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Notes on Islam — and Macron — in France

21

There were high hopes for Emmanuel Macron when he was first elected as president of France in 2017. He appeared to recognize that something was deeply disturbing about the failure of Muslims in France to assimilate. And he spoke at length about what he appeared to believe would be a novel approach: to create an Islam not in France, but rather of France. Somehow, he suggested, Islam in France could be transformed, could be made unlike the harsh Islam to be found in, for example, Saudi Arabia or Iran. But exactly how was this to be achieved?

Macron has now been in office for a year. And nothing has happened to change, much less transform, either the attitudes or behavior of Muslims in France, whose large-scale presence has created a situation, both for the indigenous French, and for other, non-Muslim immigrants, that is far more unpleasant, expensive, and physically dangerous than would be the case without that large-scale presence.

Before he entered politics, Macron was a banker, with the the right schooling and all the right contacts, the perfect product of the French system of elites that carefully reproduce themselves. Macron showed no interest in, much less any understanding of, the menace of Islam before entering politics, and he has done little since to assuage the anxieties about Islam of many people in France. In late 2016, when Macron was scarcely known, the man who was leading in the Presidential polls in France was Francois Fillon. Fillon had a deep understanding of the menace of Islam, and even wrote a book on the subject that pulled no punches: “Defeating Islamic Totalitarianism.” He looked likely to be a winner, from the Center-Right, in the contest the Presidency. Then disaster, having nothing to do with Islam, struck his campaign. Fillon was found to have hired his wife for what many believed was a no-show job, with an inflated salary, and his son was also hired for six-months while simultaneously being a law student. Finally, Fillon accepted tens of thousands of dollars worth of mens’ suits. This financial scandal destroyed Fillon’s candidacy. It was a terrible, devastating, and above all stupid defeat for those who in France who had placed all their hopes on Fillon.

Macron, who then became the surprise winner of the Presidency, seems to think that the main problem with Muslims in France is the influence of foreign financing. In this he is not original, but follows exactly the script of his predecessors. They, too, seemed to think that if only foreign — mainly Saudi — money were not paying for Salafi mosques and imams, then “radicalization” of French Muslims would not be such a problem.

But “radicalization” does not mean an Islam different from the mainstream. While Saudi-financed Salafism is a problem, so is mainstream Islam. Those mainstream Muslims read the same Qur’an, and the same Hadith, as do the imams in Saudi Arabia or Iran or Pakistan. The “problem” with Muslims in France is Islam itself, with its immutable texts and teachings, and not some supposed “radical” and mutant version that “has nothing to do with the real Islam,” as Pope Francis is fond of claiming.

If Macron were to come to his senses, he would be forced to recognize that there are eight million Muslims in France, almost all of whom subscribe to a faith that does not wish Unbelievers well, and the texts of which cannot be changed. And if he were to recognize that, what could he say? What could he do?

I recently spent a month in France with family members who are French. They are perfectly aware of the problem with Islam. They see the squads of soldiers, armed with submachine guns, who now routinely conduct sweeps through the streets of their city. They see the cars of the gendarmes, too, on patrol. They know about the troubles in some Muslim-majority areas, where the firemen and sanitation men have to have police guards. They know about the problem of Muslim crime — street muggings, house break-ins, wanton vandalism, the setting afire of cars for no reason except that they are owned by the non-Muslims. They know about  the subsidized housing made available to the “Arabs,” including not just what is practically free in the “projects” (cites)  for the low-income, but also luxury housing available, at very low rents, to the Arabs. For it is now the law in France that in every new apartment building, no matter how high-end, a certain percentage of its apartments must be set aside for low-income people who only pay a very low rent, far below the market price. These low-income people tend to be Arabs, mostly from North Africa. They not only get to benefit from this up-market housing, but also have great fun making life much less pleasant for their fellow tenants who are paying full price.

