France has certainly been having its problems with its Muslim population. And it has been trying to address the problems.
Recently, in one suburb, the local authorities have taken apage out of the Chinese playbook and are trying to force a Muslim-owned supermarket to sell alcohol and pork products.
In China, an edict from the central authority was all that was required. In France, there will be a court case.
The point is simple: if you are living in the West, you should accept the values that pertain in the West. And those values involve openness and a willingness to serve non-Muslim customers. Of course, if the French supermarket rebrands itself a specialty store it can continue to do business as it wishes. In China, it would have no such choice.
Recently, Pierre Manent wrote a book called Beyond Secular Radicalism to explain what went wrong in France. And Manent has offered a prescription for how to make it right.
Rather than blame racism and Islamophobia, as the American and European left would, Manent recognizes the responsibility borne by the intellectual elites, the groundless masses who see themselves as citizens of the world. Such citizens of the world do not bask in national pride and often want to undermine Western civilization.
Barton Swaim reviewed Manent’s book for the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Manent contends that France’s intellectual elite spectacularly failed to diagnose the problem of France’s enormous, largely unassimilated population of Muslims. The hope that they would accept liberal values and embrace the virtues of a secular state, he insists, was based on little more than self-flattery and naiveté.
Muslims living in Europe are not changing, Mr. Manent argues. Their religious and cultural customs are not softening or “modernizing” in the temperate atmosphere of French laïcité or other forms of European secularism. Indeed, he writes, “we are witnessing the extension and the consolidation of the domain of Muslim practices rather than its shrinking or relaxation.” The response of France’s non-Muslim secularists has been to ignore the problem or to pretend it’s not a problem at all except insofar as white European racism has made it one. French Muslims have no reason to change because, in effect, they haven’t been asked to.
The trouble, Mr. Manent thinks, is that enlightened liberal Europeans have defined themselves out of existence. “Dominant opinion in Europe,” he writes, “tends to consider Europe as a ‘nothing,’ a space empty of anything common, or at most as a ‘culture.’ ” What defines a society, what makes it something an outsider can conform to or reject, is its habits and its morals. But modern liberalism, based as it is on the “unlimited sovereignty of the individual” (as Mr. Manent puts it), will not allow the individual to be defined by anything external to him. What, then, are French and other European policy makers and intellectuals asking Muslims to be part of, to belong to? Right-thinking sophisticated “European” humanity? It’s hard to blame European Muslims for wishing to remain precisely who they are.
To what extent does the government have the right to crack down on Muslim practices, in the way that the authoritarian Chinese have done. Does it have a right to ban the practice of Sharia law?
The government, he [Manent] says, has every right to interrupt French Muslim organizations’ dependence on foreign money, to preserve and enforce the ban on polygamy, to defend freedom of expression, and to outlaw the burqa. This last exhortation is bracing: “To present visibly one’s refusal to be seen is an ongoing aggression against human coexistence. Europeans have never concealed the face, except for the executioner’s.”
We ought to underline the fact that forcing women to hide their faces in public, depriving them of a public face is in direct contradiction to Western values. Does the point even bear debating any more?
Manent is surely being too optimistic about the ability of Muslim refugees to adopt French values and to see themselves as French citizens. In America, that fearless defender of the American constitution, Khazir Khan has also been a staunch defender of Sharia law. He has a law practice that seeks to bring more Muslims to America. And Khan also told a Pakistani television station yesterday that Allah was sabotaging the Trump campaign. About that, no one in the mainstream and highly secular media will say anything.
Back in France, the French intelligentsia has lost its sense of a national identity. One might note, because Swaim does, that the British exit from the European community was a way to reassert national identity and national pride. Naturally, every member of the British intelligentsia and the ruling class, on the left and on the right, has been horrified by it.
Swaim explains Manent’s position:
But if Muslims are to view themselves as French citizens rather than merely as sojourners seeking a measure of prosperity in the West, they must have a sense of what they’re being urged to join. And that will require the return of a strong French nation-state with a sense of its own identity. I don’t know if Mr. Manent foresaw Great Britain’s departure from the European Union—I know nobody who did—but it fits the logic of his startling proposal.
This will not happen unless we overcome the pernicious influence of today’s trendy atheism. Western civilization was not produced by atheists. One recalls a time in the not so distant past when atheists and pagans tried to destroy it.
For refusing to accept the Biblical foundation of the civilization the new intellectually sophisticated atheists have lost track of the moral foundation of their civilization and are not offering new Muslim immigrants an amoral miasma that no one would ever want to join:
Europe formed nation-states of free citizens, he argues, as a consequence of a profound and double-sided “indeterminacy”: On the one hand, the Christian revelation offered the concept of a “covenant” between man and a loving God but did not dictate exactly how governments should reproduce that covenant; on the other, the Christian gospel demanded a response that could take different forms in different places. Over centuries, geographically cohesive groupings established similar but separate forms of religious adherence along with distinctive forms of covenantal government—that is, government in which rulers ruled for the good of the governed, not merely for self-aggrandizement or territorial gain.