Yesterday the French prime minister Manuel Valls called for a ban on the Muslim hijab at French universities. He added that most French people do not believe that the values of Islam are compatible with the values of the French Republic.
You might think that Valls is some kind of right wing fanatic. In fact, he belongs to the French Socialist Party.
One notes, in passing that the Citadel, a military academy in South Carolina seems to have decided to allow an incoming student to wear a hijab.
It is true that French leftists, along with conservatives, have been complicit in allowing their nation to fall prey to Islamist extremism, but it is also true that after the November 13 attack on Bataclan the French President Francois Hollande showed a resolve about fighting Islamic terrorism that has been lacking in America’s own President Obama.
Now, French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, has weighed in on the question of taking sides in what he calls the war within Islam. Surely, he is being politic. He should have mentioned that Islamists are at war with the West.
Of course, BHL, as he is commonly called, is very influential in French intellectual circles. One recalls that he persuaded former President Sarkozy to intervene in Libya. And one recalls that the Obama administration, led by then Secretary of State Clinton happily joined the party, leading, as was their wont, from behind.
I mention the history to point out that BHL is hardly infallible.
And yet, France’s unruly and increasingly dangerous Muslim population has driven that nation to a crisis point. And BHL has a number of sensible things to say, even given that most American readers will not be familiar with all of the intricacies of French politics.
BHL opens by praising Valls for rejecting the temptation to make excuses for Islamic terrorism. One understands that he also rejects the noxious habit, endemic to the Obama administration, of responding to each terrorist attack with a call to stop Islamophobia.
The fault, BHL says, lies with successive French governments, both liberal and conservative. One notes that Muslims are a large voting bloc in France—over 10%-- and that they invariably vote for the Socialists. For that reason the current Socialist government is showing considerable political courage.
We can take on object lesson from the French experience:
Successive French governments, over three decades, abdicated responsibility for engaging in this debate. But while passivity may have ensured social peace in the short term, it enabled values other than those of the republic to take root in wide swaths of French cities. And this was followed by willful blindness, as governments refused to recognize that militant Islamic fundamentalism was actually Islamo-fascism, the third global variant of totalitarianism that diehard critics had been decrying for a quarter-century.
Extremists yell more loudly and provide more compelling images than moderates. Thus, they become the only people that anyone hears. BHL points out that Western governments have tended to ignore the horrors provoked by this Islamo-fascism—the fatwa against author Salman Rushdie being one of the most obvious—and follow a policy of appeasement.
BHL denounces this policy:
Appeasement of violent radicalism only encourages more of the same. As a consequence, we find ourselves in an undeclared state of intellectual emergency, one that, regrettably, has given rise to the states of emergency that our governments proclaim in the wake of terrorist attacks.
Dealing with this emergency requires, above all, saying and doing the opposite of what has most often been said and done. Specifically, we must call a spade a spade. An Islamist may be a lost Muslim or a Muslim gone astray, but he or she is a Muslim all the same. We must stop repeating ad nauseam that these aberrant Muslims have “nothing to do with Islam.”
How can we fight this scourge? BHL continues:
Once we do that, we must devote ourselves to identifying, untangling, and exposing the networks of Islamic hate and terror with the same energy and ingenuity that are now being applied to unraveling the global schemes of tax evaders. How long will we have to wait for the Panama Papers of Salafism? What is stopping the great newspapers from flushing out from the dark web the Mossack Fonsecas of global jihad and its criminal offshore companies?
The great newspapers that were afraid to run caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed are not very likely to take up the fight against the Islamists. At least, they are not very likely to do it without the politicians leading the way. And, as long as the American president is leading the appeasement brigade, that is unlikely to happen.
BHL suggests that we ought to support those Muslims who are fighting the jihadis:
We must also aid, encourage, and ideologically arm Muslims who reject the Islam of hate in favor of an Islam respectful of women, their faces, and their rights, as well as of human rights in general. Is that not what we did in the not-so-distant past with regard to the brave people we called dissidents in the Soviet world? And were we not right, at the time, to ignore those who told us that the dissidents were a minority who would never, ever, prevail against the granite ideology of communism?
Even-handed and neutral is just a nice way to practice appeasement. Taking sides means that we might not always like the people we are allied with. And yet, since it’s about taking sides, we ought to support fully the government of President el Sisi in Egypt. And we ought to join his government in denouncing the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.
But, it also means taking sides in the war between the Palestinian terrorists and the Israelis. Europeans think that by attacking Israel they can buy some protection from the Islamists. In that they are wrong. Their attitude has convinced the jihadis that Europeans are weak and soft, sure losers in this civilizational war.
American politicians who believe that they must be neutral in the struggle are equally wrong- headed, no matter how tough they appear.