Radical Islamism: the democratic challenge

Every week, International mail explains his editorial choices and the debates they sometimes provoke in the editorial staff. This week, a month after the attack on Conflans-Sainte-Honorine and the death of Samuel Paty, then those in Nice and Vienna, we take a look back at what really motivates the jihadists. How can our democratic societies respond to radical Islamists? Analyzes of the foreign press.

In his speech of October 2 on the defense of secularism in the face of “Islamist separatism”, the least we can say is that Emmanuel Macron was not unanimous. Neither in France nor in the Muslim world, like explained it then L’Orient-Le Jour. The Lebanese daily quoted the Al-Azhar institution, the highest religious authority in Sunni Islam: “Such racist statements are likely to inflame the feelings of 2 billion Muslims around the world.”

One sentence in particular had aroused the anger of many Muslims, the one where the French president claimed that “Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world”. Yet still analyzed L’Orient-Le Jour,Macron tried to respect a certain balance, recalling on several occasions that it was important not to stigmatize Muslims, but to fight radical abuses. But the rise of Islamophobia on a global scale, partly linked to the jihadist attacks, of which Muslims are the first victims, contributes to making the subject particularly sensitive. ”

Sensitive, the subject is indeed. And that’s why we preferred to wait rather than react hot. On October 16, Samuel Paty was brutally murdered in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine for showing caricatures of the Prophet in class. We then devoted three pages of the newspaper (and the front page) to this new, dramatic blow to freedom of expression. Then there was the attack in Nice, that of Vienna, Austria, and the speech of October 2 took on a completely different resonance, as the British weekly recently explained. The Economist, which predicted a hardening of the notion of secularism in France: “France has the greatest difficulty in talking about religion in public life, and it does so in a way that other multicultural democracies often find it difficult to understand. The land of Voltaire defends the right to believe and not to believe, as well as the right to treat any religious belief with disrespect..”

“Terrorism has two enemies: science and life”

A month and a half later, it is less on French secularism than on what, fundamentally, motivates the Islamist terrorists, that we wanted to return. Even if the tone of certain ministers (Gérald Darmanin attacking stores selling halal and kosher meat, Jean-Michel Blanquer denouncing the Islamo-leftists in French universities) has done nothing but add to the confusion of the debate. For the editorial writer of the Algerian daily Freedom, Do not be mistaken : “We should not believe that Islamism is especially angry with France, America or Austria. […] Islamist terrorism strikes, as much as it can, where it hurts the most beauty, the spirit, the knowledge, the order… In summary, it has two enemies: science and life. […] As an ideology, it has an expansionist vocation. Its strategy of conquest is based on hatred elevated to the rank of value. ”

In The standard, the political scientist Nina Scholz does not hesitate to make the analogy with Nazism and the communism of the gulags, by placing herself resolutely in the field of ideas and history: “After about twenty years of Islamist fanaticism in Europe, it is time to not only consider jihadism, but also to address the ideology behind it, the ideology of political Islam. And it is time to take it as seriously as other totalitarian ideologies ”, she writes.

How to fight this ideology? This is the whole question put to our democracies. Should we be inspired by Austria and its law (of 2015) which prohibits all funding from abroad and requires religious leaders “A positive attitude towards the state and society” ? At the time, as in France today, the debates on the adoption of this law were heated, some crying to the stigmatization of Muslims. Is deprivation of nationality an option? No, answer in The standard, again, the Austrian political scientist Rainer Bauböck: “If all states apply the same logic, it follows a race to get rid of a radicalized at the slightest suspicion. Not only does this endanger international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, but it weakens the rule of law internally. ”

Should we still, as advocated by Saïda Keller-Messahli, founder of the Forum for a Progressive Islam, ban certain movements or associations (as France recently did), expel certain imams for inciting hatred? In the interview published in the Swiss daily Day indicator, that we resume, Saïda Keller-Messahli calls into question the Muslim Brotherhood, which she accuses of propagating the ideology of radical Islamists. And she calls to be wary of those who systematically cry Islamophobia. It is a strategy to stifle criticism, she says, that Islamists use perfectly. We know the ground is slippery, but you have to read what this special personality says, who, together with the lawyer and imame of Turkish origin Seyran Ates, helped found the liberal Ibn Rushd-Goethe mosque in Berlin. , in 2017.

These points of view, which can be discussed, we have chosen to make heard. We have posted conflicting opinions on the subject before. We will continue to do so, and continue to make singular voices from the Middle East heard. “Between contemporary jihadist Islam and modernity, there is a cultural abyss of eight centuries of secularization which makes any dialogue almost impossible”, writes, pessimist, a Lebanese intellectual in L’Orient-Le Jour.The response to Islamist terrorism, if there is a response, can only be global, or at least European. And that will inevitably take time.

Claire Carrard

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