Thursday, June 4, 2015 – National Assembly
Faithful to its vocation to animate freely debates on unedited and original themes, the Paris Academy of Geopolitics has chosen to have its audience benefit from the works of the best specialists on the delicate question of the instrumentalization of the Moslem religion to the ends of destabilizing entire regions and right inside hitherto preserved societies. Likewise, the question of the place and the interpretation of secularism, according to opposed interests and concepts, has been formulated, the more so because secularism also is the object of militant and coveted appropriation and misappropriation. True to its style, the Paris Academy of Geopolitics has yet again privileged a pluridisciplinary approach and has benefitted from the expertise of analysts who are well-honed on this sensitive file.
In particular, this symposium attached itself to considering on the one hand the new phenomenon of the instrumentalization Islam’s different branches, in order to create high-intensity confessional conflicts, and on the other the use of systematic violence as means of affirming religion, to the extent of assimilating Islam and terrorism. The sort of Islamophobia that thereby results, appears as required by the phenomenon’s commanders who exploit subversion in order to accentuate chaos, propitious to the exacerbation of violence between communities, wherever the selected territories and theatres. It has been necessary to focus on the forces provoking this operation of murderous manipulation: conniving States, governments and militaro-industrial complexes, financial sources, and desperate terrorist groups along with their trained modi operandi.
Numerous themes related to this delicate question of religious destabilization toward the ends of power and hegemony, have equally been covered by the pertinent analyses of numerous specialists, academicians, military and civilian personalities, diplomats, journalists, and so forth, who have participated in our works.
Jacques Myard, National Member of Parliament, President of the Nation & Republic Circle.
The question of the relationship between the politician and religion whether in the singular or even better between politicians and religions throughout humanity’s history, has been asked with regards all the world’s religions. It’s a constant, and by way of example it’s of interest to quote one of France’s Kings who invented before the Republicans themselves the concept of Respublica – which, of course, means: the Public Matter or Affair. This King was Philippe IV Le Bel known as the King of Iron…. His contemporary compatriots said of him that he was made of marble, because he had character. At the end of the XIIIth Century and into the beginning of the XIVth, there was a conflict that has remained famous and involved Pope Boniface VIII. The stakes were high, because it concerned the possibility for the King of France to tax or not to tax the Church. Boniface at first yielded, and accepted after some remonstrance, that the King be empowered to tax the Church. Then on 18th November 1302 he proclaimed in a Papal bull named Unam Sanctam, the Church’s supremacy over the State, therefore every human being was to be obliged to submit to the Pontiff, that is to say the Pope. The King’s reply was direct, at the time he had advisers called juridical registrars, people who were wise in their discernment of State, and of general interest. So after having obtained – doubtless after some forceful persuasion, the support of France’s Bishops and mostly the Paris Assembly of Notables, he sent his juridical registrar Guillaume de Nogaret along with a small army into Italy to seize the Pontiff at Anagni, the Pope’s Summer Residence. There was then an incident reported by the media of the time, and all the same the King had the last word and did indeed tax the Church.
And since then, France has continued along the same lines: temporal power cannot be shadowed by the Papacy’s spiritual power. Of course, after the Revolution, all that was put officially into writing on 9th December 1905 in the now famous Law of the Separation of Church and of State. In consequence, France is today a secular State and proud to be so. But that does not mean that she ignores religion. The law of 1905 is not one to reject religion, it’s a law that sanctifies the liberty of conscience, that is to say the possibility for each of us to choose one’s own religion, to change religion if believing one should, or not to have one. It is therefore a law of liberty for each citizen – each citizen being free of religion but not to impose on someone else.
Everyone has their own religion, without imposing, respects that of others and expresses his/her own religion as he/she believes. The Law of 1905 was not intended to banish religion, and did not. No church was destroyed before the law of 1905, whereas at the time of the Revolution, it was a trifle more violent. No church, no temple, no synagogue was compromised. Society and State live in symbiosis with these religions or in the absence of religion for those so inclined.
It’s clear that a central point is set: the Law of the Republic was not inspired directly by one religion or another, but is the result of voting in Parliament, itself elected by universal suffrage. This is a major point, in that it is not like in other States where each law has an echo of a divine law, further each president elected then enthroned by oath on the Bible and/or another sacred text.
Is the important arrival of the Moslem religion an upheaval? A change of rules on living together of which secularism is one of the foundations? I don’t believe so but there is a condition: it’s evident that the Republic’s laws are indeed those of the Republic, and it’s not up to the Republic to adapt itself to the different religions, rather religions should adapt to the Republic. When I say that, I don’t say so by provocation nor by the desire for diktat. I say so like many Moslem citizens who respect the Republic and who know that the Republic’s laws protect them and that they must defend these laws of the Republic.
Ali Rastbeen, President of the Paris Academy of Geopolitics
The development of human rights has introduced new concepts to intellectual society. Secularism is one of them. Some religious authorities interpret this concept as being opposed to religious legitimacy. Rationalists propagate the notion of reason, whereas believers defend the possibility of influencing State government.
However, secularism permits man to respect the intimacy, private life and liberty of others, just like he wishes that his own intimacy, private life and liberty be respected.
The intellectual efforts deployed these past two centuries to reconcile secularism with religious belief have remained unfruitful, because of this incompatibility.
Juridically, the principle of secularism is solidly established by the law of 9th December 1905 separating Church and State. Its first article permits to define secularism as the principle of liberty of citizenry that is sensitive to its rights but just as much to its “duties” towards “general interest” and “public order”.
All the same, one must respect the fragile but precious balance of secularism, without undermining religious liberty. For that, one must effectively ensure the same respect, the same consideration, the same tolerance, to all the great spiritual families.
It’s in the name of secularism in France that an Islam is recognized as bearer of a message of tolerance, of solidarity, and as being in harmony with Republican values. An Islam that must be formally recognized by a representation of Moslem communities in their diversity, with a view to useful dialogue with the State.
In fact, Islam presents itself as an act of common recognition of adhering to a Supreme Being. One thus finds the idea of the recognition of the Unique, to liberate oneself from anything concerning life’s particularities, to recognize what He is, is to liberate oneself from any submission to what He has created.
Therefore, when in the XVIIIth Century certain Western thinkers such as Montesquieu or Voltaire talk of “Mohameddans”, there is serious error. Since by this fundamental aspect of the relationship between the Creator and His Creation, Islam differentiates itself radically from the Christian conception.
Islam being historically the last to appear of the great religions, could not avoid attracting a wave of resistance and hostilities; however, the military expeditions, the persecutions, the spoken and written attacks, just reinforced it, with the constitution of the Ottoman Empire that set ablaze the Near East, Balkan Europe, North Africa and a good part of West Europe. Then, there were the crusades by the United States into Asia and the Middle East.
Religious conflict and tension pose today several threats in international relations, such as the instrumentalization of religion in order to further political dynamics, and this has become a formidable trap as much for States as for religious communities. In effect it permits religious extremism to contaminate local dynamics which thereby become conflictual and never-ending, from the Kashmir to Chechenia and passing by Syria.
This instrumentalization nourishes itself on a fundamentalist reading of religion, this tends notably to oppose religion against culture and to impose the theocratic idea.
In the face of these destabilizations, religious, political and diplomatic personalities must weigh by their moral authority in favour of dialogue and of ensuring durable peaceful coexistence.
The Islamophobia in the wake of the terrorist attacks of January in Paris, threatens the delicate balance of international geopolitical relations, and provokes the indignation of Moslems around the world. Neither Islam nor Moslems accept(s) recourse to violence.
Moslems generally deplore the exploitation of freedom of speech by secularist extremists, in order to freely mock religion and tradition, without being corrected by the authorities.
Westerners, notably in Europe have urgent need to determine why their everyday citizens sacrifice themselves and others, in order to protest violently. This strange phenomenon can neither be simple coincidence, nor be easily considered trivial, and in fact it corresponds to deep socio-political ill-being created by striking inequalities.
In these conditions, one must observe that Islamophobia is nothing more than oil on fire, since only the innocent are targeted.
The word “Islam” currently undergoes all sorts of abuse. However, Islam, like Christianity or Buddhism, is a religion of universal character.
Therefore, seeking in the Koran or the sharia any reasons for contemporary transnational terrorism is completely surrealistic, and just corresponds to abusive instrumentalization just to avoid true problems.
In fact, don’t large-scale Islamist terrorist operations also take place in Moslem countries such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Indonesia, Iraq, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen? And isn’t it time the West allowed itself some deeper reflexion?
Today in Ira and in Syria, like yesterday in Baima or Timbuctoo, Islamist groups are destroying monuments, burning manuscripts, vandalizing Museums, and imposing themselves on local folk. These acts claim to be strategic social purge, cultural cleansing, a primal identity cry … that’s Islam in the face of geopolitical clashes that can disfigure and even invade the identity of an even ancient civilization. In fact, purge seen like this is justifiable, punctual, fertile, and responds to current human and religious conditions….
However, contemporary Islam must not drag on its image of a sombre, closed and intolerant religion, as is the case in the indigestible literature of modern-day fundamentalist movements.
In fact, not that many decades ago, Islamic reformist schools dominated Moslem societies and guaranteed good international relations.
Religion does treat a wide range of problems: balance at the heart of States, bilateral relationships, transnational stakes, questions of security and threats to development. Though at present 29 countries are involved in conflicts of religious dimensions that have involved the displacement of over 18 million persons.
Religion can and must be a cultural factor, a support for dialogue and peace.
There remains alas much reason to be anxious, because Yemen has joined Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya and Somalia as somewhere warlords impose themselves mercilessly in a context of anarchy.
