In this fourth in the series, we look at how France has politically and intellectually nurtured and fostered the forces of radical Islam. At first glance this may seem incongruous. It was France after all which pioneered a radical form of secularism, a total separation of religion and state. The source of this secularist dogma lies in the French Revolution of 1789 which engendered a complete break with the past in its famous refrain of liberty, equality and fraternity of all peoples. Yet where expedient France has armed the forces of Islamic power, notably with Napoleon being a staunch ally of Tipu Sultan in southern India. 2015 may have begun with France being the victim of attack by jihadist elements. Yet it is French foreign policy, domestic social programmes and above all its much hyped intellectualism which has fed into what became radical Islam. At the same time France has produced so-called India experts like Christophe Jaffrelot which warn the public of an impending apocalypse brought on by Hindu fundamentalism and with every breath in their body defend the racist and colonialist Aryan Invasion Theory. Jaffrelot is seemingly oblivious to the social debris and flotsam elements which are wreaking havoc in his own fatherland, preferring the alternate reality of a new world order threatened by the his invented Hindu menace of a saffron plague.
The new year of 2015 had just set in when Paris was rocked by a massacre which left seventeen dead on 9 January 2015. The satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo had outraged Muslims worldwide with its mocking of Islam’s founder. But the attackers were not some foreign illegals who had sneaked into the country. They were French-raised and born. France likes to think of itself as more enlightened than Britain and America in both its domestic and foreign policy.
It tries to offer an intellectual alternative to the brash capitalism of the dominant Anglo-Saxon powers with which it has vied for international stature. The Rights of Man were promulgated by the French Revolution in a decisive break with feudalism and privilege. But in reality has France really offered an alternative? From examining historical facts much of what we call radical Islam has extensive roots in both political theory and practice of French statecraft, intellectual constructs and adherence to a dogma that is akin to monotheism defined by national boundaries rather than cosmic precepts. France has rigorously enforced secularism against any outward display of religion, especially Islamic headscarves. Yet it has backed jihad in Syria. Its crushing of religious and ethnic minority identity has led to a monstrous chimera that actually thrives on radical Islam.
“J’accuse …!“ (“I accuse”) was an open letter published on 13 January 1898 in the newspaper L’Aurore by the influential French writer Émile Zola. In the letter, Zola addressed President Félix Faure and accused the government of anti-Semitism and the unlawful jailing of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Army General Staff officer who was sentenced to lifelong penal servitude for espionage. Zola pointed out judicial errors and lack of serious evidence. The letter was printed on the front page of the newspaper and caused a stir in France and abroad. Zola was prosecuted for and found guilty of libel on 23 February 1898. To avoid imprisonment, he fled to England, returning home in June 1899. He began:
“The truth I will say, because I promised to say it, if justice, regularly seized, did not do it, full and whole. My duty is to speak, I do not want to be an accomplice. My nights would be haunted by the spectre of innocence that suffer there, through the most dreadful of tortures, for a crime it did not commit… I have only one passion, that of the light, in the name of humanity which has suffered so much and is entitled to happiness. My ignited protest is nothing more than the cry of my heart. So may one dare bring me to criminal court, and may the investigation take place in broad daylight!”
The 1898 article by Émile Zola is widely marked in France as the most prominent manifestation of the new power of the intellectuals in shaping public opinion, the media and state policy. Writers always enjoyed a special status in France, especially since the Revolution of 1789, when wielding the pen was as powerful as using the sword. Due the importance of literacy, intellectuals were accorded great respect and played a special role in French society. Entry to the elite grands écoles would guarantee them a salary for life. The image of the French thinker, siting in the coffee shop, in a thick tobacco haze as he draws on his Gaulois has long portrayed this image – at least until the ban on smoking in public places.
This is of profound importance now when one stands aghast in horror at the recent massacre which took place in Paris against the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine and the Jewish supermarket, fortified by an ideology every bit as toxic and nefarious as the anti-Semitism and biologically determinist and organic French nationalism which haunted Zola and persecuted Dreyfus..
A massive manhunt led to the discovery on 9 January of the suspects, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, who exchanged fire with police. The brothers took hostages at a signage company in Dammartin-en-Goële, and were gunned down when they emerged firing from the building. The same day Amedy Coulibaly and Hayat Boumeddiene were at a kosher supermarket engaged in a ‘sympathy’ hostage taking. Boumedienne married Coulibaly in 2009 in an Islamic ceremony that is not recognized by French law, and turned from ‘bikini babe’ to holy warrior.
It is also necessary in order to understand why the jihadi attack on Mumbai in December 2008 did not provoke the same outrage. Where were the peace marches by world leaders in India when Lashkar-e-Toiba launched its attack by sea, brazenly from Pakistan: that faithful ally of America, Britain and France? Perhaps it is because with regards to India, France’s leading ‘expert’ is Christophe Jaffrelot. He is director of the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales (CERI) at Sciences Po and director of research at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), as well as being visiting professor at the India Institute, King’s College London and a Global Scholar the Princeton University.
He is the senior editor of the Sciences Po book series, Comparative Politics and International Relations published by C. Hurst & Co. He has been the editor-in-chief of Critique Internationale and serves on the editorial boards of Nations and Nationlism and International Political Sociology. He is also on the editorial board of The Online Encyclopaedia of Mass Violence.
Jaffrelot’s research is centred on South Asia, focusing on the aspects of nationalism and democracy, Hindu nationalism, caste mobilisation in politics and ethnic conflicts. With titles like The Hindu Nationalist Movement and Indian politics, it will be no surprise where his prejudices lie. For example, on 1 September 2010 he wrote this piece in The Caravan, an Indian publication dedicated to narrative journalism:
I’m prepared to admit that acts of Hindu nationalist terrorism have killed less people than those of Islamists—even though the list of Hindu nationalists attacks may be longer than the couple of cases mentioned above: Mecca Masjid and the Ajmer Dargah. But what is at stake here is the resilience of the rule of law.
Yet in the very next paragraph he then takes issue with these very facts:
It’s possible that the Indian state may be downplaying violent activities by Hindu nationalists. Already, many such perpetrators of violence in recent anti-Muslim riots, including those in Gujarat, have gotten away with it. If terrorist actions targeting the Muslim minority are not punished, India may give the impression that some citizens are above the law and can kill without fear of punishment, provided they target minorities. Such an evolution would result in an unofficial ethno-democracy (in contrast with a country like Israel which is an official one).
His stark warning?
This politics of denial—or worse, the legitimisation of Hindu nationalist violence is bound to be counterproductive. Inequality before the law will generate additional frustrations among Muslim youth, preparing the ground for the recruitment of new militants by Islamist organisations. Justice, on the contrary, can defuse resentment and the desire to take revenge.
Desire to take revenge? Frustration among Muslim youth? Perhaps he should look in his own back yard before preaching to others. Jaffrelot has every right to his opinion. But if this is the best France can produce out of its much vaunted intellectual climate, it is not even a very well manufactured copy of the very Anglosphere bias against India which remains mainstream media fodder.
The State is the Faith
The French education system and state authority impose a uniformity which mitigates against multiculturalism. People of all ethnic backgrounds should conform to the national stew and unity of the republic. France officially enforces integration in harmony with its republican ideas of citizenship, most notably by the taboo against counting ethnic minorities.
A strict and even fundamentalist form of secularism is enforced as immigrants are subject the national civilising mission (mission civilisatrice). Secularism is laïcité, the absence of religious involvement in government affairs based on the 1905 French law on the Separation of the Churches and the State.
For all its intellectualism and talk of integration, France has the largest ‘Far Right’ party in Europe, the Front National, which has never hidden its national socialist roots. Its flirtation and even espousal of crude racism and denial of the Holocaust has nevertheless allowed it to become a powerful political force.
Reality clashes violently with the republic’s ideal of conformity which clashed with de facto segregation in the banlieus, tower block suburbs of La Courneuve, Aubervilles and Saint-Denis outside Paris which in places of worship, food and colloquial French are very much a different world from republican values. These are racialised ghettos of poverty, havens for gangs, drugs and crime so serious that the police dare not enter parts of Paris. The banlieus are a visible and stark counter to the official rhetoric of assimilation, as epitomised in the classic cult film from 1995, La Haine (The Hate).
The government expects immigrants to integrate fully while rejecting any notion of multiculturalism as practised in Britain. Yet the minorities are often rejected by the white host community. Racism against non-whites, largely Maghrebis and blacks, has replaced the xenophobia once prevalent towards Poles, Italians and Portuguese. But the Europeans were able to integrate into wider French society because they were white.
Laws to tackle racism are difficult to enforce. Discrimination in jobs and by the police weighs heavily on French non-white minorities. Whites move out of housing or schools where Maghrebis and blacks congregate too much thus creating ghettoes in diametric opposite to France’s official policy of integration. Jonathan Fenby who has reported from France for The Economist, The Times, The Independent, The Guardian, The Observer, Libération, L’Express, Sud-Ouest and L’Évènement du Jeudi, in his 1998 book On the Brink, which looked at social deprivation in France:
The banlieus have a slang which can be virtually impenetrable and act as a wall in both directions….In a further twist away from the universal language spread across France by the centralisers of the nineteenth century, this new tongue can vary from estate to estate, from race to race. In Noisy-Le-Grand, outside Paris, Africans call white French people ‘babtou’ while Arabs call them ‘gaori’ or’gouère’ and gypsies call them ‘roum’; elsewhere the popular term is ‘from’ – from ‘fromage’
John Ardagh, formerly of The Times and the Observer, writes in his 1999 book France in the New Century Portrait of a Changing Society,
The State promotes an integration which the public then obstructs; the public stresses cultural differences which the State refuses to recognize. That, in a word, is the basic dilemma of immigration today in a France that officially does not accept multiculturalism or ethnic communities. On the one hand the State regards all citizens as equal, with the same full rights, and turns a blind eye to any distinctions between them of race or culture. But the French public, in its mass, does not regard immigrants as fully or equally French, and will constantly remind them of their otherness.
