France’s Showdown with the Islamic World

France’s Showdown with the Islamic World, by Col (Res.) Dr. Raphael G. Bouchnik-Chen.

On October 2, 2020, French president Emmanuel Macron made a momentous speech in defense of secularism. In the address, he unveiled a plan to defend French secular values against “Islamic radicalism.”

Two weeks later, on October 16, a French history teacher named Samuel Paty was decapitated in the street outside his school by an 18-year-old radical Islamist. The terrorist, a Russian-born teenager of Chechen heritage, succeeded in sending a deeply shocking message to supporters of laïcité, or French secularism: Islamic radicalism in France has no intention of going down without a fight. …

Macron drew a line in the sand (got to start somewhere):

Macron’s speech was almost immediately followed by accusations from Muslims both at home and abroad that Macron is Islamophobic and racist. This furious response was especially strong in Turkey, as about half the imams in France are of Turkish descent.

In the October 2 speech, Macron attempted to be nuanced about how Islam and French secularism could be integrated. He unveiled a plan to defend French secular values against “Islamist radicalism,” adding that Islam was “in crisis” all over the world. He insisted that “no concessions” would be made in a new drive to push religion out of education and the public sector in France.

Macron said the measures were aimed at addressing the problem of growing “radicalization” in France and improving “our ability to live together.” He emphasized that “secularism is the cement of a united France,” but added that there is no sense in stigmatizing all Muslim believers.

Macron’s plan focuses on limiting foreign influence and investing in a new generation of French imams, with a certification process based in France. He categorized “Islamist separatism” as a “parallel society” that threatens France by holding sharia law above French law, which “often results in the creation of a counter-society.” …

Now what? Does he have the courage to actually do it?

President Macron thus finds himself in a very difficult position—not only vis-à-vis Islamists but also among his own cabinet ministers. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin used the language of the hard right, describing France as fighting a “civil war” to defend the French secular and unitary Republic against the “separatist” teachings of extremist Islam. Darmanin suggested that ethnic food aisles in supermarkets be closed—in other words, punish innocent French Muslims as well as guilty ones. According to the investigative newspaper Le Canard Enchainé, Macron has asked Darmanin and other ministers to cool their language. …

The French far-right leader Marine Le Pen sees no reason for prudence or tolerance toward Islamists in France. Her reaction to Paty’s beheading was to repeat over and over again that “massive uncontrolled” immigration is at fault for this kind of atrocity.

Considering how fragile the situation in France has become, as well as the anger that has developed between Paris and Arab and Muslim states, there appears to be a high probability of a new wave of radical Islamist terror operations against France and France-related assets. The rage directed toward Macron’s statements, which are being taken as evidence of French Islamophobia, creates a common denominator between Sunnis and Shiites, in that both streams feel hurt and humiliated. …

President Macron faces a tough dilemma: stand firm and implement the measures he outlined with respect to radical Islamism in France, or reassess that policy and put his chance of reelection at risk.

On current demographic trends, France will be majority Muslim by about 2050. Macron is well aware of that, as is Erdogan. Erdogan is expecting the Caliphate to welcome the newly Islamic nation of France later this century. Is Macron having second thoughts?