Those who bombard Yemenites furnish weapons and ideology to Daesh terrorists, Al-Qaïda and others who destroy Iraq ans Syria, are apparently pawns of American policy. The silence of France, bearer of human rights values, of democracy and of equality between men and women, prefers Saudi Arabia where people get beheaded by sword, where international law is violated to allow invading and isolating Yemen, ridiculing its cultural and moral integrity, crippling its children and civilians, destroying its hospitals, schools, businesses…. This destruction in the name of strategic cultural purge is an integral part of the global humanitarian crisis. It disintegrates societies, it spreads to other countries – Syria, Mali, Libya, ….
The extremists know that national heritage is as much a source of identity as of cohesion, and therefore keeps people feeling secure. Therefore extremists strike at national heritage, to gain domination.
Therefore we must denounce the destruction of national heritage, as a crime and an inacceptable violation of the essential rights of peoples.
Culture and education for all, with a view to justice, liberty and peace, are indispensable for human dignity and for accomplishing the sacred rights of Nation-State.
In the face of violence and merciless extremism, we must remain together and maintain durable peace, through education, cultural dialogue, and mutual understanding on the basis of respect and equal dignity for all.
First round table
Moderator: Professeur Patrick Dombrowsky, director of l’Observatoire pour les analyses des relations internationales contemporaines
Jean Michel VERNOCHET, journalist, writer and political scientist
“Divine Law and Secular Laws”
The debate on secularism in post-industrial societies seems asleep since the separation in 1905 of Church and State. A divorce that wasn’t without its material and moral violence. The French Constitution of 1958 in its First Article attributes secularism into what one has since been accustomed to know as the “Republican Pact”, that in the name of guarantee of national unity. However, the debate on secularism has just brutally surfaced again in France with regards Islam and bearing on all that secular puritanism considers as ostentatious manifestations of confessional appurtenance that in turn disturb law and order.
There would remain, and there we have the whole question, of knowing where to place the cursor between respect for individual liberties and legitimate or tolerable intrusion by laws into the private sphere. There, we have thus seen not so long ago, a schoolgirl being reprimanded because of a dress deemed too long. At this juncture of censorship, the legal sanction of the expression deemed exaggerated of a confession – as it happens, a Moslem one – within the public sphere, seems indeed here to trespass unduly on the indispensable respect for the rights of the person, that is to say: elementary liberties at the heart of a State claiming to be democratic.
Let us moreover note that in the minds of the defenders of a secular Republic – excepting for the sinister period of the Convention and the administration of public affairs under the Reign of Terror – there has never been any question of preventing the simple citizen from practising nor even conspicuously affirming his/her belonging to some religion or other, not any more in private than in public, the principle of secularism applying only to a State and only to the State. Principle of neutrality deemed to protect the public sphere of religious influence because judged pernicious. Faith arising certainly from free choice, but essentially individual.
Laudable disposition, though restrictive, because religious belief in and of itself can very legitimately be assimilated to any other ideological option. However, diversity in the choice of some “weltanschauung” or other, with or without Divinity, can only exist in reciprocal respect and in the limits traced between each credo with a view to establishing and to maintaining healthy coexistence between irreducible, and often enough antagonistic images of one another. Experience proves that this balance is at present disturbed. Our proposition is not to put this person or that on trial, nevertheless from this point of view the question of liberty to blaspheme against God or someone else’s faith is engaged. A liberty that generally expresses itself in singularly selective manner and disguises itself “in law” under the embracing title of “freedom of expression”. There remains that the guarantee of public and individual liberties is narrowly related to strictly equal treatment reserved for all. Also, as in a liberal economy, it behoves the State to prevent any constitution of monopoly. Otherwise said, to watch out so any religion transcending or not, any secular religion, doesn’t advance masked by secularism under cover of libertarian ideology, in reality the most often disposed to restricting the liberty to believe freely. The First and Last of the Real Liberties.
Hassan Al HAKIM, representative of the Superior Shiite Islamic Council
“Secularism and Contemporary Islam”
Secularism or laymanship is the power of secularist citizens, as opposed to the power of the church and of its allies: Royalty and Aristocracy. It replaces God, by the People, also the Bible by Philosophy and Science, and Divine Right by Democratic Right. The separation, between State and religions, that it applies, differs from one secular country to another.
Islam is the religion preached by the Prophet Mohamad. It considers itself a reform of and a continuity to preceding religions such as Judaism and Christianity. Instituted as a State at the time of the Prophet, this State has not ceased to expand. After a shaky succession of 4 Caliphs, seen differently according to Islamic tendencies or persuasions (Sunni, Shiite, and Ibadi), the Caliph proclaimed himself a Royal King, thereafter the History of Islam was directed by and divided up among several dynasties of which two alone lasted over eleven centuries: the Abbassides of Bagdad = 750-1258, or 508 years, the Abbassides of Egypt = 1261-1517, or 206 years, finally the Ottomans = 1299-1923, or 624 years.
Contact with Persia and Byzantium favoured the thriving of a new civilization that knew contributions in different fields of knowledge. However, the practices of the reigning Kings did not always conform to Koranic principles or to the Prophet’s instructions. Many military conquests, undertaken in the name of Islam, were marred by injustice and by authorities who disregarded Islam in practice.
The blossoming of knowledge received a stunning blow at the time of Baghdad’s Abbasid Caliph Al Qadir (947-1031), and the Profession of Faith that he had read in all mosques in 1019 (year 409 of the Hegira calendar) in order to fix the official credo and forbid any other exegesis: he closed the door to ijtihad (personal research) and encouraged submissive imitation (taqlid), to the detriment of innovation and the rational Mutazili current. It was the beginning of the decline.
It’s during a later period that took place the secular revolution in the West, then the first contacts between Moslem society and secularism. These contacts took place throughout the European colonialist wars. Thus we found ourselves faced with a non-Moslem occupant, with non-Moslem lifestyle, then in juridical matters, faced with mixed tribunals in Egypt and elsewhere and that introduced non-Islamic legislation along with the sharia. The terrible blow was the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and the declaration of a secular Turkish State. The post-colonialists more or less followed the Turkish example (especially leftist regimes).
Study and work travels towards the West, following on the contacts, put the Moslem élite and then their masses into contact with secular States. Political parties in the image of Western parties (capitalist and communist) then formed and spread. And alongside the Islamic majority in its country of origin, one could find a minority Islam in the host countries where adepts installed themselves.
Faced with this secularism introduced by military force, and with political alliances here and there (Hussain of Mecca, then AbdelAziz), the reaction of Moslem society and especially of its elites was of four sorts:
3- No but
4- Yes but
It’s clear that the “No” was the attitude of the most traditionalist, it’s a rejection attitude and attachment to tradition; its advantage was to preserve arabo-islamic language and culture, and to prevent a total loss of identity. The “Yes” is the position of those that rallied entirely – or almost – to this novelty; if we quote names such as Tahaa Hussain and Ali AbdelRazeq in this category, the list kept up to date would now be long, and we find there many intellectuals and political officials.
The “Yes but” is the attitude of those who have accepted secularism, but with Islamic doses that support partial secularism and wish to reconcile the masses to foreign exactions (Western and/or of the UN). The “No but” is the attitude of Moslem intellectuals who, after rejection of secularism, embraced reflexion: they began self-examination and then put history, laws and Islamic thought into question; thus they re-examined points of contention and sought new interpretation and proof in order to convince and reconcile themselves with the modern world. In this category we have names such as al-Afghani, Abdo, Iqbal, Mawdoudi, ben Nabi, Baqer as Sadr, Chariati, Chamsuddine, Adnan Ibrahim, Tareq Ramadan, and others.
Faced with secular parties, Islamic parties took form; amongst the first were the Moslem Brotherhood (Sunni), and Da’wa (Shiite). In this perspective we can claim that in recent times, three main events have taken place:
·the Iranian Revolution, that installed an Islamic State
·political and military international reaction to put a stop to that, and to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; the Islamic Salafist movement thereupon militarized its movement, influenced by Ibn Abdel Wahhab whose disciples formed the extremist Wahhabite movement – an intransigent and unavoidably violent proposition
·firm access by the Islamic currents to power in Turkey, through coexistence with Atatürk’s secularism.
These elements clearly expose the complexity of the current situation and the multiplicity of its tendencies. Those “Arab Springs”, the rise and fall of political Islam in Egypt, the wars that have bloodied Syria, Libya and Iraq (not to forget Afghanistan, Somalia, Pakistan and elsewhere), and the Salafist demands promoted despite internal factional struggles, have tarnished political Islam’s image, and have somewhat encouraged secular positions. However, the spiral of events in the context of multiple civil wars may carry away everyone in the areas involved.
Moslem (and Eastern) societies being more attached to their faith, any extreme and anti-religious secularism is inacceptable to them. Many Moslems (whether in the majority or as a foreign minority) are always very attached to their identity, their values and their family. If some of them dream of an Islamic regime, the details of such a dream remain vague. However, one reality is certain: before managing others, one must manage oneself. Many thinkers insist on Islamic values, decency (of clothing and relational), the family and personal status as being bastions to defend.
In his book on secularism, Cheikh Mohamad Chamsuddin, ex-President of the SCIC, defines it as “a lifestyle that expels from society’s organization, relations and values, all religious influence or orientation”. According to him, the secular system is based on experimental science, strong organization needing strong central authority and human relations based on interest, rivalry and the subjectivity of values. He refuses the materialism that secularism implies, and he affirms that religion is at the same time an individual and a social affair. By affirming that Islam, like Christianity is victim to secularism, he claims that Islam is not concerned by Christianity’s secular criticism, because Islam has no clergy. He quotes therein several praises of the Sharia, made by European congresses and jurists who laud its capacity to evolve. And he ends his book in defence of the hovel that the Lebanese secular system reserved for the Sharia, personal status and family values. This attitude is shared by many other thinkers, such as Tareq Ramadan, Adnan Ibrahim etc….
Secularism as a bypass of religion, and the reduction of its living space, finds an ally in material comfort and a civilization of leisure that favours technological development. Whereas media propagate Western lifestyle and marginalize violation of religious prescripts, material comfort provides, even for the poorest, an illusion of strength and pride that even former Kings never had (mobile phones, train travel, concrete walls, sophisticated medical care, and so forth).