French of Maghrebi origin in France form the largest ethnic group after French of European origin. Algerians in the immediate postwar period were technically French. Nothing exemplified Algerians’ socio-economic status better than the shanty-towns (bidonvilles) that grew around Paris, Lyons and Marseilles in the 1950s, as depicted in Rachid Bouchareb’s film Hors La Loi (Outside the Law). While France reached greater prosperity in the 1960s the largely Maghrebi inhabitants of the bidonvilles were excluded. Even with their clearance in 1964 the resultant ghettoes continued to seal off any social mobility. Giscard d’Estaing began the racialisation of the immigrant issue, especially Maghrebis, during the 1970s.
Maghrebi immigrants suffered from a wave of racist violence in France during 1973. Unemployment had increased following the oil crisis that year leading to an upsurge in racism mainly directed against North African Arab immigrants, especially in the south such as Lyon.
Crime was however linked in the popular mind with immigrants and minorities and was exploited by right-wing politicians such as Jacques Chirac and especially the Front National of Jean-Marie Le Pen, with the latter calling for expulsion of all “immigrants”. By June 1991 Chirac was speaking of the “noise and smell” of immigrants annoying the average Frenchman.
Fellow Gaullist Giscard d’Estaing wrote an article in Le Figaro on 21 September 1991 entitled Immigration or Invasion?.
By the 1970s the North Africans raised in France were known as Generation Buer. A label not even recognised by the authorities. Andrew Hussey, dean of University’ of London’s Institute in Paris, in his 2014 book French Intifada:
This generation of Arab youth was both angry and optimistic. They were angry about what they perceived as a racist society bent on excluding them from the mainstream, but they also accepted the essential correctness of French left-wing values.
These young people were largely uncontaminated by radical Islam. They believed in the right to speak their own languages and have their own cultural practices. They also believed in the right to smoke dope, drink alcohol, chase girls of all ethnic extractions, and form rock bands. In other words, tradition and modernity could be friends on the same terms.
It was this which led Algerian musician Rachid Taha to move to Lyon. This generation fused traditional North African rhythms with French pop and British punk, and later hip-hop and other influences to modernise the Rai music from the Maghreb.
Taha was inspired by British punk band The Clash, and in 1981 gave them a copy of a demo tape by his band, Carte de Séjour (Residence Permit), an outfit from Lyons who combined Algerian raï with funk and punk rock. Taha believes that these early recordings helped to inspire The Clash’s Rock the Casbah. In France the punk subculture of the late 1970s morphed into skinheads who supported Front National and even more extreme fascist groups.
Neo-Nazi skinheads became targets for beatings by suburban black gangs and white anti-Nazi activists, while a racist underground youth culture developed; Rebelles Europeens of Brest became a major producer of racist skinhead music banned in Britain. The proliferation of skinhead violence and police apathy or complicity with it against minorities, led to anti-racist street activism by groups such as the Black Panthers, Redskins and Antifa.
Islamist Jacobin Club
Meanwhile sections of Maghrebi French youth growing up with this pervasive racism, turned to African-American rap culture, asserting an identity at diametric odds with the idea of an integration which had so obviously failed.
Reality of the situation was also ignored with the republic’s ideal of conformity which clashed with de facto segregation in the banlieus, tower block suburbs of La Courneuve, Aubervilles and Saint-Denis outside Paris which in places of worship, food and colloquial French are the inverse of republican values. Paul Belien, editor of the Brussels Journal and an adjunct fellow of the Hudson Institute, wrote ‘Sensitive urban areas’ for The Washington Times on January 16, 2008:
The ZUS exist not only because Muslims wish to live in their own areas according to their own culture and their own Shariah laws, but also because organized crime wants to operate without the judicial and fiscal interference of the French state. In France, Shariah law and mafia rule have become almost identical.
In November 2005 the then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said he planned to get rid of the racaille, a loaded word which means scum but reveals in its usage heavy racism against Arabs and blacks. Alienation from the hollowness of the French Revolution has produced a backlash from the ethnic minorities such as hip-hop artist Sniper. In 2004 he won a law case brought by the state for inciting hatred and violence for these lyrics:
France is a bitch and we’ve been betrayed
Screw France, we don’t care about the Republic and freedom of speech
We should change the laws so we can see Arabs and Blacks in power in the Elysée Palace
Things have to explode.
Even more rejectionist was Mr. R’s Politikment Incorrect album track FranSSe:
France is a bitch
Don’t forget to fuck her to exhaustion
You have to treat her like a whore, man!
My niggers and my Arabs, our playground is the street and with the most guns.
So it was that terrorist brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi, who grew up into a world of crime, drug dealing, and to be aspiring rap artists. Cherif himself as ‘an occasional Muslim’, he smoked cannabis, drank, dealt drugs, chased women and got a job as a pizza delivery man.
In an interview shortly after his arrest published by the Pittsburgh Tribune, his lawyer Vincent Ollivier said Kaouchi, then 22, was not particularly religious. “He drank, smoked pot, slept with his girlfriend and delivered pizzas for a living,” the newspaper reported.
It was a pattern seen before. Khalid Kelkal was born in 1971 in Algeria, but moved to a banlieu of Lyon with his family when he was an infant. As the only Arab in class he felt rejected in his lyceé, and more comfortable with neighbourhood criminals. Sentenced to four years in prison, he was recruited for jihad by his cell mate.
After his release, Kelkal regularly attended the Bilal Mosque in Vaulx-en-Velin; the mosque was headed by imam Mohamed Minta, a sympathiser of the Foi et Pratique (“Faith and practice”) fundamentalist organisation. In 1993, Kelkal went to Mostaganem, in Algeria, to visit his family, and recruited to the violent Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA, Armed Islamic Group). He was shot by French gendarmes in 1995 near Lyon.
Abd Samad Moussaoui is a teacher in a French technical school. His surname should be eerily familiar, because Abd Samad is the brother of Zacarias Moussaoui imprisoned for his part in the 9/11 hijacking. In his 2002 book The Making of a Terrorist, he describes the effect of growing up as a French teenager of Moroccan descent once the Front National made political breakthrough:
Up until that time, there had been little or no idea that so much racism existed, along with a spirit of exclusion. But when certain people, in certain French towns and cities, started announcing that they loathed foreigners, the fact was that the terms of reference had changed. ‘Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité’ no longer meant anything. We realized that there was double-speak: there was the language of official speeches, and the language of reality. And for us this had serious consequences. It wasn’t a hunch any more, it was a certainty: we weren’t French ‘like the others’. Or, worse still, we weren’t French at all.
The Moussaoui brothers suffered daily racism, and police indifference or even hostility when faced with racist attacks from whites, including fellow students and even teachers. After leaving school they faced the discrimination of a job market that was less than receptive to ‘Arabs’, no matter how qualified. Yet at the same time they did not feel themselves to be Moroccan, and their link to Islam was tenuous.
In his book Abd Samad explains how Maghrebi youth in France, fractured by this identity crisis, were fertile ground for Wahhabi extremism, and lamented the brainwashing of his brother at the hands of these preachers. This explains the radicalisation of Said and Cherif Kouachi. In 2005 the latter appeared on French television as an aspiring hip-hop star. But in the same year he also began attending Dawa mosque where he fell under the influence of a radical preacher, Farid Benyettou. From then onwards, his lifestyle changed to conform to the strictest interpretations of Islam. Benyettou organised a network to send volunteers to fight in Iraq.
From October to December 1983, inspired by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the “Marche des Beurs” asserted the rights and identity of French born Maghrebis, and was received in Paris by Mitterand himself. In 1983 SOS-Racisme was formed by Harlem Désir, Julien Dray and Didier François to tackle racism and police harassment. But by 1989 there was disenchantment with pioneer organisations such as SOS-Racisme, whose spectacular initiatives had made scant impact on society.
This was fertile ground for radical Islam, where demagogues picked up the slack left when anti-racist organisations had lost their former prestige. Islamists became the new spokesmen of the young French urban poor, and began exerting influence on local politics. These outward displays of religious symbolism and brazen religious demands clashed with the core values of the republic itself.
The French-born generation looked disparagingly upon the generational hierarchy as well as the folk culture of their parents. Giles Kepel, director of research at CNRS Paris, and professor at the Institute of Political Studies in Paris, from his 2002 book Jihad:
In this unstable context, where traditional points of reference seemed obsolete and the host society seemed impenetrably hostile, a new Islamic identity began to develop. People who had gambled on the unknown were now trying to get their bearings, especially the fragile, ill-educated, unemployed segment of the immigrant population. From the outset this group attracted the attention of the more pietist Islamic movements, which were accustomed to providing order and structure in the daily lives of the faithful through strictly codified practices. …The Tabligh had particular success in the French North African mileu, where they had never before won a foothold. For many West Africans, the strong support systems of the Mouride and Tijan brotherhoods has insulted their talibes (disciples) from the destabilizing effects of migrations – at the price of a ghetto-style home life.
But is there something in the genetics of the French state itself that causes this? Is it deeper than just racism? After all the West Indian, Vietnamese and Roma minorities suffer racism and social marginalisation and are visibly not of the designated ‘master race’. In 2004 France passed a law banning religious symbols in schools. This included turbans and Muslim headscarves. In January 2012 elderly Sikh resident Ranjit Singh gained the support of the UN Human Rights Committee on his right to wear his turban, having found the French policy disrespectful and unnecessary. But why did this not lead to a murderous rampage through Paris by Sikhs? John Gray in his 2007 book Black Mass:
Islamist movements think of violence as a means of creating a new world, and in this they belong not in the medieval past but the modern West. Talk of ‘Islamo-fascism’ obscures the larger debts of Islamism to western thought. It is not only the fascists who have believed that violence can give birth to a new society.
So did Lenin and Bakunin, and radical Islam could with equal accuracy be called Islamo-Leninism or Islamo-anarchism. However the closest affinity is with the illiberal theory of popular sovereignty expounded by Rousseau and applied by Robespierre in the French Terror, and radical Islam may be best described as Islamo-Jacobinism.
John Gray again, in his 2003 book, Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern discussing one of the major the fathers of radical Islam, Egypt’s Sayyid Qutb:
Qutb’s writings are filled with horror of the West, but he borrowed many of his writings from western sources. He was especially indebted to European anarchism. The idea of a revolutionary vanguard dedicated to bringing into being a world without rulers or rules has no precedence in Islamic thought. It is a clear borrowing from European radical ideology.