I was told about garbage being deliberately strewn about in Arab residential areas. I learned about break-ins at other apartments in the same luxury buildings, about even threats of physical harm to anyone who dared report the Arabs’  behavior and the actual harm inflicted on any French person who took a stand against them. I learned about how mobs of Muslims, in groups of 50 or more, liked to run down city streets in a group, menacing all those in their way — what fun to scare the Infidels. I learned, too, that in the schools, there is a discipline problem that involves only Muslim students. Some of them insist on interrupting their school day for day prayers (who knows if they are sincerely devout, or if they just want several short breaks from the classroom?), many are unafraid to threaten teachers, and some Muslim students even rebel against studying certain subjects in the prescribed curriculum, such as the history of the Crusades (perceived as anti-Islam), the history of the French monarchy (ditto), the history of the Enlightenment (perceived as anti-Islam) and, of course, the Holocaust, the objection to which is that it could increase sympathy for “the Jews” and that, of course, would never do. At night, often through the night, there are unusual noises, as I experienced myself — an endless tam-tam of drums, again by Muslims, from both North and  sub-Saharan Africa, having fun making life unpleasant for the Unbelievers by preventing their sleep.

Macron lives in a rarefied world where none of this happens. He does not know what ordinary French people now have  to endure. He doesn’t know what goes on in the streets, in the schools, in the apartments. Islam, the problem of Islam, the attitudes and behavior of Muslims, especially of young Muslim males who are the most dangerous element, all this for him is an abstraction. He lacks both the experience of living with or close to Muslims. And he lacks the empathetic imagination that could make up for that lack of enduring particular experiences. Instead, he self-assuredly throws out slogans about an Islam of France, then walks away.

Macron also has a curious way of demonstrating his moral superiority. He recently denounced the government of Italy, and especially its outspoken anti-immigrant interior minister Matteo Salvini, for having turned away several boats carrying economic refugees from Africa (many, though not all, Muslim). The Italians were enraged by this, calling in the French ambassador to express their displeasure at this “hypocrisy.” Salvini noted that France had committed to accepting 9,816 migrants under a 2015 EU redistribution scheme, to relieve frontline countries of the pressure of asylum-seekers. The scheme never got off the ground. Salvini said in three years France had accepted only 640 people: “So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning welcome the 9,816 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words.” They didn’t see Macron agreeing to take more refugees, didn’t see French ports welcoming the Aquarius or other boats. So what made the French president think he was in any position to lecture the Italians? Macron, still smiling, had no reply.

And Macron has no answer, either, to the problem of Islam in France, any more than did his predecessors, though he keeps suggesting he knows how to solve it, that he will somehow succeed where everyone else failed. He may well cut off foreign funding. But the effect will be minimal, a difference only in emphasis in the khutbas. He may even engage in a so-called “restructuring” of French Islam, replacing the current organizations with an Islamic Consistory and a Grand Imamate, something along the lines of the Grand Rabbi for Jews. He clearly wants to create a national organisation for France’s Muslim population. But does he really think French Muslims will allow the Infidel French state to impose such an organisation, or decide which Muslims will be chosen “to speak for Islam in France”? Macron is whistling in the dark.

Riven by internal rivalries, the current CFCM (Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman, or French Muslim Council) has failed to assert itself as the principal voice of Islam in France. It is seen by many observers, including some prominent Muslim figures, as fragmented, inefficient and only partly representative. But Macron can’t overcome this; he has already been told by Muslim leaders not to dare even think he can “restructure’” Islamic groups in France. If he nonetheless proceeds, he will merely be rearranging chairs and renaming offices. But wherever the funding comes from for mosques and imams, and however official Islamic groups are “restructured”in France, the Islamic texts and teachings will remain the same: the same Qur’anic commands to wage jihad, the same insistence on “striking terror” in the hearts of Infidels, the same claim that Muslims must not take Jews and Christians as friends, the same description of Unbelievers as “the most vile of creatures,” and much, much more.

And that’s where the matter stands, with Macron still smiling, still thinking he can change Islam in France, still promising that all manner of things shall be well, still whistling in the dark. And meanwhile, the percentage of Muslims in the French population inexorably increases, and the quality of life for the non-Muslim French just as inexorably declines.

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