However, spiritual void, if brought about to the detriment of religion, is also detrimental to human beings in their profundity, and rather favours nihilism and empties the sense out of human life. And if secularism obliges religion to examine itself, then the latter must, in the face of such danger, do so, and so must the former. Thus, after over two centuries of secular experience, one must detail the track record.
If one can criticize Islam’s history of ravaging conquests and injustices, and if one can criticize Christianity for its inquisitions and crusades, then one can reproach secularism for its colonial wars and its policy based on interests detrimental to valued principles.
Just like any system of transmitted ideas, secularism has become for some people a religion, a social identity, and even the national pride. However, the maturity of religious faith requires a self-examination and a reasoning to be able to free oneself from parental and ancestral imprint, and in order to adhere directly to principles and to God. If this action is necessary for every believer, it is that also for any convinced layman.
The scientific spirit boasted by the first laymen is in contradiction with scholarly commitment to one theory pitted against another. To be in favour of the theory of evolution and against the theory of creation, is like attributing, against all logic, the complex cosmos order and man’s conscience to abstract notions void of creative content, such as Time and Law.
The layman’s neutrality with regards religion imposes upon him not to transform himself into another religion, and also to understand the believer’s logic. Decent clothing, for example, is not an indicator but a norm that aims to be respected in society, instead of seducing, to protect interior equilibrium and to preserve family whose stability and upkeep depend on the mastery of the sexual instinct.
Concerning this family, secular sages must seek the reasons for the breakdown of civil marriage. Especially when one is confronted by 16 million bachelors, and when family break-up causes social ills such as solitude, and finally, the problem of aging: 15 thousand dead during the heatwave several years ago. Family is refuge, and means cultural and value transmission.
The necessity of integrating Moslems through secularism, that is ceaselessly repeated, requires specifying to which social model one must integrate oneself. Especially when one is confronted by a ceaselessly varying model, associated with dictatorship or almost by all kinds of fashion set by stylists, actors, singers, stars and sportsmen, fashion that the intellectual can only justify after the fact.
In the stead of the intellectual that justifies later, and of the politician who seeks efficiency and popularity, secularism needs the sage that tells the truth, even if the truth injures.
Instead of asking people to consume (ie. to eat and drink without need, and to buy when it’s not necessary) and to provoke waste of energy and finances, and loss of health, it is necessary to help them to examine their consciences so that they don’t fall into nihilism, and that they do find a meaning to their lives.
In a civilization conflict, it’s the weak that tends to flex and reflect. But the present day blocked directions must stimulate everyone to do so. The world has become so small, we’re in the same boat, and we risk drowning together. What you choose influences more or less all of humanity. Sincere reflection, cooperation, the audacity to tell the truth allows to improve things. And as Teilhard de Chardin has, already, said: “Everything that goes up, converges!”
Youssef HINDI, Researcher and Author,
“The instrumentalization of religious sectarianism”
To apprehend the problem posed by the instrumentalization of religious sectarianism requires first identifying the principle and the origin of the sectarianism. This methodology aiming to identify and understand the primal cause of a phenomenon such as sectarianism is all the more essential when one studies sectarian movements having heavy historical repercussions.
The principle of religious schism leading to sectarianism can be resumed in one word: division.
Sectarianism resulting from schism appears at the heart of a community separated from its spiritual finality, in favour of exclusively worldly considerations that by definition are material and immediate.
As the metaphysician René Guénon underlined: matter is essentially multiplication and division, and all that proceeds therefrom can only generate struggles and conflicts of all kinds. The opposite is pure spirituality that permits to rise toward unity by transcending multitude and matter that all the same do not disappear. This authentic spirituality being the unifying principle of the multitude.
This theoretical proposition is supported by historical data and anthropology which teaches us that the community is constituted by a human group united through common and transcending belief; the existence of the community is conditioned by collective belief: no horizontality without verticality, and inversely.
In the history of traditional societies, the religious schism has been the vector of community subdivision divided into sects according to more or less diverging doctrines, all the same without threatening spirituality as such, whatever its form.
However, in modern times we are dealing with an entirely different phenomenon altogether: that of the re-questioning of spirituality as such. In a historical sequence spread out over a relatively long period, collective belief was subverted. This subversion has engaged a process of bursting open of the society, no longer into multiple sub-groups of believers, but into a multitude of pulverized individuals.
If we concentrate on the history of the three great monotheisms, we observe that schisms have eventually appeared on the basis of tribalism leading in most cases to political conflicts, unknown to the Kingdom of Israël of Ancien times, which divided itself up into two Kingdoms, each having its own version of the Torah. This historical example shows us that political and tribal division implicates religious divergence, and not the other way round. All the more so since all versions of the Torah ware drawn up with political aim favouring – through modification of the accounts this or that group of priests belonging to a Kingdom, to the detriment of another.
The first Kingdom of Israel was not at all a nation, as we know today, with – at its head a King with absolute power. But the Kingdom was constituted by a group of tribes reunited around a King with symbolic power, watched over by High Priests and Prophets, and balanced by the tribal chiefs. A feudal system close to that of France’s Former Regime, united not by iron, as the Jacobins would have had it, but by the uniting and transcending principle that is God; without which the King would have no legitimacy.
As for the sundry sects claiming Jesus as origin and that appeared in the 1st two centuries of the Christian era,, their number was proportional to the propagation of Christianity in the Mediterranean Basin, in the measure that the Christian religion was still not responding to any dogma or a solidly established clerical hierarchy. Each of the numerous Christian sects was the product of a syncretism between Jesus’ message and the pagan belief rooted in each region that Christianity had reached. There again, religious division was the doing of a form of tribalism; each community attributed the priority to its own tradition, over and above the evangelical message.
Islam was no exception. Some years after Mohamad’s death that had united the nomadic and sedentary Arabs, the Arabs of the North and South, around the spiritual principle of Divine Unity, the old tribal rivalries resurfaced and nourished the religious schisms, and thereafter, the political conflicts from Spain to Iraq, transiting by Arabia and Syria.
The Arabs’ profoundly tribal culture had relatively undermined the Moslem world. However Moslem civilization, strong from converted former peoples – notably the Persians (on the East) and Berbers (in the West) – tempered tribal character by urbanism and settling, thereby transforming general living conditions.
As from the first century of the Hegira, tribalism engendered religious schisms, which just aggravated divisions throughout the centuries that followed. Moslems convened by the following Koranic order: “Seize yourselves in the name of that which unites you with God, et don’t be divided or diverge!” (3,103). In another verse the Koran warned thus of the consequences of division: “Don’t be one of those who divided their religion and provoked schisms, each party being satisfied by its own doctrine!” (3, 31- 32)
The great scientist of the XIIth Century, Ibn Rushd (Averroès) explains that it’s because of theological interpretation, that some sages felt should be exposed to one and all, that the Islamic sects appeared. The consequence of that was that people were propelled into hate, mutual condemnation and war, tore into pieces the Revelation, and completely divided everyone against each other. The sects, he reports, accused each other of infidelity or damnable innovation, especially those that seemed perverse compared to the others.
Today, and for over 250 centuries, the most dangerous Islamic sect and the one most inclined to accuse the Moslems of infidelity and of damnable innovation, is the Wahhabite sect. This one distinguished itself from even the older sects, because historically and objectively it’s a movement for destruction of Islam from the interior; this thesis is, by the way, defended by Jean-Michel Vernochet. Wahhabism and Islamic reformism joined up and gave birth to the Moslem Brotherhood, a doubly subversive movement of the Moslem religion ; a Thesis and its antithesis, motors of what I would call, infernal dialectics. The bridges between Islamic reformism and Wahhabism were identified and exposed with abundant sources and documentation, notably by Hamadi Redissi.
Beyond its historical and eschatological role, Wahhabism was and still is a political and geopolitical instrument of great efficiency. It has permitted the Saud family to conquer Arabia, and thanks to British support, to stay in power over several generations, and to be spared after the First World War, and be exploited following the abolition of the Caliphate.
The Second World War was concluded, and Saudi Arabia became an American ally: the association of petrol, dollar and power made of Wahhabism an international ideology.
This propagation of the Wahhabi doctrine organized in detail by Saoud and the Anglo-protestants has had for consequence:
– to win over many young Moslem converts from around the world to the cause of the Wahhabi preachers
– to damage the image of Islam in non-Moslem eyes.
The Wahhabite “virus” injected into the body of the “Oumma” has prepared propitious terrain for applying a “civilization shock” strategy.
It is essential, if one wishes to produce an efficient analysis and bring to bear adequate answers to problems we are facing, to get to know the true origin – and through it the finality of the civilization shock strategy which dates far further back than just Samuel Huntington and Bernard Lewis. You shall discover all that in my book “The West and Islam”, which shall appear in September.
In the strictly geostrategic framework of Civilization Shock, the Wahhabite terror of which Al-Qaida and Daesh are offspring, plays a fundamental role. As we note in the Near-East that is being divided up again, groups such as Al-Qaida and Daesh have a double function:
1)corrosive agent, destroying or threatening State integrity, as in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, to the point of preventing the constitution of a homogenous State or region
2)attract strikes by the Atlanto-Israelian alliance, thereby preventing, for example, the Syrian army from advancing, or the Yemenite Ansarullah from establishing its hold on region or country
In effect, one lets Daesh settle in Iraq. Let’s remember that the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Maliki, an American ward, has let the Islamic State be constituted by provoking the voluntary retreat of the Iraqi army. Shy strikes announced by the Americans “against Daesh” must not fool us: these same Americans were much less “prudent” when they wanted to bomb Iraki civilian populations. Also, we know that on more than one occasion, the American army “lost” weapons to Daesh. Also Israel provided hospital access for Daesh terrorists returning from their front against regular Syrian troops, indeed Israel also bombed Syrian troops, letting everyone know of its alliance with the terrorists.