Gray echoes what Robert Worth wrote in the New York Times on 13 October 2001, with ‘The Deep Intellectual Roots of Islamic Terror’:
As Fathi Yakan, one of Qutb’s disciples, wrote in the 1960’s: ”The groundwork for the French Revolution was laid by Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu; the Communist Revolution realized plans set by Marx, Engels and Lenin. . . . The same holds true for us as well.”
The Revolution of 1789 repudiated France’s role as eldest daughter of the Catholic Church and her purely Christian identity. The Jacobins attacked the Church and instead looked to the Republic of Rome as their ideal. Rousseau became the prophet of a civic secular religion in which the new republic usurped the Church’s control over life cycles such as rituals surrounding birth, marriage and death.
In November 1793, the goddess Liberty was paraded at the Festival of Reason held in Notre Dame Cathedral. The historian Jules Michelet (1789-1874) saw French interests at one with the rest of humanity and said that France itself was a religion, intermingling various peoples and civilisations. Going to war in 1792 France claimed it was liberating oppressed neighbours.
Yet in reality fraternity was imperialist in scope, as French armies conquered more of Europe than anyone since Charlemagne. British conservative Edmund Burke had foreseen right at the outset how submission to Rousseau’s amorphous “general will” would lead to unimaginable horrors.
Inspired by Rousseau’s divination of the people, Robespierre divided the masses into two binary opposites: people and enemies. The latter were to be exterminated and indeed 50,000 people died in the Terror. This Terror was integral for social engineering to build a new society. Defying Rousseau’s general will, the dogmas of “civil religion” and the powerful “god-state” which embodies the collective sovereignty of the community leads to ostracism and indeed eventual extermination.
Far from bringing fraternity, the French Revolution easily mutated into espousal of a distinctive volk, and ideas of a master Aryan race. It was in France that Arthur de Gobineau wrote Essay on the Inequality of Human Races in 1855, asserting that whites or Aryans were the master race. Of these Germans were the purest example among whom Gobineau’s views not surprisingly found fertile soil. By the late nineteenth century, Charles Maurras, Maurice Barrès, and Edouard Drumont were standard bearers of a menacing new organic nationalism, created by the Revolution and yet opposing core republican values. Dreyfus was to be their sacrificial lamb in a French nationalism that was anti-Semitic to the core.
The effects of 1789 were felt at the very periphery of Europe as the rump of the former Ottoman Empire sought a basis for national existence as the new state of Turkey. Mustafa Kemal was known as the Great Reformer, or Inkilâpçi later to be changed to Devrimci or Reformer, as well as Ataturk (Father of the Turks). The French Revolution was his model and he was a product of the Enlightenment.
A few hours before declaring a republic and abolishing the Khilafat on 29 October 1923, Mustafa Kemal had told French writer Maurice Pernot that France had inspired the struggle for freedom throughout the world and that one needed to turn to the West in the quest for civilisation. In the same way that the Jacobin Revolutionaries had a created a French nation with enforced French language and culture, Turkish nationalists hoped to do the same in their country.
From 1880 France had rigorously suppressed regional languages and dialects through enforcement of standardised French: as opposed to Breton in the north-east, German in Alsace, Langue d’Oc in Provence, and Arabic in Algeria. This explains the savage repression of Kurdish separatism in 1925 and the denial that the Kurds, as well as Laz or Circassians even existed in a nation where there could only be Turks.
Beginning in 1923, a series of laws progressively limited the wearing of selected items of traditional clothing. Mustafa Kemal first made the hat compulsory to the civil servants. In 1934 a law was passed banning religion-based clothing, such as the veil and turban, while actively promoting western-style attire. In 1925 institutions of religious covenants and dervish lodges were declared illegal.
The reformers imagined that the elimination of the orthodox and Sufi religious establishments, along with traditional religious education, and their replacement with a system in which the original sources were available to all in the vernacular language, would pave the way for a new vision of Islam open to progress and modernity and usher in a society guided by modernity.
As well as persecuting the various Sufi brotherhoods such as the Naqshbandiyah, Kemalist Turkey closely monitored education so that only an acceptable version of Islam would be inculcated.
From the 1950s state schools for imams and preachers trained clerics to disseminate the view that Islam and secularism were compatible, but that rural traditional Islam was archaic and the diametric opposite to the values of the Turkish republic. Ironically this was to supply the basis for new Islamist politicians such as Necmettin Erbakan.
Could it be that Turkey, the Muslim majority country which espouses secularism, where Ataturk forged a new nation through the Swiss legal code and civic ideas of the French Revolution, actually finds itself in an unholy ideological parallel with that most intolerant and puritanical strain of Islam introduced by Ibn Wahhab? For both the secular reformists of Turkey and the Wahhabi Reformation of Islam, the Sufi orders and traditional Islam represented something backward, superstitious and an impediment to their respective ideas of the modern state.
This is often overlooked when trying to understand the success of political Islam in this secular state of Turkey. Radical Islam is after all in conflict with the governments of Muslim states more than the West. Indeed Salafism has more conflict and odium against local Islamic cultures such as Sufism. In all its varieties, radical Islam is intrinsically modern, western and part of the Enlightenment as much as the French Revolution. The most active recruits such as those for ISIS in Iraq and Syria and the massacre in Paris which marked the ominous beginning of 2015, are from deracinated Muslims raised in western countries like France. There are eerie parallels between the Grand Ayatollah of Iran and the ‘Legislator’, a shadowy figure from Rousseau’s thought who guides the masses from behind the scenes.
Ali Shariati came from a strict Shia family in Iran. He studied in Paris where he was influenced by exiled Algerian nationalists, and influenced by the writings of Guevara, Sartre and Fanon. Shariati introduced a revolutionary element into Shia militancy attacking the ‘reactionary’ clergy as much as the Shah. His ideas of the oppressed mostafadine were later adopted by Khomeini, but owe their origins to Shariati’s sojourn in Paris. Iran is therefore a manifestation of Rousseau’s vision with Islamic trappings.
These are important points because the French Revolution is the fons et origo of the Left and the “revolutionary tradition’. Rather than rebuilding the medieval caliphate, ISIS is actually trying to build a very modern and post-Enlightenment state. It uses this wealth to expand its popular base, providing public services and repairing damaged infrastructure in the areas it controls. Its use of social media is highly professional. Its use of terror is neither random nor impulsive. On 11 July 2014, John Gray wrote this for the BBC News online magazine:
Though al-Baghdadi constantly invokes the early history of Islam, the society he envisions has no precedent in history. …. The French Jacobins and Lenin’s Bolsheviks, the Khmer Rouge and the Red Guards all used terror as a way of cleansing humanity of what they regarded as moral corruption.
Jihadists present themselves as true to their religion, while their parents, so they argue, are mired in tradition or “culture” which is deemed backward, decadent, and superstitious. When he made his speech in July at Mosul’s Great Mosque, declaring the creation of an Islamic State with himself as its caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi quoted at length from the Pakistani thinker and founder of the Jamaat-i-Islam, Abul Ala Maududi.
Central to his thought is his understanding of the French Revolution, which he believed offered the promise of a “state founded on a set of principles” as opposed to one based upon a nation or a people. The Islamic state he envisioned would create its citizens just as the Jacobins attempted with their republic. Kevin McDonald, professor of sociology and head of the department of criminology and sociology at Middlesex University, wrote this in the Guardian of 9 September 2014:
Don’t look to the Qur’an to understand this – look to the French revolution and ultimately to the secularisation of an idea that finds its origins in European Christianity: extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation), an idea that became transformed with the birth of modern European states into extra stato nulla persona (outside the state there is no legal personhood). This idea still demonstrates extraordinary power today: it is the source of what it means to be a refugee.
If Isis’s state is profoundly modern, so too is its violence. Isis fighters do not simply kill; they seek to humiliate, as we saw last week as they herded Syrian reservists wearing only their underpants to their death. And they seek to dishonour the bodies of their victims, in particular through postmortem manipulations.
French thinker Georges Sorel (1847-1922) wrote the influential Reflexions on Violence in 1906. Beginning as a Marxist, he initiated syndicalism which is seen as the bridge between socialism and fascism. Sorel rejected inevitable and evolutionary change, emphasizing instead the importance of ‘will’ and ‘direct action’. These approaches included general strikes, boycotts, and constant disruption of capitalism with the goal being to achieve worker control over the means of production. But it is his belief in the need for a deliberately conceived “myth” that is most important It is a hypothesis which we do not judge by its closeness to a “truth”, but by the practical consequences which stem from it. Thus, whether a political myth is of some importance or not must be decided, in Sorel’s view, on the basis of its capacity to mobilize human beings into political action. In other words by its effects. Will Christ return? Irrelevant as long as it motivates the masses into action. Same with pondering if Marxism will bring about a proletarian paradise. ISIS therefore has its own core Sorellian myth to motivate. And it works.
Assisting the Jihad
Even before the Revolution the French were assisting Hyder Ali Khan and his son Tipu in India: who used French arms and military assistance to unleash terror and forcible conversion upon Hindus and others. Psychologically there had been a build up to this. Comte Henri de Boulainvilliers (1658-1722) used the doctrines of Islam to attack the Church, lauding it as a simple faith which required no need for priests, miracles or mysteries. In his tragedy Le Fanatisme ou Mahomet, Voltaire described Muhammad as an “impostor”, a “false prophet”, a “fanatic” and a “hypocrite”.
As a Deist he was against monotheism religion in general. It is Voltaire who serves as the bridge between clerical and secular anti-Semitism. But as a deist, this French Enlightenment high priest also found Islam a useful tool with which to attack the established Catholic Church. “Écrasez l’Infâme” or “Down with the Accursed One [the Church]” was an expression he often used in his private letters. In Islam, Voltaire again saw a simple doctrine. In his 1756 Essaie sur les Moeurs (Essay on the Moors) and his entry in Dictionnaire Philosophique, he found Islam to be more in line with his deist beliefs, as well as a useful tool to attack Christianity, and Catholicism in particular.
In 1789, Napoleon invaded Egypt to undermine British commerce and link up with Tipu Sultan in India to thwart British power on that subcontinent. On 1 July, aboard the ship L’Orient en route to Egypt, he wrote the following proclamation to the Muslim inhabitants of Alexandria:
People of Egypt, they have told you that I come to destroy your religion, but do not believe it; [tell them] in reply [that] I come to restore your rights, punish the usurpers and that I respect God, his prophet and the Quran more than the Mamluks.
