SHAFAQNA – This November France remembers its fallen – those men and women who, just a year ago were claimed by Terror’s monstrous ideology. As a nation mourn still, many wonder if France did not lose its republican soul in the Bataclan.
While France remains defiant in the face of radicalism – the land of Voltaire has seen too many grey skies to simply cower in the face of danger, Terror might have already disappeared those very principles which saw rise the Fifth Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity.
Once upon a time France stood tall against fascism … once upon a time France’s men and women spoke freedom and liberation against collaboration … once upon a time France resisted against those forces which ambitioned to negate humanity’s many colours to assert a single and implacable truth.
France then had still a soul. France’s flag then had still an anthem in its colours.
France I fear, has now become the very institutional devolution it once vowed to forever denounce, combat and oppose. What a legacy to lose but that of hard-fought democracy. What a fall indeed but that of a republic’s flag into the mud of fascism!
What a pity it is to honour the victims of Terror by rising another against those who imagined it not! A shadow of its former self, a caricature onto itself, France responded to Terror’s religious fanaticism with a radicalism of its own: ethno-centric hyper-secularism. Voltaire is indeed no more …
As Voltaire once pointed out: “It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.” Indeed … France these days loves itself some mighty shackles. In fact I would venture to say that France has reinvented itself a prisoner of its own intransigent and self-righteous laicity, this socio-political space which considers the idea of God together a philosophical and apostasy, a negation of its sovereign nationalism.
Where the French establishment could have chosen to reach out and answer fear with courageous defiance, the Republic opted for crippling nihilism, thus allowing for exclusion to become not just an institution, but the expression of France’s national identity.
If France remembers its fallen this November 13th, the world cries another domino lost to political dogmatism to the tune of disappearing civil liberties. For all its moral grand-standing and its many great cries against the evil of radicalism, the Fifth Republic has become the thing of nightmares for ethnic and religious minorities.
Only this October a French student was told by an over-zealous head-teacher that his beard was a “sign of radicalization”. And then of course who could forget France’s attempt to legislate over fashion this summer 2016 so that at last women could learn how to best express their attachment to republican values.
The French Marianne wears a bikini these days …
A hypocrisy upon hypocrisies France’s establishment has wielded Islamic radicalism as a powerful tool of political indoctrination to defend, and assert its own, omitting to mention that it is its officials who welcomed extremists in their midst to begin with.
Lest not forget how France’s borders were breached!
Lest not forget which friendships and alliances Paris has held while chanting counter-terrorism! May I dare say those forbidden words: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey? Could I be as bold as to point out that while France’s very own President Francois Hollande calls for Islam to be republicanised, he has bowed to the very expression of theo-fascism: Wahhabism?
“What we need to succeed in together is the creation of an Islam of France,” Hollande said in a speech on November 8.
Terror we will do well to remember as we mourn our dead, was engineered, raised, trained and empowered on the back of Western capitals. How good are our tears if we cannot face up to our demons? Those demons our governments so politely offered cover to, so that they could later on blame an entire faith for the tyranny of a governing elite.
If France was targeted by Terror it is Islam and its people which ever since have been branded criminals while culprits run free.
And though President Hollande might have affirmed: “Nothing in the idea of secularism is opposed to the practice of Islam in France, as long — and that is the vital point — as it complies with the law,” before noting that secularism was “not a religion of the state that stands against all other religions,” it is rather clear that France is at war. If only it was against its enemies …
A year after the tragedy of the Bataclan France stands a country in division, a nation in paranoia and a people in a state of profound socio-political post-traumatic stress disorder. Very much like President-elect Donald Trump’s America, France has given in to psychosis to power its recovery.
Are we worried? Maybe we should …
“The republic cannot accept a situation where a majority of imams are trained abroad and sometimes don’t speak our language,” said Mr Hollande. I don’t see how geography and language have anything to do with radicalism – unless of course France is playing into Rome’s old definition of barbarism: everything and anything lying outside its immediate borders.
Radicalism is an ideology, not a point on a map – although I grant you Terror may have found a capital in Riyadh.
November 13th will forever echo of France’s mourning, but France’s real tragedy would be to allow Terror to define how it thinks itself against its minorities, especially when it is in the defence of minorities that the Fifth Republic was manifested.
By Catherine Shakdam – Director of Programs for the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies. This article was published first in RT International