In fact Daesh seems to be accomplishing the tasks that Israel and NATO couldn’t do: have the Syrians disappear, and two: weaken the Hezbollah. This state of affairs illustrates perfectly the geostrategic role of international terrorism instrumentalized by developed powers in highly strategic regions. Another example: the exploitation of Tchechen rebels to thwart the Russian Federation’s attempt to colonize those regions.
International terrorism is an efficient and formidable tool, justifying military intervention, permitting to shatter States, offering arguments for Civilization Shock strategies … mercenaries at the beck and call of highest bidders. This in turn clarifies Wahhabite sectarianism and its potential issues, but does not solve the situation. This task is up to doctors of faith, especially as Wahhabite sectarianism is being useful notably to enhance and complicate civil war situations between Sunnis and Shiites.
The father of Wahhabism, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab has, in his book “Divine Unity”, perverted the finality of the concept of divine unity. Whereas the Prophet had united men around his concept, Abd al-Wahhab exploits it as an instrument of division, establishing a hierarchy that raises his partisans to the level of “chosen people”, above the Moslem masses, Sunnis and Shiites.
At this juncture I remind that at the time of Abd al-Wahhab and for the century following his death, Sunni wise men of four juridical academies in Nedjd, Hedjaz and Yemen, along with the Shiite and Sunni wise men of Iraq, have, by overwhelming majority, refuted Abd al-Wahhab and his “doctrine”.
Abd al-Wahhab was declared a heretic by a consensus of sages, amongst whom were his own masters; however there has never been a consensus among Sunni sages, to declare the Shiites as not being Moslem.
Without denying or masking doctrinal divergence between Sunnis and Shiites, the wise men must establish concord amongst Moslems, and distance themselves from secondary doctrinal questions, they must then return to the unifying spiritual principle that alone can transcend multitude and divergence: Unity. This they must do by calling upon the judgements of wise men of the XVIIIth and XIXth Centuries who had put Wahhabism in its just place, that of heresy.
The solution to the political and world problems, by common definition, shall flow from resolution of the religious problem, that is to say starting at the top.
Jean-Paul GOUREVITCH, international expert on the African Question
“Radical Islamism and Islamophobia : same combat ?”
Upon analysing the conference’s premise, one can be astonished at the title that seems to put on one and the same level the barbary of the Islamic State hell-bent on eradicating violently any traces of pre-Islamic civilization, on the one hand, and on the other the propositions of organizations calling for measures no more violent than verbal against that which they denounce as a sly invasion of Islamic practice in Western society, for example the funding of mosques, sneaky confusion between cultural association and cult association, the non-respect of the banning of burqas in public spaces (which is in contradiction with the Law of 2011), … and so forth. Is secularism calling on a counter-crusade against Islamism?
It may not be relevant to our discussion, but as the presentation text of this Secularism and Islams Symposium has us observe, secularism is also the object of militant and coveting appropriation. So what I want to underline here is that the confusion between Islam and Islamism, or rather the attempt to assimilate Islam to terrorism which is one of the founding precepts of Islamophobia, uses processes that are analogous to radical Islamism propaganda, and deliberately supports the attempt to subvert radical Islamism in order to generate confessional conflicts and a strategy of division that would in full-faced confrontation the Moslem world and the West.
I lean for all that over my book “The Islamist Crusade” subtitled “to be done with programmed thinking”, this came out in 2011 and was somewhat premonitory because it announced the invasion of Mali by the Islamists, the piercing by Boko Haram not only in Nigeria but also in the neighbouring territories of Cameroun, Niger and Chad, the attacks by Al Shebab in Kenya, or the terrorist attacks in France. Moreover, my book goes on to be updated and re-edited in 2016. And I shall start with a visible example: the existence in France of two observatories of diametrically opposed objectives.
As for the National observatory against Islamophobia, it is the product of a convention between the Ministry of the Interior and the French Council of the Moslem cult in 2010. It was installed in 2011 and its objective is to inventory hostile acts against Moslems in France, thanks to referents installed in each region and to the complaints transmitted by simple citizens. Till now, nothing but the very normal, all the more so because this observatory that denounces discrimination, populist rhetoric and the generalization of a negative image of Islam, intends to stigmatize (and I quote) the rise of a certain Islamic radicalism that is in first measure prejudicial to French citizens of Moslem faith who feel they are hostages of attempts – that are indeed marginal but strongly mediatized – to impose the view of an Islam presented as intolerant, war-faring and even bloodthirsty, encouraging self-effacement, racist and exclusivist, non-representative of the social dynamics within the Moslem communities.
But its action is often confused with that of the Collective committee against Islamophobia in France established in 2003 and supported by the Socialist party, where one drifts from the struggle against discrimination, to support for wearing veils at school. Likewise for the CCIF spokesman Marwan Mohamad who joined up with Tariq Ramadan and the Republic’s Indigenous, and in spite of the Law of 2004, true secularism authorizes wearing veils at school. I’m not the one who underlines that, it’s Plus (the Nouvel Observateur magazine’s blog), therefore a socialist party companion, but that in its 8th November 2012 edition denounces the group’s duplicity and falsified statistics.
On the other side of the barricade, if we may, the Islamisation Observatory animated by Joachim Veliocas, notably the author of “These French Town Halls that court Islamism” (Tatamis Edition, 2010) and supported by movements like Riposte Laïque, concentrates on denouncing systematically the camouflaged subventions granted to Mosques such as the one at Argenteuil, Creteil and Strasbourg Cities, the arrival in France of persona non grata such as Cheik Mohamad Al-Hajiri who came to preach for the third time at the Roubaix City Abou Bakr Mosque (this information is from the Canard Enchaîné publication that has no sympathy for the extreme right wing) or blazing speeches such as the one by the former Treasurer of the same Roubaix Mosque, Rachid Gacem, none other than the brother of the mosque’s current Imam, who claimed in front of cameras that if Moslems become in the majority in France, the Sharia shall be applied here.
Are there identical processes? We could continue this list but the idea I want to underline and that on which I would like us to interrogate ourselves, is the connivance between islamist radicalism’s followers and those of Islamophobes in the West and more specifically in France. I don’t confuse radical Islamists with the majority of Moslems; indeed the chapter I devote to them is explicitly entitles “Islamism against Islam”. Likewise I do not mix up Islamophobes with secularism’s partisans, so the chapter I devote to them is explicitly entitled “The counter-crusade: from secularism to Islamophobia”. Nevertheless there are some frightful similarities.
For a start, both sides are certain to be on the right side for the Republic’s future and even further: for the future of the entire world. For this reason, each side refuses any and all compromise. For the Islamophobes, there is no such thing as a moderate Islamist because even those who claim so to be are just playing with radical precepts, and in a given conflict situation choose automatically their religion’s colleagues and comrades, rather than Republican secularism. Likewise, for followers of radical Islamism, the progressive entry strategy pushes them to accept that each success is only a moment of transition in preparation of the great upheaval, that of the moment when Moslems shall be in the majority in France and the question of their leadership becomes imperative. This perspective is not as far away as one might normally imagine. For Pew Research Centre experts, in 2050 Moslems shall represent 40% of the population, a progression owed as much to immigration, as to fecundity differential, conversions, … and even if these Moslems are not radical in their majority and oftimes not even practising, the Islamists’ objective shall be to constitute a lance that can prod tensions to rise and shall invite them to regroup under their banner.
The second process is that of diabolizing the adversary. To the latter one attributes only one design: world domination, and then one exaggerates his influence by denouncing the mediocrity of public powers and the inefficiency of the administrations, finally by labelling him, his cells and networks, as pitiless monstrous hardliners. In this perspective, Islamists become an army of secret members and projects lying in wait to mobilize at a moment’s notice, funded by subversive foreign elements and Islamo-business, and already counting on youth manipulated and brain-washed in ideological workshops that justify delinquency and civil disobedience as value transition. Islamophobes, on the other hand, are extreme-right-wing highway companions ready to profit from the success of nationalist and populist movements in order – and in the name of “recomposed national identity” – to hunt down Moslems who already make up 15% of the French population and who are discretely protected by the Islamists. For both sides, the adversaries represent space whose circle englobes all without any exposed circumference.
Finally, the third process is that of systematic denunciation of the media who are formally accused as opinion-formatters. On the one side, one exposes media silence on exaction and delinquent identification, criticizes the wayward drift of a justice system that just obeys orders that “understand” the guilty, and requires that victims understand even the laxity of the penal system in which even muscled Islamist propaganda is diffused under the sympathetic eye of wardens and guards. On the other hand, one denounces over-exposure of Islamist terrorist attacks by media that mobilize the entire nation against the Moslem world, and deny that Westerners in particular Americans exploit Talibans, Daesh and others to destabilize regions (in the Middle East, in North Africa, and elsewhere) which in turn must then yield to American demands in order to be “protected”.
Nevertheless, real lines of contention exist between Islamists and the majority of the Western population, whether Moslem, Christian, Jewish or Agnostic. These lines delimit education for girls, women’s rights, rejection of pro-violence arguments, refusal to mix religion and politics, recognition of freedom of the press, of cult and of opinion in the framework of Republican secularity that respects all belief systems.
Ultimately, the problem is that identified already twenty years ago in the revue Panoramiques: Are Islam and Republic compatible? But the answer has changed radically. Because now, we are dealing with an Islam that just demands victory and neither preservation of a civilization, nor respect for existing rights of man or even for planetary ecology. Islamist strategy is tri-phase: simple Moslem entry as a minority in a civilization, then increasing self-affirmation and claims as the minority decides it’s getting strong enough, and finally uncompromising demands if considered strategic enough.
This would in some measure imply opposition between two opinions of History. The linear conception, the three monotheist religions that appeared separately in time have each needed a known amount of time to integrate the Historical dimension. Islamophobia perceives that the succession of ages and eras is definite: theological age, metaphysical age, historical age, scientific and critical age, however Islam has been retarded into still being in the historical age of armed conflict between its two movements – Sunni and Shiite, just as Europe went through its own wars of religion – and has been prevented from reaching the critical age, and that is for example why the reaction to cartoons of the Prophet Mohamad was so “extreme”.