Tell them that all men are equal before God; wisdom, talents, virtues are the only things to make one man different from another… Is there a more beautiful land? It belongs to the Mamluks. If Egypt is their farm, then they should show the lease that God gave them for it… Cadis, cheiks, imans, tchorbadjis, and notables of the nation [I ask you to] tell the people that we are true friends of Muslims. Wasn’t it us who destroyed the Knights of Malta? Wasn’t it us who destroyed the Pope who used to say that he had a duty to make war on Muslims? Wasn’t it us who have at all times been friends to the Great Lord and enemies to his enemies?
During celebrations of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, Bonaparte himself directed the military parades for the occasion, preparing for this festival in the cheik’s house wearing oriental dress and a turban. It was on this occasion that the divan granted him the title Ali-Bonaparte after the Corsican-born leader proclaimed himself “a worthy son of the Prophet” and “favourite of Allah”. Around the same time he took stern measures to protect pilgrim caravans from Egypt to Mecca, writing a letter himself to the governor of Mecca.
Tipu Sultan was instructed in military tactics by French officers in the employment of his father, Sultan Hyder Ali Khan of Mysore. Tipu sought support from the French, who had been his traditional allies, aimed at driving his main rivals, the British East India Company, out of India. In February 1798, Napoleon wrote a letter to Tipu Sultan appreciating his efforts of resisting the British annexation and plans, but this letter never reached Tipu and was seized by a British spy in Muscat. Tipu and his father used their French trained army against the Marathas, Sira, and Hindu rulers of Malabar, Kodagu, Bednore, Carnatic, and Travancore.
In 1794, with the support of French Republican officers, Tipu helped found the Jacobin Club of Mysore for ‘framing laws comfortable with the laws of the Republic’ He planted a Liberty Tree and declared himself Citizen Tipoo.The British regarded the link up of Revolutionary Jacobin forces and Islamic resistance as an extremely dangerous development. It was also dangerous for the indigenous culture of India. Thousands of Kodava Hindus were seized and held captive at Seringapatam, where they were forcibly converted to Islam. The young men were all forcibly circumcised and incorporated into the Ahmedy Corps.
French-born journalist Francois Gautier wrote further on this subject in India’s Outlook magazine, with his The Tyrant Diaries dated 15 April 2013. In the late eighteenth century Francois Ripaud from north-west France had joined the French navy and eventually settled in Mauritius. In 1797 he sailed to India where he met Tipu and offered his military assistance. Napoleon had ordered the governor of Mauritius to collaborate and Ripaud was able to sail to Mangalore with a shipload of French soldiers who were like heroes. In his diary entry of January 14, 1799, he writes:
“I’m disturbed by Tipu Sultan’s treatment of these most gentle souls, the Hindus. During the siege of Mangalore, Tipu’s soldiers daily exposed the heads of many innocent Brahmins within sight from the fort for the Zamorin and his Hindu followers to see.”
In another diary entry he is appalled at what he witnessed in Calicut (Kozhikode):
“Most of the Hindu men and women were hanged…first mothers were hanged with their children tied to their necks. That barbarian Tipu Sultan tied the naked Christians and Hindus to the legs of elephants and made the elephants move around till the bodies of the helpless victims were torn to pieces. Temples and churches were ordered to be burned down, desecrated and destroyed. Christian and Hindu women were forced to marry Mohammedans, and similarly, their men (after conversion to Islam) were forced to marry Mohammedan women. Christians who refused to be honoured with Islam were ordered to be killed by hanging immediately.”
Ripaud’s account has been corroborated by Father Bartholomew, a famous Portuguese traveller, in his memoir, Voyage to East Indies In an incredible twist of fate, both Tipu Sultan and Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte were defeated by that very same person: Sir Arthur Wellesley, who several years after defeating Tipu became the Duke of Wellington.A group of French officers numbering 124, under the Command of Michel Raymond, was also leading an army of 14,000 for Nizam Ali Khan Asaf Jah II, but they were successfully countered by British diplomatic intervention. Raymond was the French-born general in command of the Muslim ruler’s forces, and an extremely close confidant of the Nizam, affectionately known as Musa Rahim.
It was not just India. When Napoleon was defeated by the Ottoman Empire helped with England at the Siege of Acre in 1799, and at the Battle of Abukir in 1801, he did not relent. Soon however, from 1803, Napoleon went to great lengths to try to convince the Ottoman Empire to fight against Russia in the Balkans and join his anti-Russian coalition. Napoleon sent General Horace Sebastiani as envoy extraordinary, promising to help the Ottoman Empire recover lost territories.
Napoleon was of course forced out of Egypt. But the French were to have more success in Algeria, a prelude to the conquest of much of the Maghreb and Sahel region of Africa. Hussey in The French Intifada:
As France colonized the Arab world, the French government began describing itself as ‘une puissance musulmane’ (a Muslim power). As well as signalling that France would look after the interests of Catholics in Muslim countries, this meant that in the first instance that France saw itself as the protector in the Middle East of Catholics in Muslim countries, and Muslims against the encroaching Protestants of the British Empire (it was on these grounds that France extended its powers in Syria and Lebanon in the 1920s). More recently the term ‘une puissance musulmane’ has been evoked by a succession of French foreign ministers to buy goodwill in the Arab world by hinting at a shared mistrust of the United States and Israel (the French have never been afraid to invoke the spectre of anti-Semitism in their dealings with Arab states).
In the French protectorate of Tunisia in the 1920s, Tahar Haddad published Our Women in Sharia Law and in Society to argue that Islam supported the emancipation of women. As a result the ulema expelled from the University of Zitana, and the French authorities barred him from becoming a judge. It was only after independence in 1956 that Haddad was rehabilitated by that most progressive and secular of Arab leaders, Bourguiba.
Indeed he based Tunisia’s Code of Personal Status on Haddad’s very ideas. Yet France, secular France, the France that pioneered laicité, would back ‘reactionary’ Islamic clerics?
Both Catholic and Protestant churches were vociferous in their support for colonialism especially because it allowed escape from secularisation in France itself and an vast potential to convert the heathens of inferior races. For the colonial enterprise even supposedly sacrosanct republican virtues of secularism were severely compromised.
Anti-clerical politicians were in fact far from hostile to Catholic missionary organisations because they recognised the important role they played in spreading and maintaining French imperial power. No surprise then that the Algerian Revolt was launched on All Saints’ Day in 1954, when the staunchly Catholic white settler pieds noirs or colons would be celebrating their Christian martyrs.
Paradoxically when elements of anti-clericalism surfaced, they tended to help the spread of Islam by local holy men known as marabouts, and inhibit Christianity, while destroying indigenous African beliefs. Jean-Louis Triaud is a French historian, a professor emeritus of the University of Provence (Aix-Marseille I), specialist in the history of Islam and Muslim societies in Saharan and sub-Saharan. He was stationed at the universities of Abidjan (Ivory Coast) and Niamey (Niger) and Paris VII Diderot. He is a member of the Centre for the Study of African worlds. In 2000 he contributed the piece “Islam Under French Colonial Rule’ to The History of Islam in Africa. (Levtzion & Pouwels (eds.). Athens. Ohio University Press):
The colonial period played a decisive role in the history of Islam in French speaking Africa: it was the period of the greatest expansion of the Muslim presence in Africa….To the “social Darwinism” of the age, on the scale of civilizations, Islam, because it had a written culture, was considered midway between barbarism and progress. In the context of the Maghrib, what was emphasized and denounced above all was the perception that Islam blocked progress. Islam was the vector and the sign of backwardness, as compared with the industrial societies. In the context of Black Africa, the place it occupied was different and more complex. Islamic culture was judged, on the one hand, to lag behind Western civilization; but on the other, it was seen to be in advance of sub-Saharan societies designated as “fetishistic.”
He quotes Louis Faidherbe who became governor of Senegal in 1854:
The Muslim propaganda is a step toward civilization in West Africa, and it is universally recognized that, with respect to social organization, the Muslim peoples of these regions are superior to the populations that have remained fetishistic.
During his time, a Muslim court, Franco-Arab schools, and a unit of Senegalese tirailleurs (professional soldiers) were created, following the Algerian model. Faidherbe implanted the Arab tradition of the burnus in Senegal, where previously it was unknown. This hooded cloak was given to native chiefs as a sign of investiture and the power to govern. New mosques were also built. But the French policy was also marked by a fear of an Islamic menace:
The benevolent attitude toward Islam by Faidherbe and others was thus accompanied by a clear demarcation, following the Algerian model, between “good” and the “bad” brotherhoods. This favorable predisposition, selective as it was, and determined partly by vested interests, never commanded the support of all the agents of French colonialism. In particular, it was not shared by some members of the army, hostile to a policy favoring the Muslims, in the Sudan at that time. However, the support given by the notables of Saint-Louis and by Shaykh Sidiyya Baba and Shaykh Saad Buh in the conquest north of the Senegal River lent weight to this pro-Islamic orientation. Coppolani (1902-5) conducted a systematic policy in Mauritania of using religious figures as a network of domination. Here, however, as in Senegal, and in contrast to Algeria, the Qadiriyya and the Tijaniyya were cast in reverse roles. In contrast to Algeria, it was the Tijaniyya who were known for their intolerance and the Qadiriyya were seen as decked out in all the virtues.
The growth of colonial towns such as Dakar, forced labour, military conscription, cash crop economies, rail and road links, and associated social dislocation helped not only to spread Islam but ‘modernise’ it through standardisation against local practices in line with the French emphasis on political centralisation. Professor Charles Evans teaches history at Northern Virginia Community College, while Professor Brice Montaner is an adjunct instructor of history at the Loudoun campus of Northern Virginia Community College and has studied the French colonial experience in West Africa. In their joint blog the article “Islam and West Africa” describes the Islamisation process between 1900 and 1930:
Already acquainted with Islam through the colonization of Algeria, the French that came into contact with West African population had a tendency to consider African traditional societies as primitive. Muslims, on the other hand were considered as more civilized as they used writing and their religion was also more akin to Christianity than animism. Therefore, up until World War I the French authorities gave Islam the means to spread quickly throughout West Africa. Because of the experience of dealing with Muslims in Algeria, the French widely used Muslims in their administration in order to fill in the positions of clerks, schoolmasters or interpreters. Muslim law was even used to judge indigenous matters in total disregard for the traditions of the local populations. Muslims thus became the privileged intermediaries in dealing with local populations. This situation benefitted the spread of Islam throughout West Africa, but the French authorities remained vigilant and made sure to promote an Islam that would support the French administration.
