Amid the brutality of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s assaults on France, which embrace claims that French President Emmanuel Macron wants “mental treatment” and requires a boycott of French merchandise, there’s been a temptation in Europe amongst some intellectuals, journalists and politicians to let France lead the battle for freedom of expression and in opposition to obscurantism by itself.
While Portuguese, Italian, Dutch and German officers have expressed their unwavering assist for France and for freedom of speech, in addition to the French authorities’s makes an attempt to stymie the rise of radical Islamism, Erdogan’s insults have been met with silence in London and different European capitals.
Equally worrying, many journalists and intellectuals have spent the previous couple of days specializing in France’s alleged Islamophobia because the driving pressure of so-called “Islamic separatism” inside France when they don’t seem to be discrediting Macron’s considerations over this very actual phenomenon. Macron’s worries usually are not simply the priority of French politicians, but additionally by Hassen Chalghoumi, the Imam of Drancy, and lots of different outstanding imams within the nation.
And but, British scholar H.A. Hellyer made the case in Foreign Policy that Macron was not nervous about radical Islam, however was solely nervous about Marine Le Pen in a cynical electoral move. The Washington Post lambasted France for desirous to ‘reform Islam’ as an alternative of “fighting systemic racism.” Mehreen Khan from the Financial Times has been tweeting repeatedly about Macron’s “anti-Muslim racism” for weeks.
Europeans ought to be certain that they don’t change into complicit in the concept France is at conflict with its Muslim inhabitants or let the ludicrous claims made by a refrain of unsavory geopolitical actors pushing this separatist agenda go unchallenged
Furthermore, this dystopian narrative of a racist French society past restore doesn’t maintain as much as scrutiny. According to the Pew Research Center, some 85% of French residents stated they might be prepared to just accept Muslims as neighbors, which places France above the European common and forward of the UK and Germany.
Even laicité, France’s type of secularism which is commonly accused of offering an mental justification for Islamophobia, enjoys broad assist amongst French Muslims. In the phrases of Chems-Eddine Hafiz, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, the calls to boycott French merchandise are made by these “who have always used Islam for political ends.”
He has rightly known as for Muslims to be vigilant “in the face of this false propaganda aimed at discrediting our country, France.” Hafiz’s messages are unlikely to get picked up by France’s critics, who’re too consumed by the concept France is racist and would reasonably hearken to radicals who will inform them what they wish to hear.
Not solely are these assaults baseless, however they’re additionally profoundly toxic for French society. Days after Samuel Paty was beheaded by a younger Moscow-born Chechen refugee for having proven cartoons of Mohammad throughout a category on free speech, Al-Jazeera held a debate titled “Is France’s at war with its Muslims?”
Islamist agitators of all stripes have lengthy been pushing the concept France was on the verge of a “Muslim genocide.” This dystopian rhetoric solely encourages radicalization and justifies “preemptive” assaults. By lending credence to those theories, we offer fodder to the Islamist separatists and their narrative.
Moreover, Europeans who suppose that France had it coming and argue they need to keep out of this are terribly myopic. If we permit Islamists to get away with imposing alien blasphemy legal guidelines on a contemporary, European nation, they won’t cease right here. We might imagine we may get away with sacrificing freedom of speech and the press, however they’ll feed off our weaknesses and push for ever-increasingly stringent calls for. What if tomorrow mobs boycotted a European nation over its instructing of historical past or biology? Or over a legislation that allowed firms to not rent workers that refused to shake palms with their feminine colleagues? What different values will we be able to sacrifice? Will we additionally must sacrifice gender equality to maintain spiritual peace with Muslim workers?
One must also add that Erdogan’s assaults didn’t merely single out France. In that very same speech, he attacked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, claiming she ordered a “police attack” on a mosque (a defamatory falsehood). He added that “in some European countries, hostility toward Islam and Muslims has become a policy encouraged and supported at the level of the head of state” and accused these heads of state of being “the real fascists” and “links in the chain of Nazism.”
We do not need to love Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons – a lot of Charlie’s cartoons are unfunny and tasteless – however we do, nonetheless, must defend our freedom of expression and battle in opposition to Erdogan and his Islamist allies’ makes an attempt to create de facto worldwide Muslim blasphemy legal guidelines. If Europeans can’t shut ranks with France, solely days after a very brutal terrorist assault over freedom of speech – one of many Western world’s foundational values – when it’s attacked by a caricatural autocrat, then when will they?
Over the years a lot has been made concerning the lack of a European demos, a European folks. Differences of language, tradition and historical past make the creation of that European id nearly unattainable, and no “Hamiltonian moment” may realistically bridge that hole.
However, if there’s one space the place Europeans have a shared legacy it’s within the foundational precept of widespread liberal values. Influenced by the wealthy works of Ancient Greece and of the Catholic Church, impressed by the French revolutionaries who declared the Rights of Man, scarred by the good totalitarianism of the 20th century, Europeans have come round to enshrine the significance of liberty.
If Europeans can’t even defend that widespread legacy that unites us all, that almost all fundamental widespread denominator, do we now have any proper to anticipate a European demos to emerge?