On the other hand, Islamists refute the very idea of “Historical evolution” and fixate on one point in History, that of the Caliphate, and wish to recreate and develop that point. All the same, they somehow don’t feel they should condemn technical and scientific progress, and advances in government and mind values, if this progress and these values can serve their Centre, because ultimately they note that transcendental values can reconcile literal Koranic reading and application with the imperatives of globalization.
“In order not to conclude” though to elevate this debate, I would voluntarily quote a text I borrow from Saint-John Perse: They were massive forces growing on all paths of this world, and who took their source higher than in our chants, into a place of insult and of discord”.
Second Round Table
Moderator: Michel RAIMBAUD, former ambassador
Ghaleb BENCHEIKH, Islamologist and author
“What is islamophobia?”
We can debate on any subject of our choice … a political party – especially if it aspires to return to power and to govern our country, by soliciting suffrage, moreover, has the right to tackle the crucial questions for our nation, though what has appeared strange to me is that one submit to the approval of one segment of the nation, what concerns the other segment. And I’m not sure that from the purely democratic point of view, that this kind of behaviour is in the least acceptable, even worse: it would be necessary to determine from the legal standpoint, whether it is at all possible. Unfortunately, even some members of the Moslem hierarchy went and approved and recommended the convention in question.
Now that was the preamble to what I have been wanting to tell you, even if it took a couple of minutes.
So let’s get back to islamophobia.
When one doesn’t know a concept, one attempts etymological decomposition … so Islamophobia would be a mindless unhealthy pathological fear … of that which concerns us now: Islam. And someone who is fearful, who is unwell, one can but commiserate with his/her state, and try to get that person to heal from the disorder. What would one want to do … what would we want to do for an arachnophobe, a hydrophobe, a claustrophobe, or an agoraphobe? The first is afraid of spiders, the second is afraid of water, the third is afraid of closed spaces, and the fourth is afraid of crowds and most assuredly won’t speak in public.… Well, not to confuse any of the fourth, one tries to find channels for healing and accompanying the person … yet again I was going to say: and for commiserating with his/her state.
From that point of view, an islamophobe can take charge of his/her own disorder, even more so if he yields his/her insight to opinion traders, to those who make opinions … if, every day and I say this beneath the common vault of secularism in this place, the temple of our secular democracy – if, every Day, God has … we have to deal with Boko Haram, Daesh, ideological monstrosity or hash … all these anxiety-inducing words … then, if unacceptable, at least comprehensible the islamophobic diktat, and in my opinion this right is even more indicated even more for Moslem citizens and above all for their hierarchs, to do everything to calm tension, reassure, explain … to renew relations with the Arab humanist expression that has been prevailing in Islamic context, to obliterate and erase from the memories … unknown, totally unknown … and that work has to be managed as intern, ok so I don’t want it to be “us” and “them” at the heart of one and the same collegial, brotherly nation that is prosperous for all, and prosperity is for everyone, and that’s the reason why marriage is now for everyone.
Now, pardon me, I don’t necessarily want to seek any deontological paternity, but I do distinguish islamophobia from misislamophobia … aaah! What’s this misislamophobia? Well, one is misislamist just like one is misogynous or misanthrope. That is to say that there is a hatred, declared, assumed as such, there is an official hostility against everything that is Islamic or Moslem.
And this mislamism – I think the word is appropriate – is condemnable from my point of view, and must be so declared before the law, it just undermines our common society … I no longer say “live together”, to live together is a cliché expression, as linguists say of “bag words”: one just hangs them on anything, without attributing any coherent and complete sense to them.
Are we together, in confidence, in symbiosis, in harmonious collaboration, in the will to construct a common nation, or are we together in mistrust, in defiance, in tension, and so forth? In any case, we are together, so this famous “to live together” is to be subliminal or to transcend a will and a common engagement to construct a common nation, itself attached to a mother-branch that is effectively that of the Christian dimension of our nation – and I don’t say “Judeo-Christian”, I do say just “Christian”, because the hyphen between “Judeo” and “Islamic” has far more to be feared in the History of civilizations, than the hyphen between “Judeo” and “Christian” and the latter I sought at some length in vain, I didn’t find any before Jules ESSAC, before FREUD and perhaps I found a sampling on the MAYFLOWER – there were several Jews traveling with the Protestants across the Sea of Darkness (the Atlantic Ocean), on the other hand, the hyphen in “Judeo-Islamic” goes back to MAYBOUNID, to Sa’adia GAROD, to Idn GAROGH, to PAKOUTA, to DAVIROES who doesn’t appeal to some of our auditors here present and who are now smiling….
Well, it’s for that that we must revisit History, it seems of the highest importance to me. So misislamia, this hatred, this hostility, this declaration of war, these lies, these falsifications, these babblings, these split marbles (mental weaknesses, these … must cease, and it’s up to us, whoever we are so long as we want to be together, to denounce them. So we build a common nation on our mother rock enriched by waves of arrivals over centuries, and may the “Minister of national identity” episode be forever forgotten, despite any damage that may cause.
Therefore, and it’s my last word: if we want islamophobia (not in the sense I defined, but in the sense advanced by some, those who whimper it’s not a fair word, in reality) because “for good reason” every day, battered in their dignity, altered, neglected, well on one side, or those who say “Oh please don’t use that expression, otherwise we shall no longer criticize Islam!” …Well, I say “No! Let’s criticize, let’s criticize, welcome criticism … every ideology, every theology, every philosophy, every doctrine, every religious thought that flees debate, that ignores ideas, that doesn’t clearly identify itself in transparent manner for constructive criticism, winds up by being an ideology, a theology, a doctrine, a philosophy, a religious thought that atrophies, that wounds itself so that it needs to exploit terror to survive just a few more years.
We do require debate, we do require exchange and even constructive criticism, and it’s not your humble servant who dared call for the refoundation of Islamic theological thought, who is going to try to avoid the field of ideas, and the constructive advantage of pertinent criticism.
So the argument that consists in stating: “You are hampering us with a smokescreen called islamophobia, to stop us from criticizing Islamic religion!” is specious and insidious, therefore this time it’s up to Moslem theologians and especially their leader, the person responsible, to saddle up on the vast enterprise of checking for problems … to exit religious and alienating reasoning, to exit cretinizing alienating religiosity that is – as Cardinal Danièle LOUP claims, “savage”, we can take the lead, we can do so in a serene context of our Reoublic’s democratic atmosphere, and we must do so, however thisis not up to just a political party or a government, even, to regiment Islamic cult, it’s the internal affair of our nation’s Islamic fringes, if little by little the bet of concept and word mastery takes … from my point of view, misislamia is worse than islamophobia, and if we have reached such situations, it’s because of the defeat of thought, the resignation of the mind and spirit, the abdication of reason and the abandon of reflexion.
So let’s get back to reflexion, to reason, to mind, thought and dialogue, as superior alternatives to even any healthy political action that prones aggression.
President of the National Observatory on Islamophobia,
Member of the French Council for Moslem Cult
“Islamophobia’s New Modes of Expression in France”
The second speaker of this part of the symposium was Mr. Abdallah ZEKRI, President of the French National Observatory against Islamophobia, and also Member of the French Council of the Moslem Cult, and he exposed “The New Expressions of Islamophobia in France”.
By way of general introduction, one can affirm that migrations of Moslem origin into Europe and notably into France are not recent. Indeed, several generations have settled here since the 19th Century and have contributed to economic development in France, to French national defence during the World Wars, and much more. Yet their children and grandchildren are still not considered citizens with full rights, whereas France boasts its human rights record around the world, and its moto of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. These folk are generally easily identifiable by their appearance, locution, names and attitudes, yet they are targeted so that they cannot improve themselves and blossom freely.
Unfortunately, events of external or internal origin related to the Moslem origins of their families still serve as excuse to spread hate, suffering, intolerance and exclusion. Indeed, at this time of strong proliferation of several forms of islamophobia (discrimination founded on the fear of Islam), the French State, guarantor of stability and peace, often for reasons of electoral stakes, doesn’t manifest its role firmly enough in clear and exemplary manner, whereas French citizens of Moslem origins are counted in millions!
Therefore, first of all I shall attempt to present very briefly, the sources maintaining islamophobia, before going on to specify as second point, its various expression modes, and finally some suggestions as our third point.
1. Main sources maintaining islamophobia in France
Since the abominable terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 in the United States, that are even more serious since the 11th January 2015 in France, Moslems settled in Europe and in the West in general for some generations now have become the first to be seriously touched by this increasingly difficult climate, and become the target of increased hostility, despite alerts and efforts by organizations and associations who mobilize for peace, tolerance and living well together.
Moslems are taken in hostage and thrice punished:
– barbarian acts of sabotage by “extremist” Islamists who pervert Islam’s true basic values (peace and tolerance)
– prejudicial discriminatory acts by “Islamophobes” acting alone or in groups
– limitations legalized by the French State itself against freedom of conscience and principally on the basis of fallacious interpretations of secularism
2. Elements for processing the notion of Islamophobia
The notion of Islamophobia that seems to be the most widely adopted is “the entire range of discriminatory or violent acts against individuals or institutions and aimed at the latters’ real or supposed association with any manifestation of Islam”. The different forms of acts committed are provoked and legitimized by private or public measures promoting hostility towards and rejection of Moslems.
The Islamic head-scarf, hijab, niqab or integral veil, the all-covering clothing, hallal food, Salafism, fanaticism, fundamentalism, Holy War, jihadism, wars on Islamic territories … and the list is much longer, have become newly targeted by Islamophobia in France.
They are directly or indirectly associated with Islam, to sow confusion and attribute to this great religion practiced by over a billion persons, all sorts of quirks, deviations and forms of extremism.