Algeria had been brutally conquered by France using a scorched earth policy. The visit in 1865 by Napoleon III claiming to be emperor of the Arabs as much as the French, did not alleviate the systematic discrimination and apartheid which the natives were subjected to by the authorities and even more racist white settlers. Yet while it was busy using ‘rule of the sabre’ in Algeria, France competed with Britain in the Middle East, and saw the latter’s support of Zionism as posing a threat to its power over Christian holy places in the Levant.
Hence a France that was shedding its Catholic past in favour of an ultrasecular laicism, nevertheless mobilised Middle Eastern Christians in areas such as Lebanon for a burgeoning Arab identity under Gallic patronage. In Algeria, settler colons lynched Jews claiming that they were protecting native Arabs from their exploitation. Arabism was thus born as a united Christian-Muslim front against Britain and Zionism, nourished by French antisemitism. It was this ‘secular’ Arab nationalism which led to founding of the Ba’ath by Syria’s Michel Aflaq. It is former Ba’athists ousted from power along with Saddam Hussein who now form an important chunk in the leadership of ISIS and its caliphate.
In a brutal war which cost the lives of one million Algerians and saw the almost complete expulsion of embittered colons from the land of their birth, 1962 also saw independence marked by Algerians also having to flee this country. The harkis, Muslims who had collaborated with and even fought for France, were hunted down and slaughtered by the victorious FLN.
In France they had once been hailed as examples of integration par excellence. By cruel irony they now suffered racism, social ostracism and political contempt by the white French majority as they were ghettoised in former internment camps, kept in deliberate isolation from the host society which regarded them as an embarrassment best forgotten.
De Gaulle feared an alliance between the harkis and the rebel group OAS which wanted to keep Algeria French. Only in 2002 did Sarkozy acknowledge responsibility for their abandonment. But De Gaulle’s seeming abandonment of French Algeria was part of a wider strategy to cultivate support from Arab states against what he saw as France’s traditional Anglo-Saxon peril: Britain and America. It was also help strengthen La Francophonie, that block of former colonies that continued to pay homage to the French state, which in turn returned the favour through largesse via the mechanism of supporting brutal dictators such as Bokassa and Mobutu, as well arming the Rwandan army and militias to massacre Tutsis in 1994. Bat Ye’or in her 2002 book, Islam and Dhimmitude:
France continued to pursue its colonial Muslim dream – both protective and paternalistic – after decolonization. Thus, after 1962, France supported the most radical ideologies – Nasserism, the Ba’ath party in Syria and Iraq, the PLO, and the Front de Liberation Nationale (Algeria) – which claimed to be secular but whose secularity lay in the Christian defense of Islamic interests, For Arab Islam was never secular, neither pro-French, nor pro-Western. France bowed to the directives of the Arab League, with the boycott of Israel; it opposed the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979 and conferred a status of respectability on the PLO.
The Algerian war had made France unpopular in the Muslim world. This was compounded by that country’s alliance with Britain and Israel in the Suez War against Nasser’s Egypt in 1956. De Gaulle however realigned his nation in a bid to break free from Anglo-American domination of NATO and the western world. France wanted to be steer a course independent of the USA and USSR. Granting independence to Algeria in 1962 allowed De Gaulle to help in this outreach to the Arab nations, as well as retaining colonial-style power throughout Africa as part of a revamped Francophonie. He wanted to replace the costly maintenance of Algeria with a new axis forged with the Arab states.
As such he refused for the Mufti Haj Amin al-Husayni be judged at Nuremberg along with other Nazi war criminals. Al-Husayni reciprocated the favour by pleading for a Franco-Arab alliance to oppose the Anglosphere and Zionism. Al-Husayni had been captured by the French in 1945 while attempting to seek asylum in Switzerland. The French authorities expected an improvement in France’s status in the Arab world through his intermediaries and accorded him, benefits and privileges.
The Mufti remained in France for a year, persuading them that the Arabs would cooperate with them more than the British in the Levant region. France denied British requests that he be extradited to stand trial, despite the fact that he was on the list of Nazi war criminals.
France also refused to extradite him to Yugoslavia where the government wanted to prosecute him for the massacres of Serbs. On 29 May 1946, after an influential Moroccan had organized his escape, and the French police had suspended their surveillance, al-Husayni left France for Cairo using travel papers supplied by a Syrian politician who was close to the Muslim brotherhood. On 12 August 1947, al-Husayni wrote to French Foreign Minister Georges Bidault, thanking France for its hospitality and suggesting that France continue this policy to increase its prestige in the eyes of all Muslims. In September, a delegation of the Arab Higher Committee went to Paris and proposed that Arabs would adopt a neutral position on the French North African question in exchange of France’s support in the Arab position on Palestine.
De Gaulle saw himself as a spokesman for the Third World in international arenas, including criticising America for its involvement in Vietnam – formerly French, and where France tried to keep control with the help of American arms. In the Six Day War, France favoured the Arab countries and dropped support for Israel. This became more pronounced after the 1973 war between Israel and its Arab neighbours, which led to the oil crisis, and oil producing Arab states using this economic muscle to beat the EEC into submission. France led the EEC in developing this European-Arab Dialogue (EAD) to show solidarity with the Islamic world. Bat Ye’or described this process in her aptly named book, Eurabia:
On the international level, the associative policy of the Euro-Arab Dialogue has led the EU to defend Muslim causes, and particularly the Palestinians at every opportunity. The huge sums that the EU pays to Arab Mediterranean countries and the Palestinians amount to another tribute exacted for its security within the dar al-harb by opting for appeasement and collusion with international terrorism – while blaming the increased world tension on Israel and America so as to preserve its dar al sulh position of subordination and collaboration, if not surrender, to the Islamists.
The Arab side never ceases to remind their European vassals of the inferiority of their culture and civilisation vis-à-vis Islam. For this reason European governments ignored the deliberate persecution of Christians in the Middle East, such as the annihilation of Maronites in Lebanon by Arafat’s militia, after he was expelled from Jordan: Black September 1970 when King Hussein’s mercenary general Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan committed a wholesale massacre of Palestinians.
The ‘Eurocrats’ feigned fighting terrorism, yet all the while flattering its sponsors and attributing its causes to poverty and injustice of Yankee and Zionist imperialism. These tensions surfaced during 9/11 which was blamed on American arrogance, and the 2003 Iraq invasion. By this method, radical Islam firmly entrenched itself into Europe.
1979 was the year when France excelled itself in supporting the forces of radical Islam which now play havoc on its very streets. Having afforded sanctuary to the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, the supposed fountainhead of liberty did for Iran what the Kaiser’s Germany did for Russia when it sent Lenin in that sealed train to entrench his totalitarian nightmare and unleash genocide on millions. Khomeini used French state naivety to engage the Western media and broadcast calls for revolution.
Their approach backfired however, for after reaching power, Khomeini sponsored terrorism on French soil: notably the wave of bombings in Paris in 1986, which killed eleven and wounded 275 and the 1991 assassination of Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last premier under the shah.
France has remained a major importer of Iranian oil, and its companies retain a presence in the country: Alstom (energy), Legrand (electrical installations), Société Générale (finance), and the car industry with locally produced models.
In this same year France had become the biggest arms supplier to Khomeini’s arch enemy, Saudi Arabia. That kingdom as now in crisis after Islamic radicals even more extreme than the ones in power seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca under the direction of Juhayman al-Otaybi.
With Saudis themselves unable to break the siege, Prince Turki approached Count Claude Alexandre de Marenches, head of French secret services: SDECE. Finding the Saudis completely impossible to train in the most basic counter-terrorism strategy, the French commando units underwent a quick formal conversion to Islam in order to enter Mecca and liquidate Juhayman al-Otaybi and his disciples.
France has maintained a very ambiguous stance on radical Islamic terrorism. In their speeches, French leaders constantly reaffirm their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms. Nevertheless, France has contributed money and weapons to the terrorist groups in northern Syria in order to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Assad. President François Hollande himself recently acknowledged that France has armed the “rebels” fighting the Syrian army.
The same operation had previously been carried out in Libya. France encouraged armed militias to fight the regime of Muammar al Gaddafi before bombarding the country, which has now turned into a sanctuary for international terrorism. France has allied with Gulf regimes sponsoring extremism and terrorism, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
During the Cold war, France considered Pakistan as “state deserving attention”, and had been a major foreign supplier of Pakistan Armed Forces. In 1967, France sold first batch of its Mirage fighters as well as sold the submarine technology to Pakistan. The PAF bought second-hand batch of Mirage fighters in 1990; followed by a contract signing in 1996 for the acquisition of 40 reconnaissance aircraft. It remains the largest customer of France’s aerospace industry with numbers of fighter and civilian aircraft having being sold to Pakistan since 1967 till the 2000s. In 2009, France agreed to provide financial capital to expand the use of nuclear power in Pakistan, which the officials at Islamabad termed it as “significant move”.
In 2011, India’s Defence Minister A.K. Antony conveyed New Delhi’s disquiet over the sale of military hardware by France to Pakistan in the name of fighting terror. After all Pakistan has not only gone to war with India three times since its inception, but is the epicentre of global jihad. What France felt in January 2015 with the jihadi attack, India faces on a daily basis in Kashmir, as well as more specific flashpoints such as the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, which was of course launched from Pakistan itself. Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab was a member of the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba based in Lahore, and which had long waged jihad in Kashmir.
No surprise then that French policies combined with sectarian propaganda from their Wahhabi allies have actually encouraged hundreds of French and other European young people to go and fight in Syria. In an ominous twist, two of the terrorists who carried out the attack against Charlie Hebdo, Said and Cherif Kouachi had recently come from Syria where they had reportedly gained combat experience.
In August 2014 Hollande confirmed that France had delivered weapons to rebels battling the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. In 2012 the Guardian reported that France had emerged as the most prominent backer of Syria’s armed opposition and was directly funding rebel groups around Aleppo. The French newspaper Le Figaro reported that French military advisers had recently met with rebel groups inside Syria, in an area between Lebanon and Damascus. It was western support for anti-Assad rebels which helped to make ISIS such a powerful force in the region. In March 2012 thirteen French officers were captured by the Syrian Army, according to Lebanon’s Daily Star newspaper.
