is a ridiculous mistake.

    Kamel Daoud is an Algerian writer (and not Arab). He writes only in French.

    Alain Finkelkraut is not a philosopher! He is a dishonest and prejudiced, politically involved intellectual.

    • 6 April 2016 at 6:50pm
      WaNo says: @ WaNo
      "Arabophone" meaning Arabic-speaking. One of the languages spoken in Algeria. And unfortunately chosen for ideological and political reasons as to official language.

      But facts, reality resist to ideologies. Algerian language, then one used commonly by Algerians is not Arab, it is a mixture of languages with some Arabic language in it.

      The language most commonly used in official administrations and universities is French.

      Recently, Algerian government has finally started to recognize the real identity of Algeria by adding Tamazight to the constitution as an Algerian language.

    • 7 January 2017 at 11:55pm
      John Cowan says: @ WaNo
      Darja is definitely an Arabic language variety: it is descended from the same Old Arabic as modern Standard Arabic and all the other varieties. It has a lot of borrowings (though not as many as Maltese), but that doesn't change its Arabic origin, any more than the borrowings in English make it not a Germanic language.

  • 6 April 2016 at 6:54pm
    sebagustavo says:
    May be that B.Henry-Levi, Finkielkraut, the late Klugsman, E.Bdinter, Charlie Hebdo u.s.w. made of France a favourite target for islamic extremism. If they had exercized their laicism on orthodox Jews and Israeli extremists, it's likely we would have seen a different movie.

    • 7 April 2016 at 5:48am
      stettiner says: @ sebagustavo
      Here we go... A little bit late, but inevitable...

    • 7 April 2016 at 7:09am
      sebagustavo says: @ stettiner
      Tout se tiens

    • 2 May 2016 at 5:20pm
      Bob Jones says: @ sebagustavo
      Yes, here in France we're endlessly assailed by those "orthodox Jews and Israeli extremists" who, when they're not gunning down journalists, keep shooting up our cafés and concert halls. You're right, it's time our intellectuals started "exercising their laicism" on those baddies in black hats cause they're the real danger to society and, yeah, if we'd done it before, maybe "islamic extremism" wouldn't have made us a target.

  • 7 April 2016 at 7:22pm
    LCorax says:
    For an alternative view of the situation, consider the analysis of J. E. H. Smith. Essentially: the left-critical Anglo media conflation of discrete ideological categories (e.g. racism, Islamophobia, laïcité) for the sake of political expediency (i.e. being on the "right" side) is in fact a political—and I would add moral—dead end.

  • 15 July 2016 at 8:40pm
    Bob Jones says:
    Elisabeth Badinter has eyes and she knows how to use them. Adam Shatz would seem to be a Chico Marxist: “Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?!?” He’ll happily believe a friend who informs him that “all her young friends in Cairo are bisexuals” inventing for themselves “a new life” there today, and he obligingly shares this happy tidbit with his friend Kamel Daoud (and readers of Le Monde) in an attempt to get this Algerian writer to rethink the way he’s been using his eyes of late and keep his observations on sexuality and the place of women in Islam to himself. But Daoud believes his own eyes – “Liberate women and you yourself will be free,” says he. Indeed. It would seem that Mark Twain saw that in 1895: “The peoples furthest from civilization are the ones where equality between man and woman are furthest apart.” Indeed and double deed. Perhaps something similar could be said about lands where idiot superstitions have the least purchase, yet Shatz paints Alain Finkielkraut as a villain for “protesting against the conversion of unused churches into mosques.” Dude, it’s a sign of progress that those churches are unused and yet still preserved for their historical/cultural value! It’s a sign of regression when they’re turned into mosques. After centuries of struggle, France had more or less freed itself of religion. Today this freedom is being challenged, and you’d have to be a Chico Marxist not to see that.

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