The most ordinary folk find themselves submerged by concepts they can’t master, but that all refer to Islam. Sources of nourishment are multiple and varied.
3. International factual sources and extremist behavior
Far from me the idea of denying all the crises that shake the Arabo-Moslem world, the complexity of relations and tensions on Islam’s lands, the impact of these crises on youth in quest of direction, but the shortcut is quickly established, to associate these profound crises to Islam. Agitators provoking various conflicts of interest are numerous, supported and nourished by external rivalries.
Since the Israelo-Palestinian conflicts of the 40s, till the bloody terrorist attacks of recent years, passing evidently through Western military intervention into Moslem countries, the ideal for merging these people and the objectives of peace, tolerance, living well together, is just going further and further away.
This situation unfortunately pushes extremists to commit acts, whereas youth frustration before the weakness and sluggishness of intervention by State services, just aggravate all dimensions of extremist behavior.
4. Cultural and educational sources
No pedagogic work is adopted to grasp these concepts and detect their relationship to this great religion that preaches peace, opening and tolerance. To teach Islam’s true values to our youth and to others is far from being an objective.
Moral bankruptcy of the political class and its incapacity to provide in-depth answers, within the framework of a new project of society, to questions and interrogations, to the challenges and fears of the French, lead them to find in Islamophobia and its various forms the scapegoat and fertile territory to escape their responsibilities.
Certain pseudo-intellectuals, or false intellectuals (to quote Mr. Pascal Boniface’s expression), further exploit concepts in order to sell off, dupe or quite simply to swell the ranks of those who feel that the nation is threatened by and invisible enemy that is somewhat akin to a fifth column.
It must equally be of note that marginalization and ignorance of Islamic cultural contribution in the fields of science throughout the world and in particular in the West, results in spiteful and islamophobic acts.
5. Institutional and political sources of islamophobia
* Secularism: fallacious interpretation of the neutrality of the State
The Law of 1905 guarantees freedom of conscience and free cult practice, as well as non-discrimination and equality of citizens before the law, whatever their religion. The separation of State and Cult is the way to get there. Therefore neutrality is indispensable. The law states that religion is not an affair of State. However, the State has been intervening these past years and in various ways, including legislative.
This drift based on a fallacious interpretation of the State’s neutrality is denounced by several French specialists, renowned worldwide, of whom the main one is the very founder of the sociology of secularism: Jean BAUBEROT of the National Scientific Research Centre. The latter warns France that: “The combat for the defence of France’s secular values is drifting progressively towards denial of religion. Notably by those afraid by Islam.”
It is however the French State that gives the example of deviation, and provokes intellectual (male and female) frustration, young Moslems imposing circular laws on school scarves, hallal, ….
Those that sow hatred, phobias and exclusion regarding Moslems, profit from these disturbances, just to incite voting of laws that stigmatize Moslems even more, whether directly or indirectly.
In this way, islamophobic politicians and academicians push today in favour of banning the headscarf at University, even! This is the climax of hatred and of ridicule!
People of bad faith even pretend that there are difficulties managing students who wear headscarves at University, whereas our Moslem academicians report no such difficulty, on the contrary, the decency and conformity of female Moslem students is famous. These students have reached adult age and are free to wear or not a headscarf, according to their conviction and conscience. To impose such a ban provokes marginalization of thousands of young students on the benches of wisdom, where discrimination will just produce more frustration.
The banning of religious symbols is a form of direct discrimination against minorities and their beliefs, and systematic institutional discrimination that nourishes islamophobia and xenophobia.
6. Socio-economic and media-friendly sources
* Socio-economic: exclusion, economic crises and biased mediatization aimed at Moslems, nourishes the frustration of Moslem families and their youth. The citizenship of this segment of the population is disturbed
* Media-friendly: classic media (newspapers, television, radio, revues, magazines,…) have become vectors for islamophobia. Through invitation of people known for their hatred of Islam and Moslems, to express hatred and insults, without any veritable debate, and without even the decency of inviting true specialists and detractors. These pseudo-intellectuals, or false intellectuals (to quote Mr. Pascal Boniface’s expression), find themselves, in the name of a so-called “freedom of expression”, free to insult and to propagate hatred and confusion, without measuring the range and consequences of their pretentions. Known for their hatred and for their racism of Islam and Moslems, they exploit fabricated statistics without any real scientific or epistemological basis: I refer in particular to their concept of Islamism and what it means. Do other religions involve the same concepts? Is there not there the will to sow confusion and hide behind concepts just to justify hatred and racism?
Some of them advance with masks on their faces, attempting to differentiate between Islam and the newly fabricated concept of Islamism, in Islamophobic speeches. Others are more straight-forward and assimilate Islam, this great religion of over a billion members, to fanatized terrorism, or even fascism. Have we not heard the Prime Minister and others use this scandalous concept? Do they measure the gravity of their propositions?
These classic vectors that are the media are not the only ones to relay Islamophobic rantings, they are even rivaled and surpassed by the web and the social networks. The latter indulge freely in comments and insults beyond any limit.
II. Evolution of the different modes of expression of Islamophobia
* Discriminatory forms of the past
Without overly lingering on this point, encouragements and incitement to hatred of Moslems, physical or verbal violence and aggressions, refusal to grant worthy places of worship (Mosques, and Prayer Rooms), the ghettos and direct or indirect racial behavior with regards them in the fields of employment and lodging constitute the main forms of Islamophobia.
French society has evolved favorably on a certain number of points, such as the number of mosques and improvement in city suburb life, or juridical repression of discrimination, but new forms have appeared, related to several factors and French society isn’t adapting and so is accumulating belatedness.
* Current forms of Islamophobic discrimination
As well as the preceding cited forms of discrimination, we must add:
– threats, projectiles, graffiti, exaggerated cartoons, spitting
– repeated snatching of Moslem women’s head-scarves
– throwing objects into mosques and prayer rooms
– insults and libel against Moslems on social networks
– stopping qualified French Moslems from taking high-responsibility jobs in the public sector or in major companies
These direct forms are often reinforced by indirect propagation means: alibis, cover-ups, unfounded harassments,….
* Statistics and analysis by the ONCI of the CFCM National Observatory against Islamophobia of the French Council for Moslem Worship): the CFCM has inventoried and compared islamophobic drifts during the 1st Trimester of year 2015, in comparison to the 1st Trimester 2014: DRAMATIC MANIFESTATION of ACTS, THREATS and CYBER-HATE – 500% INCREASE in the number of ACTS.
Never since the establishing of the National Observatory of Struggle Against Islamophobia in 2011, with the word being coined by the President of the Republic and officially recognized by the CNCDH (National Consulting Commission of Human Rights), and all that despite opposition by leftist and rightist politicians, had acts against Moslems known such manifestation of acts and threats, also on social networks.
January 2014: 4 actions + 10 threats: 14 acts
January 2015: 44 actions + 134 threats: 178 acts
INCREASE OF: 1 171 %
February 2014: 3 actions + 7 threats: 10 acts
February 2015: 2 actions + 16 threats:18 acts
INCREASE OF: 80 %
March 2014: 5 actions + 8 threats : 13 acts
March 2015: 10 actions + 16 threats : 26 acts
INCREASE OF : 100 %
The number of acts committed solely in January 2015 – i.e. 178, is far more than the total number of acts committed throughout 2014, i.e. 133.
By way of sum for the 1st Trimester 2015, 222 anti-Moslem acts were inventoried (56 actions, 166 threats), against a total of 37 acts in 2014 (12 actions + 25 threats) – this is a 500% increase.
If this intensification of anti-Moslem acts can be explained by events during January 2015, in the wake of the dramatic acts that our country went through after the abject, horrifying and terrifying crimes against Charlie Hebdo journalists, that can in no way justify this peak in hatred or vengeance against the French of Moslem persuasion who are neither responsible for nor guilty of the terrorist acts that have put our country into mourning by Islamist criminals who claim to belong to Islam just to commit such crimes.
Concerning these actions, it’s the first time on record that grenades and bullets have been shot.
As for the rest, those were actions against places of worship, degradations of businesses belonging to French citizens of Moslem confession, or Nazi graffiti by apprentice Nazis who spend time decorating the walls of our mosques.
The National Observatory for struggle against Islamophobia is permanently contacted since 2014, and in particular in 2015, by French men and women of Moslem faith and who are victims of discrimination of institutional origin (in education in the police, in local interest groups, in the Railways Administration, etc….).
It’s purely and simply racism and the rejection of men and women who aspire to be respected.
Does LIVING TOGETHER really exist in France?
Does the Republic’s motto: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity still have any meaning? This question is valid, unfortunately.
All these things are going on without any reaction by the political class which, instead of denouncing such a drift, always tries to explain it away.
It’s thus that during the last departmental elections, to win some votes, some left and right wing members didn’t hesitate to exploit extreme right-wing National Front theses in order to propose yet another law on wearing veils or headscarves at University, or on training Imams, or on substitute meals in public establishments, or on depriving of the French Nationality, or on secularism, or on integration, or so forth.
One fundamentalism just nourishes another, so one mustn’t be astonished that today’s youth feel excluded, marginalized, accused of all evil, become radical extremists and have themselves killed, considering they have no future in this country. That’s what one calls disarray.
New methods of expression are today’s lot, transmitted by the above-exposed vectors for creating suspects and damaging the Moslem community in France.
Besides some respectable academic and scientific circles, there is no serious debate underway to clarify for French citizens the causes of the hostilities, of the extremisms. Consequences are advanced to explain and justify the xenophobic and islamophobic rhetoric. Western States have no part of the responsibility in the conflicts that shake the Islamic lands. The interferences and the will to defend that turf by supporting regimes that only represent themselves, using weaponry, without mentioning the economic and financial pillage to which Moslem people are exposed. Western States maintain their political, cultural, scientific and social hegemony on Islam’s lands. They aggravate the conditions and accentuate the divisions at the heart of these people in order to ensure their domination.