In February of that year a general in the opposition Free Syria Army told journalists that the rebels have received French and American military assistance. Hafsa Kara-Mustapha, a journalist and Middle East expert, said in an interview with Press TV from London that the attacks were a direct result of France’s support for terrorist groups fighting the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad: The French are supporting and funding terrorists in Syria. Further to the recent jihadi attacks on French soil:This is very much consequences of various policies adopted by France.
Commenting on the ongoing turmoil in Libya, she noted that the wrong French policies toward the North African country have turned the region into “a safe haven for terrorists.”
French Islamist Revolution
Hosting Khomeini on French soil was perhaps a portent of things to come. On 12 January 2015, RT reported Prime Minister Manuel Valls as warning:
France, Germany, and the UK account for the largest number of citizens from European countries fighting alongside militants in Syria, according to a report from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) in 2014.
A year ago two teenagers from Toulouse in France travelled to Syria to become al Qaeda fighters, the youngest ever Westerners to engage in the conflict. Two other young men from Toulouse, Nicolas Bons, 30 and his 22 year old half-brother Jean-Daniel both of whom converted to Islam three years prior to being killed in the Syrian civil war in 2013. According to France 24 News, France, along with Belgium, has seen the largest numbers of volunteers leaving to join the Islamic State jihadist group, which has seized large parts of Syria and Iraq.
In the 2005 urban riots, the role of Islamist groups was downplayed by the media. They were blamed on endemic crime, deprivation and poverty, for which the banlieus had become notorious. Yet back in the 1930s, these sink estates had actually represented aspirations of working-class hope and future optimism.
However for Louis-Ferdinand Céline, who hated Sartre, they were a living hell as he blamed the poverty of the banlieus on the Jews:
…half-negroid, half-Asiatic, mongrel pastiches of the human race whose only aim is to destroy France!
Ironically Céline, with his depictions of working-class life and vulgar colloquialism, is now inspiration for rap artists from the very people whom he downgraded as racially subhuman. Anti-Semitism is as much part of French ghetto slang and culture as English football and American hip-hop for those who feel alienated from France, and overlaps with Islamist fervour.
It was comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala who invented the quenelle, a Nazi style salute, and whose jokes descend into vulgar antisemitism. Dieudonne is himself of part-Cameroonian background was initially active on the anti-racist left. He has frequently appeared together with the conspiracy theorist Thierry Meyssan and the former Marxist and current right-wing radical Alain Soral, a confidant of Marine and Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Demonstrating shoulder to shoulder with Islamists, he also travelled at the end of August 2006 with Châtillon, Meyssan and Soral in Lebanon, to meet MPs and Hezbollah terrorists. On 29 January 2009, he celebrated the 80th birthday of Holocaust denier Professor Robert Faurisson in his theatre, in the midst of a representative gathering of Holocaust deniers, right-wing radicals, and radical Shiites. This bizarre wielding of the anti-Jewish weapon by the descendants of both former colonial subjects and their masters is cleared somewhat by Damian Thompson in The Telegraph article, What North African anti-Semites learned from the French:
Anti-Semitism thrives in the banlieues, says Hussey: young people’s chatter is full of references to sale juif, sale yid, sale feuj (backslang), even youtre, an old slang word derived from the German Jude that carries overtones of the deportations of Vichy…..This historical context is worth bearing in mind when we consider the murder in 2006 of Ilan Halami, a 23-year-old Jewish mobile phone salesman who was found tied to a tree, dying of burns and other mutilations. Residents of the Parisian banlieue where he was tortured heard his screams and did nothing; his murder was celebrated in a community where Muslim rappers base their lyrics on the novelist Céline, a Nazi collaborator. This is Dieudonné’s audience.
In January 2006 Halami was kidnapped by gang aptly called the Barbarians, led by Youssof Fofana, who was the son of African immigrants from Ivory Coast. On raiding his home the police found a stash of Nazi and anti-Semitic material from Islamist websites.
If this seems from the realms of fantasy then it merely reflects the changing reality of France. In the past French converts to Islam were intellectual dandies such as René Guénon and Louis Musignon. Now there is a new wave of working-class whites converting to Islam, notably professional football player Franck Ribéry who has played for Bayern Munich. Following his conversion, he adopted the name Bilal Yusuf Mohammed. Hussey in French Intifada:
This phenomenon is not so rare as it sounds, particularly in the north of France, where the white working-class often feel closer to their Muslim neighbours than they do to the metropolitan elites elsewhere in France. It is easy to see how a young lad like Ribéry, whose mates are mainly Muslim, could fall in with the culture, in the same way that he fell in love with hip-hop, Nike and football. Above all, it is a conscious rejection by the white working-class of the ‘universalist’ France which has left the banlieus behind.
On 24 October 2014 the Telegraph reported that Front National councillor, Maxence Buttey, not only converted to Islam but urged fellow party members to follow his example. Mr Buttey, a councillor in the eastern Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, said the Front National and Islam had much in common.
“Both are demonised and very far from the image portrayed in the media. Like Islam, the FN defends the weakest. The party denounces exorbitant interest rates charged on the debt of our country, and Islam is against the practice of usury.”
He was expelled from the party. But then Jean-Marie Le Pen has himself courted the Muslim vote. He shared their views on Israel, defended Saddam Hussein as a great Arab patriot, and opposed both Gulf wars.
Admittedly this would not be far off mainstream politics, considering how France supported the Iraqi dictator over many years, and Chirac regarded him as a close friend, even supplying Iraq with nuclear reactors. Chirac opposed the coalition invasion of Iraq, and indeed continued to supply and arm Saddam Hussein’s regime .
A May 2004 Zogby survey conducted in six Arab countries, found him at the top of the list of world leaders in Egypt, Lebanon, and Morocco, and third in Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. As Yasser Arafat’s health Chirac ensured that French taxpayers footed the expense not only for Arafat’s transportation but also for that of his entire entourage, with Palestinian officials put up in a five-star hotel at government expense. Chirac also embraced Hezbollah and its allies, the dictatorship of Syria’s Hafez al-Assad. In Ocober 2002 Chriac even invited its leader Nasrallah to the Francophone summit in Beirut.
In April 2005, Nasrallah published a commentary in the Beirut daily As-Safir in which he welcomed a French role in Lebanese reconciliation and declared that the “Lebanese do not like to see France held hostage to the savage and aggressive American hegemony.”.
Guitta warned that Chirac was playing a dangerous game, by trying to appease rogue states in order to offset imposition of extreme laicité with bans on hijabs and the niqab in France itself, which alienated not just 5 million French Muslims, but also many Islamic countries. Yet even the Front National was not above this. In 2012 Marine Le Pen praised the harkis as the ideal Muslim minority in France.
This flirtation of French fascism with its Muslim brotherhood goes back much further. In June 1933 millionaire perfumer François Coty established the French ultranationalist Solidarité Française with Jean Renaud as its leader. In its attacks on foreigners, Jews and Marxists, the SF recruited Maghrebi Arab colonial subjects resident in Paris to the cause of French nationalism and national socialism. Koenraad Elst in Negationism in Indian History (1992):
The leader of the French anti-immigrant party Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen, had pleaded against French participation in the war against Saddam Hussain, and has on the whole been cultivating good relations with the Arab world. He thinks this is necessary in order to make a civilized deal with the source countries of most French immigrants, to make them take these immigrants back.
Finally, hard rightist had always felt more at home with straightforward, regimented Islam than for instance with the “haggling Jewish money-lenders” or the anarchic, unfathomable polytheists in the colonies: in sub-Saharan Africa, the colonial powers used to actively support the spread of Islam.
Conversions to marry have long been common enough in France, but a growing number of young people are now see embracing Islam as a better means of socially integrated in neighbourhoods where this faith is dominant. French rapper Diam won best French act at the 2006 MTV Europe Music Awards for her album Dans Ma Bulle, as well as several other awards. In 2012 she converted to Islam and donned the hijab. Michel Gurfinkiel, editor in chief of Valeurs Actuelles, France’s leading conservative weekly newsmagazine, wrote Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger in March 1997, in the Middle East Quarterly:
Some fifty thousand French Muslims are said to be converts of non-Muslim origin. Their numbers include well-known intellectuals and artists, including Maurice Bejart, the world-famous choreographer who has settled for a low-profile brand of Sufism; and Roger Garaudy, a former communist philosopher who is leader of the Spain-based International Islamic Center.
Quite a few converts have achieved positions of leadership within Islamic circles: Daniel-Youssouf Leclerc, the leader of the strictly orthodox Sunni group Integrite and the only European-born member of the World Islamic League’s High Council; Ali-Didier Bourg, the founder of the Islamic University in Paris (a part-time seminary rather than a university but still very influential); and Jacques-Yacoub Roty, who was rumored in the early 1990s to be the next head of the Great Mosque.
In 2014 famed French author Michel Houellebecq wrote “Submission”, which envisions a France ruled by a Muslim government. But is this just due to Muslim immigration and the weakness of an ultra-secular state in the face of an Islamic onslaught as has so often been portrayed?
Until the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Islam in Europe was seen as a conservative force, a counter to radicalism, revolution and communism. From 1975 to 1978 France was hit by strikes from migrant workers. Hence the state itself encouraged the opening of workplace Islamic prayer rooms. Islam was seen as a bulwark against the Left. Tabligh and the Saudi sponsored Muslim World League seized the opportunity. The latter especially opened offices across Europe and financed the building of mosques. The Saudi-backed Salafi groups were favoured by western governments because Khomeini’s seizure of power transformed their view of Islam overnight into a menacing revolutionary movement.
The radicals exploited the ground prepared for them by the antiracist groups who had now lost their prestige. Islamists now became spokesmen of the young urban poor. Europe became dar el-ahd, a domain of contractual peace where demands could be made for sharia law and exertion in local politics. Using the “affair of the veil” which broke out in 1989, the Islamists gained a foothold in the banlieus.
Wearing the veil was portrayed in terms of freedom of expression and leading roles in this campaign was given to young French Muslim girls.
