Victimization in the land of Voltaire – France, the police state and the intellectual

SHAFAQNA – They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of France’s state of emergency, it is the road to Freedom which is littered with gags and shackles. One teacher most of all: Mr Salah Lamrani has learnt what it cost to speak “en Français.”

If France continues to project this aura of democratic fortitude, often lecturing the world on how countries should behave and ought to govern themselves on account the “Republic” represents the epitome of Freedom, Equality and Fraternity, France it needs to be said, has become a rather pitiful version of its worst self.

A police state hiding behind the veneer of Western democratic sainthood, France is in fact a racist, and intolerant state vying for complete political, social, economic and intellectual control … Of course one cannot ignore the religious sphere. In the land of Voltaire, one should not overtly say God; only deny His existence to worship instead at the altar of secularism.

Where France once upon a time stood for Freedom, its state now wrestles with selective freedoms (note the lack of capital letter) – from the looks of it, Paris is actively looking to thin out those rights civilians have been allowed to still practice. How beautiful the French Marianne today! How strong the 5th Republic …

What is left to say of a state which persecutes its intellectuals, and teachers? What is left to say of a system which promotes witch-hunting and fear-mongering on account individuals may hold views which differ from that of the state, from that of the Establishment?

Isn’t intellectual diktat the very character of a dictatorship? Has France lost all sense of republican pride and identity that it stooped to policing its most dedicated teachers in the name of political conformity?

In February 2016, Professor Salah Lamrani, a French Literature Middle School tenured teacher in the Paris popular suburb of Seine Saint Denis was unjustly, and unlawfully suspended for four months following phantasmagorical claims he espoused radical tendencies.

Mr Lamrani, whose professional file remains without so much as a blemish, exemplifies France’s descent into ultra-national fascism – this new sense that France needs to stand puritan and absolute in the declaration of its values – even if it means … actually, especially if it means, silencing those who still dare live pluralism as a God given right.

It all began with one teacher’s love for writing and a passion for the French language. A tradition which gifted the world of the likes of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile Zola and Baudelaire has risen today a tyrant over thoughts, words and philosophies, wielding fear and repression to better bully so-called potential dissidents into not just silence but intellectual uniformity.

A free thinker, Mr lamrani came to clash with a narrow-minded head-teacher, both a product and a tool of the “system”, for he dared express certain opinions on such matters as politics and foreign policy on his personal blog, outside the sphere of control his office could have ever claimed to exert upon his person. Still, he was castigated.

For, he, a teacher of the Republic openly challenged France’s state of emergency, for he offered that such powers as Russia and Iran in Syria were in fact abiding by the spirit of international law in their resistance against Daesh, he was likened to those rag-tags mercenaries whose blades have inspired only disgust and fear.

In an interview I conducted with him on February 14, Mr Lamrani explained how his troubles stemmed from the implacable authoritarianism his school’s most senior figureheads demonstrated against his person. “I was suspended without any investigation and in spite of my formal complaint for moral harassment and slander due to my school authoritarian management – who didn’t like my Union and blogger activities, and who accused me publicly of being a dangerous terrorist.”

In time such as ours such claims should not be taken lightly as they can imply dramatic repercussions – not the least Mr Lamrani’s personal safety, and freedom.

Mr lamrani’s “crimes” were that he denounced state repression, while proclaiming personal political truths on a platform which was his own, outside school hours, and without it ever transpiring into his work as a teacher.

Because one head-teacher, Mrs Khadidja Bot, imagined herself a “keeper” of the Establishment – a self-appointed tyrant of the national education complex, one man’s life and future now stand in jeopardy. Because, she, a person of authority, chose to slander and label, to better assert her “power”, one man now has been shun by his community and vilified by his colleagues. Without so much as a shred of evidence, without the authorities ever bothering to open an inquiry into his alleged “radicalism”, one man was stripped of his professional dignity.

This is France’s state of emergency! This is how France now treats its nationals … this is how France rewards free-thinking and intellectualism. I believe that France has few lessons to give the world when it comes to totalitarianism … it has become a grand-master indeed!

But if Mr Lamrani lost one battle against the Establishment, he is not admitting defeat. In fact, he has vowed to expose the very system which claims his freedom and attempted to silence his voice, so that others will learn to speak unhindered.

It was Jean Jaures who said: “All of us forget that before everything else, we are men, ephemeral beings lost in the immense universe, so full of terrors. We are inclined to neglect the search for the real meaning of life, to ignore the real goals – serenity of the spirit and sublimity of the heart … To reach them – that is the revolution.”

By Catherine Shakdam





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