Without efficient, just and rapid shock treatment, the risks of drifting off mark are numerous for our country whose population only wishes to live in peace and harmony. A population of French Moslems that shall soon neighbor on eight million inhabitants shall make its weight felt on several dimensions: electoral, economic, scientific, social….
III. Some recommendations
1. Institutional and political
– Struggle against all forms of Islamophobia (hatred, racism, exclusion,…), and pass strict laws and precise procedures.
– Forbid the abusive and fallacious use of Secularism
– Promote the rights and obligations of French Moslem citizens
– Develop the defence organisms of minority rights
– Encourage good Living Together and citizenship
– Favour the emergence of a Moslem French elite
– Reduce the length of procedures and penalties in matters perceived as penal
2. At the socio-economic level: favour employment of young French Moslems in public administrations.
3. On the educational level: encourage Islamic training and culture.
In conclusion: I note that Moslem people are victims and the bigger losers of these conflicts and tensions.
By serving Western people these new Islamophobic expressions with media complicity, Western States are immunizing themselves from their historic responsibilities.
The ditch between the communities grows ceaselessly, and dangers prey upon this very fragile Living Together. We are no longer sheltered from other holocausts. The political class must fully assume its responsibilities. Honest and respectable intellectuals must mobilize themselves. Goodwill and good conscience must conjugate their efforts on providing contributions to appease the anxiety-producing atmosphere and to rendering more fraternal relations and exchanges between communities.
Media must respect a flawless deontology and stop diffusing racist and Islamophobic rhetoric. They must be submitted to a much stricter chart with all the sanctions that must be inflicted for deviation or inciting hatred.
National education must also assume its responsibilities, through programs that restitute truth, clarify for pupils and make of them veritable citizen critics and not simple consumers ready to swallow everything and anything.
We are also free to think that we are faced with a neo-fascist tendency that regroups all sorts of extremists, leftists, fundamentalist laymen and right-wing extremists. It is a motley coalition but united and animated by hate towards Arabs and Moslems.
Banalization of Islamophobia is limitless and touches all spheres of French society (male and female politicians, pseudo-intellectuals, personalities of the art world, authors,…).
Some pseudo-intellectuals or false intellectuals improvise as specialists of Islam and of the Arab-Moslem world without any knowledge or mastery of either text or context and even less of cultures and civilizations.
The consequences of the new modes of Islamophobic expression are serious and catastrophic, they stigmatize a community and banalize hate and xenophobia.
The number of Islamophobic acts doesn’t cease to grow and becomes very worrying. There are available statistics of acts, insults, physical assault bearing an Islamophobic character.
All classes are touched by this very worrying phenomenon that French authorities are too long in taking seriously.
I can quote the case of a group of academicians lynched by the media with xenophobic rhetoric without them having any possibility of defending themselves on live TV and in the press. And those that defame and slander have unequalled media coverage. These academicians known for their integrity, their seriousness, their devotion, are transformed from one day to the next, into a mafia, a clan of smugglers in complicity with administrative inspectors deemed to be observing neutrality and objectivity in their appreciation and evaluation of the facts, documents and auditions.
There can no longer be in this 21st Century France, zones of exclusion, marginalized populations, discriminated against and less free, and double-standard judgements.
France is an indivisible country whose motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” must be a daily reality for all citizens.
Court Lawyer, Teacher at the Free Faculty of Law, of Economics and of Management of Paris (FALCO)
“Islam: hope for France?”
The title of my intervention may seem provoking to some, especially – as has been underlined – that at the present time, Islam – it must be said – has bad press. For a start, at the international level, but also at the national level … the international, we’ve seen that, as on 11th September, that notorious date of 11th September, but also at the national as was underlined: there was the matter of the veil, then the emergence – it must be said, all the same – the halal markets that disturb greatly some people, but equally many other movements … you know, when you go some places, in certain neighbourhoods one no longer has the impression of being in France, a catholic country, one sees more and more I would say the impression of Moslem culture, and then also another factor that frightens people more and more: the conversions.
Conversions to Islam?… Wait a moment… yesterday I adventured a little into looking a little at the different estimations on this conversion movement. Therefore, you know, it’s always very difficult to be able to estimate the different conversions. Effectively, I based myself more on an estimation that I consider more official, which is that of the Ministry of the interior.
Yes indeed, in 2014 there were, according to the interior ministry, 4.000 conversions to Islam in France. But I said to myself by curiosity, and knowing that Catholicism is considerably more backseat in France, I glanced to see how many conversions there were to Christianity. Well just imagine that I found it’s almost double – but not to Catholicism, these were conversions to evangelical churches, to Messianic movements! And I looked more than more, and saw that in Africa, there were more than 667 conversions to Christianity … PER HOUR! And Christianity (evangelical schools, Messianic, etc.) is going to become the most important religion in Africa, but we don’t talk about it … why?
Just a brief while ago, someone … Troy DAVIS or Samuel HUNTINGTON … cited that there is some will I think which is a certain tension … a tension in a country in particular in France that presents – it must be said – a problem, an awkwardness.
And even if I stray from the subject, and all the same when one has spoken of this population that is to be found in France, it’s French Islam or rather it’s Islam that is no longer a religion, one cannot talk of Moslems of France, these are French folk of Moslem persuasion.
So what’s this all about? This concerns – it must be said – population issues and immigration, massive immigration to which our country France attends without – it must be said – either the will or the capacity to integrate and assimilate all these populations into our culture. Why? We’ll soon see, and besides, the subject that can present a certain antipathy between Islam and secularism … you shall see that it’s Islam that is going to permit you to have this glimmer of hope for France’s true values.
So there is a depressing population slump that is to be found here, and that is completely disconcerted, completely lost, and that has to find a role model, whereas there no longer exists any model in France, because of secularism. So today the evil is not Islam, it’s secularism, because since 1789 France has been involved in ex-culturing … an ex-culturing phenomenon because – it must be said – French revolutionaries wanted to – as the revolutionaries used to say – make a “clean break with the past”.
And just what is a “clean break with the past”? It’s to overthrow French society! It’s to overthrow French sociology, to threaten French Catholic religion, and little by little in the place of the Catholic Religion, one has erected atheism as State religion, with a culture of “reason”, and then later the cult of the “Supreme Being”. But a while later, one began to retreat, especially with Napoléon Bonaparte ; thereafter, secularism was enthroned.
Secularism, like other trends is: the cult of reason, the cult of the Supreme Being, and as soon as these notions – and this doesn’t come from me – fade away, freemasonry which is proud of having provoked the French Revolution, with the objective of de-crystallizing France, of severing France from its roots, from its thousands of years old identity, and when I talk of religion, one mustn’t just stress the aspect, I want to say, spiritual, because religion also has a cultural value, and a social value, also a political value, and just to provide you with a little illustration: you can … we can all verify, all remember, the OSM (Organisation du sionsime mondial – World Zionism Organization) that erected almost essentially the creation of the State of Israel on one factor … which one? … it’s to gather all the world’s Jewish believers in order to create a State for them, and to create a nation overnight from scratch – the Israeli nation which is that … a State with a people of the same religion.
And France, unfortunately, today, it’s been two centuries now – but what is two centuries in comparison with a thousand years? – it’s but (excuse me, perhaps I shouldn’t say, but I do say) it’s a detail of our History, it’s a detail in the History of France – I think Jean-Marie Le Pen isn’t here today [hilarity, murmuring].
Therefore … therefore … therefore – and besides it’s not derogatory … after the story about detail there was a change in the dictionary … so two hundred years of what I would call bludgeoning, of propaganda, which is what secularism is, which is not a separation of Church and State as has been claimed, but it’s a disguised manner of continuing the effort to dislocate, to dis-identify France, to ex-culture it, to sever it from its History, from its roots. Such is the objective of this secularism which has become a State religion, and that has become – I would say – a certain dictatorship that imposes itself on one and all. Till the moment … there, one has seen that this movement … there, I would say Islam, the emergence of Islam, of this fear, of this fright … and in fact fear of what? A fright of what? Listen: me, I’m going to tell you something: this winter was very rough, but not from a climatic point of view … I don’t know if you were aware or not: there were many viri. Well, me, what I did this winter, is that I didn’t fall ill at all, I got myself vaccinated. And when I was vaccinated, I took – since I don’t drive, I took the tube, the bus, I walked and sat with everyone and I didn’t fall ill … why? … because my body was immunized.
Today, if France takes into consideration this factor that is inherent to society, like Jews and like Moslems, … who for some are today radicalizing, it’s because they find themselves in an environment which is the French Republic with all this secularism that just creates void, void … not only spiritual but also cultural void. And as Aristotle used to say, Nature hates voids.
That’s what explains that this void is complete, by everything, by these different conversions, as I was saying, to Protestantism, to Islam, to sectarianism, this loss of values, this … I wouls say … this depression some have and that oblige them to hurl themselves into Holy War (jihâd) without even knowing what it is, moreover.
Other people who are issue of this immigration and who have come, as I was saying, and who have no role model … how can you wish to assimilate them to no role model … when they have no vision, when they are in limbo. It’s normal for them all the same to return to their original culture, their culture of origin. Because man is devoted to future research, and I send you back to the Russian example: has Russia after decades of communism, of dictatorship and of atheism been able to faith, after the breakdown of communism?
And today, who is going to permit a man to put an end perhaps to this bad propaganda that has been imposed on us for these past two centuries and that is called secularism? Well, I have found whereas the grand majority of others has not … and it’s for that I was saying that I was immunized … it’s Islam, this movement, this fear that is being mobilized must permit us, must permit the French, to return to their Christian Catholic roots, so that the Catholic religion becomes yet again State religion, the State religion by example, and in this case believe me there won’t be any more fear of Moslems, because the true Catholic State forbids blasphemy, and there will no longer be this problem we just had recently against Charlie Hebdo, and today you cannot attack … why? Because there is no law forbidding blasphemy, because we are in a country that is anti-religion, which is, I would say, more and more anti-French. So that’s the reason for which I find a glimmer of hope in the emergence of Islam.