Meanwhile Islam gave communal solidarity in situations where Muslims had been pushed to the social margins of unemployment and crime. But this Islamic identity also looked outward with dawah to convert the infidels in the host community. Protests and campaigns by UOIF (Union des organisations islamiques de France) were funded by the Saudis. In the clash with a state wedded to secularism, it was demanded that sharia take precedence.
One recent survey by the French Institute, CPDSI, found that 90% of those who adopted radical Islamic beliefs had French grandparents, and that 80% came from atheist families. Most of it happens on social media, not mosques. On 6 November 2014, Julia Amalia Heyer wrote The Lost Children: France Takes Stock of Growing Jihadist Problem, in Germany’s Spiegel:
There are believed to be about 1,000 French citizens in Iraq and Syria, or en route to those countries, more than from any other European nation. Entire families have joined jihadist movements, including about 100 young French women. Many have already been married off to fighters in the Turkish-Syrian border region. Once a girl is married and pregnant, it becomes more difficult for her to flee. The terrorist groups that are targeting France in their recruitment efforts include Islamic State and Syria’s Al-Nusra Front.
Anthropologist Dounia Bouzar said that radicalisation used to be limited to the poor and the uneducated. Immigrants from Muslim backgrounds were usually the jihadi recruits. But now three-quarters of them come from atheist families, and almost all are from the middle class, with some coming from upper-class families, the children of teachers, civil servants and doctors. Bouzar is even familiar with a case involving an elite female university student. It also appears that more and more girls and young women are fantasizing about jihad. In her research, Bouzar discovered that the French-speaking unit of the Al-Nusra Front actually employs headhunters to recruit young talent.
The legacy of Rousseau has long moved out of the artistic enclaves of the Left bank of Paris, to make bohemianism the mainstream. Prosperity has been taken for granted. In this sphere dogmatic rules, moral boundaries and ‘materialism’ were seen as soulless and alienating. They rebelled by defecting to the ideas of Rousseau and concepts such as ‘authenticity’ which overturned long-held moral precepts. This social anarchy only became entrenched as that generation grew up and themselves reproduced. How can you rebel against rebellion? Into this vacuum steps other ideas which give direction and purpose, allowing the self to be ‘different’ and ‘authentic’ in their Generation X identity. In other words Rousseau has paved the way for jihadi recruitment.
It is often forgotten is how much French intellectuals have actively contributed to the ideology of radical Islam. In these cases this is not some reworking of ideas far removed from their intended purpose such as those of Rousseau or Voltaire. Andrew Hussey describes his encounter with a nightmare world in French Intifada:
By 1984 I was studying Lettres Modernes at Lyon 3. It was there that I began to understand the true nature of the city’s right-wing culture. I had started my studies in the French Department of Manchester University and was a reasonably typical product of the NME-reading, Smiths-fan, leftist culture of the day. Lyon 3 was like a trip through the looking glass; here it was the norm to be ultra right wing, even to the point of expressing open contempt for blacks, Arabs and Jews, who were hardly visible in the student body. I was stunned.
Back in 1982 however, Roger Garaudy was the exception when he converted to Islam. A former French Resistance fighter and prisoner-of-war under the German occupation, after the war Garaudy joined the Communist Party to become its deputy speaker, senator and becoming one of the party’s most prominent intellectuals. In 1970, Garaudy was expelled from the Communist Party following his outspoken criticism of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.
He was put on trial and jailed for his 1996 book The Founding Myths of Modern Israel which violated French laws prohibiting denial of the Holocaust, which he claimed was a fabrication to justify the creation of Israel.
Garaudy was fined 240,000 francs but was hailed in the Muslim world and received substantial financial, political and public support. Sheikha Zayed ibn Sultan Al-Nahayan donated $50,000 for his legal defence. In Iran 160 members of parliament signed a petition in his support, while senior Iranian officials invited him to Tehran and received him warmly. Iran condemned Israel and the West for bringing Garaudy to trial.
Its Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei cited Garaudy for his work in exposing the Zionists’ “Nazi-like behaviour”. President Mohammad Khatami described him as “a thinker” and “a believer” who was brought to trial merely for publishing research which was “displeasing to the West.”
In June 1999, Jordanian intellectuals named Garaudy “the most important international cultural personality of the 20th century.” Former Syrian vice-president Abdul-Halim Khaddam called Garaudy “the greatest contemporary Western philosopher.” Muammar al-Gaddafi stated that Garaudy is “Europe’s greater philosopher since Plato and Aristotle.” The Frenchman was a co-winner of the King Faisal International Prize for Services to Islam in 1986.In February 2006, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah described Garaudy as “a great French philosopher” and praised him for exposing “alleged Jewish Holocaust in Germany” stating that Garaudy “proved that this Holocaust is a myth.” He reportedly sent a videotaped message supporting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s view that Israel should cease to exist.
Following his death in June 2012, Garaudy subsequently received praise from Adam Yousef in the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida, Iran’s Fars News Agency, the Arab Writers Union in Syria, Tunisian writer Tawfiq Al-Madina in the Syrian daily Al-Thawral, and Fares Al-Wabasha, a columnist for the Jordanian daily Al-Dustour, for his work against Zionism and the myth of the Holocaust. Denis MacShane, Labour MP, in his 2008 book Globalising Hatred:
Roger Garaudy was a leading French Communist after 1945 who was in the forefront of ideological attacks against Stalin’s opponents Like many he left the faith of the ‘God that failed’, but over the years he found a new cause – that of attacking Jews. In 1998, he was condemned by a French court for writing lies about the Holocaust. But as France rejected him, the Arab world has embraced him. Egypt’s most important Muslim cleric, Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, heads the Al-Azhar mosque and as such is seen as one of the highest authorities in Sunni Islam. In February 2007, he rolled out the red carpet for a visit by Garaudy to Cairo.
Garaudy introduced an important intellectual element into radical Islam with Holocaust denial. Holocaust denial is sponsored by the governments of Iran, Syria, Egypt, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority. It is mainstream thinking and academia in many Muslim countries. But its origins lie in 1960s France with former Resistance fighter and inmate of Buchenwald, Paul Rassinierm who claimed that there was never a policy of extermination by Nazi Germany. From the late 1970s Professor Robert Faurisson of the University of Lyon was writing columns in Le Monde which also cast doubt on the validity of the Holocaust. These négationistes became heavily entrenched at Faurrison’s institute, which by the 1990s was known as the world capital of negationism. In March 2001, Faurisson wrote the following as part of his speech for the Beirut Conference on Revisionism and Zionism:
In 1991, Faurisson was removed from his university chair on the basis of his views under the Gayssot Act which outlawed Holocaust denial. However he continued to broadcast his theories into France, courtesy of Iran’s state-owned channel, Sahar 1. On 11 and 12 December 2011, Iran hosted The International Conference to Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust.The conference was widely described as a “Holocaust denial conference” or a “meeting of Holocaust deniers”. Roger Garaudy was unable to attend the conference for health reasons. However, he reportedly sent a videotaped message supporting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s view that Israel should cease to exist. Faurrison did attend as guest of the Iranian government, as did former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Michel Foucault (1926-84) was a French historian, philosopher, and activist, one of the most influential intellectual figures whose works have had an enormous impact on various fields in the humanities and the social sciences. In October 1978 Foucault was enthusiastic about revolutionary stirrings in Iran and its “political spirituality”. Even after the murderous tyranny became evident after Khomeini’s seizure of power, Foucault remained unrepentant.
His articles expressed awe of Khomeini’s Islamist movement, for which he was widely criticised in the French press, including by Iranian liberal dissidents. Foucault’s response was that Islamism was to become a major political force in the region, and that the West must treat it with respect rather than hostility.
The accusation of blood libel is rampant in the Arab world. Yet its origins are from Medieval Europe when Jews were accused of using the blood of Christian children to make matzos. Now this twisted mythology made it onto prime time Egyptian television. The link again is France.
On February 5, 1840, Capuchin Father Thomas, a French citizen originally from Sardinia, and the superior of a Franciscan convent at Damascus disappeared together with his Muslim servant Ibrahim ʿAmāra. The Capuchins immediately circulated news that Jews had murdered both men in order to use their blood for Passover. Now the Catholics in Syria were officially under French protection. Hence the consul, Ulysse de Ratti-Menton, allied himself with the accusers and supervised the investigation jointly with the governor-general Sherif Padia using torture in the process.
The arrest of Jews in Damascus elicited outrage from the community across Europe and America. Ratti-Menton had the support of his government in making these accusations. While raping Algeria, France claimed to be the protector of Christians and Muslims in the Levant against the Jewish peril. What began as geopolitical rivalry with Britain for influence in the Middle East, resulted in introducing a new anti-Semitic myth into Muslim countries: for both Arab nationalism and radical Islam.
Then between 1897 and 1898, an anonymous writer in France produced that most notorious of conspiratorial forgeries, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It was incorporated into the embryonic Arab nationalism by the Latin Catholic native of Lebanon, Negib Azoury. In 1905 in Paris he published Awakening of the Arab Nation, or Le Réveil de la Nation Arabe. Azoury had studied in Paris and thereafter lived there from 1904 to 1908. His writings spoke of the Jewish threat, which was imparted to both ‘secular’ nationalism and by osmosis into the modernised mechanism of political Islam, in which it has become firmly entrenched.
Freedom of Speech?
The Gayssot Act of 1990, named after the Communist deputy Jean-Claude Gayssot who sponsored it, made it an offence to deny the Holocaust. This is something which has been constantly brought up by Iran’s Press TV in the light of marches to defend Charlie Hebdo magazine’s freedom of speech, and indeed freedom of expression in general. But in 1961 France banned Les Damnés de Terre (The Wretched of the Earth) by Martinique-born FLN sympathiser, Franz Fanon. The book has now become a classic, as has Battle of Algiers by Italian director Gillo Pontecorvo.
A subject of socio-political controversy, the film wasn’t screened for five years in France, where it was later released in 1971. Many in France felt the film was too sympathetic to the Algerian view. Threats from fascist groups prevented screenings of the film for four years despite Pontecorvo’s attempt to make a politically neutral film.
Historian Madeleine Rebérioux came from a family of wartime Resistance fighters and concentration camp deportees, warned of the consequences of the Gayssot law. She warned how it would suppress historical truth and was proven correct. In 1995 a French court condemned Anglo-American historian Bernard Lewis for refusing to call the massacre of Armenians in 1915 as a ‘genocide’.
