France is under attack because of its culture, not its cartoons

3 November 2020

3:47 AM

3 November 2020

3:47 AM

Let us imagine for a moment that Emmanuel Macron takes the advice of many in the Anglophone world and bans the publication in France of any further caricatures of the prophet Mohammed.

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, might praise the president of France for his courageous decision ‘to act with respect for others’ and the New York Times might no longer insinuate France was institutionally Islamophobic. The angry protests in Pakistan and Bangladesh would end, and president Erdogan of Turkey would tell the world that Macron was no longer mentally ill, but rather a man of integrity. French school teachers would go to work without fear and perhaps, too, the staff of Charlie Hebdo. But Macron’s ‘war’ on radical Islam would not be over.

The naivety, dishonesty and cowardice of so many in their reaction to this story never ceases to amaze me. Does the Associated Press honestly believe that three churchgoers – one of whom was Brazilian – were killed in Nice because of France’s ‘brutal colonial past, staunch secular policies and tough-talking president’?

In which case, how does one account for the actions of Mohamed Merah in 2012? Had the three Jewish children he shot at point-blank range in a Toulouse playground caricatured the prophet? And why did Merah also murder two French Muslim soldiers? Because of their participation in France’s brutal colonial past?

I could ask the same question about the scores of concert-goers massacred at the Bataclan five years ago this month. ‘A group of believers from the soldiers of the Caliphate set out targeting the capital of prostitution and vice, the lead carrier of the cross in Europe, Paris’, gloated Islamic State in a celebratory statement after the attack. ‘Allah granted victory upon their hands and cast terror into the hearts of the crusaders in their very own homeland.’ Not a word about cartoons.

Nor was there in 2005, when the French-educated Syrian intellectual, Abu Musab al-Suri, published his 1600-page ‘Call to Global Islamic Resistance’. In his treatise, al-Suri criticised the 9/11 attack, explaining that the United States was too big, too faraway, and too Christian to ever be Islamified. Far better to target Europe, which he described as the ‘soft underbelly’ of the West.

Al-Suri’s plan to conquer Europe was two-fold, an intellectual and physical assault, which the French have come to define as ‘cutting the tongue and cutting the head’. The tongues are cut metaphorically with accusations of Islamophobia, a strategy that has been deftly deployed across the continent to silence critics of Islam.

Nowhere has it been more successful than in Britain, where last week at the inquest into the Manchester bombing in 2017 a security guard admitted that the suicide bomber struck him as suspicious but he did not approach him for fear of being branded a racist.

France alone in western Europe has seen through much of the dangerous speciousness of Islamophobia, described in 2013 by the then-socialist prime minister Manuel Valls as the ‘Salafists’ Trojan Horse’. Unable to cut the metaphorical tongues of the French, Islamists are literally cutting their heads in an attempt to terrify them into submission.

The violent demonstrations against France that have broken out around the world (and also outside the French embassy in London) are a familiar tactic in which they exploit Anglo-Saxon ignorance about France. It was seen in August 2016, three weeks after the Nice attack, when a storm erupted over the wearing of burkini on beaches. As I wrote at the time, that was a skilfully manufactured row to deflect attention from what had happened in Nice, as well as the murder of an 85-year-old priest as he took mass in a Normandy church. To the exasperation of the French, much of the Anglophone media fell for it hook, line and sinker, portraying France’s six millions Muslims as the victims of Gallic intolerance.

I was one of the very few Anglophone writers to spring to the defence of France in 2016, and I stand unequivocally side by side with them in this latest furore, because I know that the ultimate goal of the Islamists isn’t to kill off cartoons but an entire civilisation.

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