Bassam TAHHAN, Geostrategy Professor at the Superior National School of Advanced Techniques (Ensta)
“For an Islam of France: Islam of reform”
More than ever before, France needs its Islam that could then even be extrapolated into the rest of the Moslem world. France offers an intellectual climate of freedom of expression that many countries – Moslem or not – envy.
Unfortunately, reform thinkers that could propose this Islam to France are rare and sometimes inexistent.
It is urgent today, bearing in mind the social tension that increases ceaselessly, to review our institutional approach that is not at all of Moslem origin in France.
It’s in this sense that I propose a sort of study and research program on themes that upset the Moslem world and which are but to mention out of range.
I shall start with the necessity to review the history of the constitution of the founding text, without excluding all the non-canonical readings that are so rich and numerous for textual intelligence and that at a given moment in History have been condemned to be forgotten as there defenders are.
I’ll provide some examples of these variants that I have analysed in my interventions indeed over two good decades (Are Houris virgins or White Bread? – Are There Really any Repealing Verses? – What is the meaning of hanif?).
Just like the other religions, Islam in Descartes’ country and from Ghazali’s doubt needs to take into consideration these variants.
A veritable movement of reform is imposing itself, and it’s neither in the Saudi kingdom nor at the heart of the Moslem Brethren, that this work can be tolerated.
The second research domain should concern the entire Sunna Tradition, once again this means reviewing decisions by official Islams over fourteen centuries and that have validated or invalidated the Prophet’s sayings.
Today we dispose of very powerful means and instruments for reaching authe,ntic Hadiths. It would also be necessary to see the tradition’s status in comparison to that in the Koran, there reigns therein a deplorable confusion that impacts all religious domains and the entire life of the faithful.
The third point should re-examine the concept of Caliphate that is often related in numerous orthodox works of Holy War.
So long as these two notions shall not have been put into their just place, it’s impossible for Islam to enter fully into modernity.
The fourth field is to review the theology that diminishes Islam and which has been imposed on the majority of rites condemning the Mutazilite, the Suffis, and the spirituality pregnant with original ideas, denounced by the History of Orthodoxy, imposed often by monarchs for socio-historical reasons.
The revision of the personal status of the Moslem would then depend on the areas that we have cited, but once revisited with this reforming will anxious to adapt itself to our modern world (polygamy, women’s rights, treachery, mixed marriages, and so forth).
Islam is capable of modernity, and has so proven throughout its history.
Unfortunately, the Islam that is most widespread throughout the world is that of the decadent periods, especially when one knows that the gate of personal effort “Ijtihad” was closed indefinitely a thousand years ago.
Those institutions representative of Islam, whether in the Moslem world or elsewhere, have not had the tenor of this pioneering mission, when this great awkwardness that we have to live. An epistemological breakdown that I have always coined in my interventions, imposes itself and cannot see the light of day but in those countries where freedom of expression is sovereign.
Yes, to an Islam in France, that of reforms of which I have just evoked some angles for approach.
Recteur Gérard-François DUMONT, Professor at Sorbonne University, Paris
“Is a settling of accounts with Islam possible in France?”
It appears to me very important to question oneself on the eventual utility of coming to an agreement with Islam in France.
In reality, in 1987 I published an article in which I proposed that France and Islam establish an accounts settling program. If I remember the date, it’s because it’s important in that we were in a period in which today’s tensions didn’t exist and there also wasn’t any media presence somewhat exacerbated by the Islam that started arriving two years later, in 1989 in Europe, on the one hand in France with the affair of the Creil Veil and on the other in the United Kingdom with British demonstrations requiring that Mrs Thatcher censure Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. So it’s really at that moment that we had this media intrusion into certain faces of Islam.
This proposition was of a wisdom that was to become applied necessarily, before things got too infected. Yet since then, that’s exactly what has happened! So why and whence this proposition?
On the one hand, because of realities already observed at the time and that were going on to unfurl thereafter, and on the other, because of awareness of the History of France, since every country relies on the longest possible History that is in turn necessary to know well if one intends to have lasting social concord. It was clear that in 1987 fundamental alterations appeared in the geography of France’s religions, in the measure that waves of residential migrations had replaced the waves of preceding periods, even if it’s true that the first persons of Moslem culture that settled in France but on a periodic basis, came over at the end of the 19th Century, attracted by the great work-sites, and essentially from Kabylia. Most of them were set on remaining temporarily French national territory before desiring of themselves to return to their country of origin.
It’s only as from the middle of the 1970s that we have significant change, even if this change was preceded by waves of Harkis in 1962 who settled persons of Moslem culture on the national territory of the French Republic.
After the mid-70s, we can simplify by noting that two waves arrived: the first goes on to concern rather the North-Africans whose arrival in France is more related, moreover, to the lack of developmental success in the North-African countries, then there followed the waves from Subsaharan Africa. The resultant: maintained moslem presence in France. This purely quantitative change is completed by yet another variable: beforehand, even if Moslems lived on in France, they were essentially Moslems of foreign nationality. The change that intervenes as from the mid-70s, is that we enter into a post-migratory phase: the majority of Moslems in France are of French nationality, either because they acquired the nationality, or because it was attributed to them in the context of the Code of Attribution of French Nationality, or indeed because, born in France, they were considered children of France as from birth. In that context, it’s interesting to answer the question: How to have last the social concord with French citizens issue of a culture that is newly present on the Republic’s territory? Therefore, I revisited our History of France.
First of all, it’s necessary to underline that to think that the separation of Church and State in France dates back to the Law of 1905 is a profound error. In fact the History of France is full of permanent tensions between France’s leaders – as it happened: the Kings, the clergy notables. And for that, it suffices to remember what happened at the time of François 1st and of Louis XIVth.…
Therefore it’s absolutely in error to believe that the history of duality between the religious and the temporal was only settled in 1905, whereas it attained consensus as a result of periodic disputes over centuries.
Therefore, in this context, France was brought to sign in 1801 an arrangement in the wake of all the tensions that were unfurling, especially during the actual revolutionary phase of the Revolution, in fact in 1793. The 1801 Arrangement organizes the appeased relations between on the one hand the State, and on the other the three confessions present in France at that time, precisely: the Catholic cult, the Lutheran Protestant cult and the Reformed Protestant cult.
This Arrangement establishes a procedure for appeasing and operationalizing religious liberty that, moreover, is not to be made to last throughout the whole territory since thereafter it has to be completed by the Law of 1905, though it does last in the Alsace-Moselle Region. It is important to note that when the Germans took Alsace-Moselle in 1870-1871, they did not apply – with regards religious matters – the laws of the German Reich, but they enforce the 1801 Arrangement throughout Alsace Moselle.
As the years pursued each other, France realizes there is yet another religion present on its territory, it’s the Israeli religion. And for this religion, the idea is to find an acceptable arrangement, and this is quite difficult because the Israeli cult is very diversified as a result of disparate diaspora origins, and therefore one cannot treat it as one unity. The powers that be in Paris, as it happened: Napoléon, considering we are then under the 1st Empire, decides to organize an Assembly of Jews in France, in order to discuss how to reach an acceptable solution.
In this design, it is decided that Jews shall be represented according to territorial criteria, so we have 111 members of Parliament for the 111 territorial constituencies that correspond to the Departments (one mustn’t forget the French departments in Italy: at that time the French Empire extended into Italy). The 111 Jewish members of Parliament are reunited in Paris in 1806, at Saint Jean’s Chapel that no longer exists.
The State officially considered that the appeasing of relations between all parties present on the Territory supposed that this assembly representative of Jews in France responded to 12 questions on the Assembly’s agenda: the year is 1806, but some themes still deserve our attention:
1° Is it acceptable for Jewish men to wed several women?
2° Is divorce permitted by the Jewish religion? (…bearing in mind that divorce was forbidden by the French Civil Code)
3° Can a Jewish woman marry a Christian, also can a Christian woman marry a Jew?
4° For Jews, are the French their brothers, or are they foreigners?
5° On both sides, what relations do the laws provide for French nationals of different religions?
6° Do Jews born in France and treated by the law as French citizens, consider Fra,nce as their Fatherland ? Do they share the obligation to defend the country? Do they feel obliged to obey national laws and to follow the instructions of the Civil Code?
7° Who appoints Rabbis?
8° What form of policing do Rabbis administer within the Jewish community? What form of Judiciary police is foreseen?
9° Electoral procedures, judiciary police competence … are they foreseen by formal laws or simply following on custom, usage and tradition?
10° Does Jewish law forbid certain professions?
11° Does Jewish law forbid requiring money interest from one’s brother? (In fact, at the time the Jews indulged importantly in money-lending, and there were many debates on the matter)
12° Does Jewish law prohibit or permit usury towards foreigners?
The 111 members of Parliament were to discuss these questions over a period of some months running into year 1807, and were to provide answers that are not simple, because these members of Parliament came from different regions having their own particularities. Finally, the assembly’s conclusions gave onto the 18th March 1808 Decrees that extend the effects of the 1801 Arrangement to the Israeli cult that then is added to the three other cults evoked above.
Certainly, History doesn’t repeat itself precisely: year 2015 is neither 1801 nor 1805. These teachings from History are nevertheless instructive, which means that to attain social concord presupposes necessarily clarifying relations between State and these different cults.
Of course, one may think that to reach an arrangement with Islam in France is difficult, because of the diversity and nature of Islam’s representatives, but at the same time, and I insist, that was absolutely the case of the Israeli cult at the start of the 19th Century, so the fact that Islam in France has many faces must not be considered as an obstacle for reaching this objective that appears indispensable for constructing an appeased society where religious liberty reigns.
Professor Patrick DOMBROWSKY, Director of the Observatory of Analysis of Contemporary International Relations.