In 2001 France passed a law recognising that the Ottoman Empire had indeed been guilty of genocide against Armenians. In 2006 the National Assembly attempted to make it law that denial of this genocide would result in imprisonment and hefty fines. In 2001 the slave trade was defined as a “crime against humanity”. In 2005 legislation mandated that teachers stress the “positive role” of French rule in the Maghreb
France had not hesitated to use censorship to silence lawyer Jacques Vergès who earned earned fame and notoriety by defending anticolonial freedom fighters, as well as war criminals and terrorists. He was a supporter of the Algerian armed independence struggle against France, comparing it to French armed resistance to the German occupation. Vergès became a nationally-known figure following his defence of the anti-French Algerian guerrilla Djamila Bouhired on terrorism charges. He later converted to Islam and married her.
She was sentenced to death but pardoned and freed following public pressure brought on by Vergès’ efforts. In an effort to limit Vergès’ success at defending Algerian clients, he was sentenced to two months in jail in 1960 and temporarily lost his licence to officially practice law for anti-state activities. Vergès later defended George Ibrahim Abdullah of the PLFP, Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, Roger Garaudy, international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos the Jackal), and Khieu Samphan former Khmer Rouge head of state. Reprehensible to many sensitivities, but again that begs the question that where are the limits of freedom of speech?
But then who needs censorship when you have an effective kulturkampf (cultural war) which shapes our views? The parents of Maxime Rodinson (1915-2004) had perished in Auschwitz. They had been secular Polish Jews who had settled in France as refuges. From 1967 he supported the Palestinian struggle against Israel, and created the Groupe de Recherches et d’Actions pour la Palestine with his colleague Jacques Berque.
However when he published “Muhammad” in 1961, a biography of the Prophet’s life written from a sociological point of view, it was banned in parts of the Arab world. In 1968 Rodinson bemoaned how study of Islam was degenerating into unscholarly apologetics.
Jacques Ellul (1912-94) was a French philosopher, law professor, sociologist, lay theologian, and Christian anarchist.In his preface to Bat Ye’or’s English version of the book The Dhimmi, Ellul wrote in 1983:
The moment one broaches a problem related to Islam, one touches upon a subject where strong feelings are easily aroused. In France it is no longer acceptable to criticize Islam or the Arab countries.
Nevertheless, the planned and sinister executions against staff of the Charlie Hebdo magazine by French-born jihadists has eerie echoes of events in Paris over six decades ago, shown in Hors La Loi (Outside the Law), a 2010 film by French-Algerian director Rachid Bouchareb, which was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. It is the subject of the film Caché starring Juliette Binoche which premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and received three prizes.Curfews, arrests and internment controlled the lives of Algerian immigrants while war raged in their home country.
This culminated on 17 October 1961 with the brutal suppression of thousands of Algerians on the streets of Paris itself marching in solidarity with the FLN. The massacre was executed under direction of the Prefect of Paris police, the former administrator in the Nazi collaborationist regime of Vichy, Maurice Papon.
At least two hundred Algerians were murdered and the facts were suppressed. Indeed even with official admission of excessive police violence February 1999 under Jospin, France kept the exact numbers of casualties under wraps. Daily raids against Algerians, which frequently ensnared any Maghrebis (Moroccans or Tunisians), and even Spanish or Italian immigrants, led to arrests at work or in the streets and summary execution thrown into the Seine with their hands tied in order to drown them.
On 5 October 1961, the prefecture of police announced in a press statement the introduction of a curfew from 8.30 p.m. to 5.30 a.m. in Paris and its suburbs for “Algerian Muslim workers”, “French Muslims” and “French Muslims of Algeria”. The French Federation of the FLN then called upon the whole of the Algerian population in Paris, men, women and children, to demonstrate against the curfew, widely regarded as a racist administrative measure, on 17 October 1961. According to historian Jean-Luc Einaudi, the head of the police, Maurice Papon, had 7,000 policemen, 1,400 CRS and gendarmes mobiles (riot police) to block this demonstration.
Police raids were carried out all over the city. 11,000 persons were arrested, and transported by RATP bus to the Parc des Expositions and other internment centres used under the Nazi collaborationist Vichy regime which Papon had so faithfully served.
Despite these raids, 4,000 to 5,000 people succeeded in demonstrating peacefully on the Grands Boulevards from République to Opéra. Police then opened fire, but covered up the massacre.
As for Papon he kept his Nazi past hidden until 1981, and escaped trial until 1997 at the age of eighty-seven. He was convicted for crimes against humanity. This was not for the massacre of Algerians but the deportation of 1500 Jews including 200 children during his tenure as senior bureaucrat in Bourdeaux from 1942 to 1944. He was found guilty on 2 April 1998.
On the other hand Papon’s collaborationist career coincided with a time when notable Muslim subjects of France saved Jews from the extermination camps. “Les Hommes Libres” (“Free Men”) is a tale of courage not found in French textbooks. Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, provided refuge and certificates of Muslim identity to a small number of Jews, which allowed them to evade arrest and deportation.
Si Kaddour Benghabrit saved a hundred Jews, including that of the Algerian singer Salim Halali, making the administrative staff grant them certificates of Muslim identity, which allowed them to avoid arrest and deportation.
I n a documentary entitled Mosque of Paris, the forgotten, produced for the show Racines de France 3 in 1991, Derri Berkani reports that it was the French Algerian partisans, mainly composed of workers, who had led the Jews to the Paris Mosque for protection. Khaled Abdul-Wahab has been called the Arab ‘Schindler’ for his rescue of Jews during the German occupation of Tunisia.
Also sheltering Jews in Tunisia was Si Ali Sakkat, who had retired from government service, including time as mayor of Tunis. In Algeria, Taieb el-Okbi of the Islah (Reform) Party saved Jews from a massacre being organised by French fascists of the Légion Français des Combattants and their Muslim soldiers. In Morocco Sultan Mohammed V refused to submit to Vichy France’s anti-Semitic decrees and indeed insisted on inviting all the rabbis of Morocco to the 1941 throne celebrations.
He also refused to make the 200,000 Jews then living in Morocco wear yellow stars, as they did in France. “There are no Jews in Morocco. There are only subjects,” the king is reported to have said. In blaming Third World immigration for jihad in France, are such vociferous racists and xenophobes even aware of the aforementioned facts?
In 2006 Rachid Bouchareb directed Days of Glory, which dealt with the discrimination faced by colonial, mainly Algeria troops, fighting to liberate France from Nazi occupation. After enlisting they sing “we come from the colonies to save the motherland, we come from afar to die, we are the men of Africa.” The film shows a complex depiction of their treatment in an army organisation prejudiced in favour of the European French.
Algerian corporal Abdelkader is denied recognition for liberating a village in Alsace; an action which cost the lives of his Algerian comrades. The white colonel ignores him as Abdelkader is pulled away by a staff officer who asks him where his unit is. When he says they are all dead, he is simply assigned to another white NCO. As he walks out of the village, he passes a film cameraman filming only white troops standing by the liberated villagers.
These events may be dismissed as just some aberrations from the past. After all the jihadi attacks of Merah, the Kouachi brothers, Coulibaly, Boumedienne, not to mention the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Mumbai, had clear anti-Semitic as well as anti-western ideologies of hate (and anti-Hindu in the Mumbai attack, and the ‘self-determination’ for Kashmir so long supported by western democracies). But at the height of all this hatred it was 24-year old shop attendant, Lassana Bathily, who offered hope. A Muslim from the former French colony of Mali, Bathily hid fifteen customers in the freezer of the kosher supermarket Hyper Cache. As he later confessed to BFM TV:
Yet as he walked towards police with his hands up, Bathily was mistaken for the attacker (Coulibaly was also Malian), forced to the ground and hand-cuffed for over an hour. Following praise for his heroism, Bathily has now been awarded French citizenship.
Political leaders from around the world marched in Paris for peace after the horrific atrocities that engulfed the city just days earlier. Yet as I asked in the beginning why no such rally when India was the victim of even worse massacres, when terrorists from Pakistan; a rogue state that has been armed by France, targeted Mumbai in December 2008?
Why all the hush-up over the clear radical Islamic agenda of terrorists of the Al-Nusra Front and similar outfits, all armed by France against Bashar al-Assad in the name of ‘freedom’? The coverage by France 24 news channel of the 2014 Indian election was like watching a propaganda broadcast by Christophe Jaffrelot. Boko Haram terrorists have massacred thousands of civilians in Nigeria, but again western response has been largely muted in comparison to what happened in Paris. It is a question posed by President Ramzan Kadyrov of the Chechen Republic, part of the Russian Federation:
“Why the presidents, kings and prime ministers have never led marches of protest against the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, Syrians, Egyptians, Libyans, Yemenis, and Iraqis? Why did they remain silent when terrorists exploded a bomb in the Chechen government HQ or when they blew up the Grozny stadium killing Chechen President Akhmad-Haji Kadyrov [Ramzan Kadyrov’s father] and his aides? Why did they not react to the raid on the school in Beslan and the hostage taking at Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater? Why keep silent when in December last year terrorists captured the House of Press and a school in Grozny, killing and injuring over 50 people?”
Meanwhile the native born French convert to radical Islam and leave to fight in Syria and Iraq, with the very anti-Assad forces of al-Nusra and ISIS which France has been backing. This is more than just a political debacle. Le Garçon et l’aveugle (The Boy and the Blind Man) is the name of a 13th-century French play; considered the oldest surviving French farce. In the play there are two scoundrels, a “blind” beggar and his servant boy. The blind beggar has a secret hoard of coins, which the boy tricks away from him.
The boy deceives, robs then beats his master—the trickster has become the tricked. In the same manner it is the extreme modernism of secularist laicité and the intellectual legacy of the French Revolution which has led to France’s ideological cul-de-sac, as it supplies both political and ideological muscle to radical Islam. Jihadists have learnt well from their master in their use of strategic and aesthetic violence to achieve their aims. Just like the Nazis radical Islam has emulated the Jacobins in minute detail. John Gray in Al Qaeda and What It Means to Be Modern:
Al Qaeda sees itself as an alternative to the modern world, but the ideas on which it draws are quintessentially modern. As Karl Kraus said of psychoanalysis: radical Islam is a symptom of the disease of which it pretends to be the cure.