As the horror kept unfolding through Paris with a terrorist taking hostage a Jewish supermarket I am too taken in angst to write my own words. But BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY has words for us, taken in full from the WSJ for those like me who cannot afford the subscription price.
A France United Against Radical Islam
It’s time to break, finally, from Leninist reasoning about the sociology of poverty and frustration behind terrorism.
At the Place des Terreaux in Lyon, France, after the Jan. 7 terror attack in Paris.
Twelve faces. Twelve names, some of which the killers specifically called out, as the name of a condemned prisoner is called out before his execution. Twelve symbols mourned around the globe, symbols of the assassination of freedom of laughter and of thought. The least that we owe to these dozen dead is to rise to their level of commitment and courage—and, today, to prove worthy of their legacy.
It is incumbent upon the leaders of France, of the West, and of the world to take the measure of a war they did not want to see, one in which the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, its writers and caricaturists, long ago put themselves on the front line. They were war reporters of a sort, as we now know, Robert Capas with a sketch pad and pencil.
This is the Churchillian moment of France’s Fifth Republic, the moment to face the implacable truth about a test that promises to be long and trying.It is time for us to break, once and for all, with the Leninist reasoning that has been served up for so long by the useful idiots of a radical Islam immersed in the sociology of poverty and frustration. And most of all it is the moment, now or never, for a calm resolve among all believers in democracy to look evil in the face without losing ourselves in the catastrophic measures of a state of emergency. France can and must erect dikes—but not the walls of a besieged fortress.
To us as citizens falls the duty of not reacting to terrorism with fright or by arming ourselves against that obsessive fear of the other that nearly always follows such explosions. As I write, democratic moderation seems to have prevailed. The “Je suis Charlie” movement that sprang up simultaneously in cities across France after the massacre showed a spirit of resistance worthy of the best the country has been and known. And the arsonists of souls who preach nonstop about the unbreachable gulf between being French by blood or just on paper—the troublemakers of the National Front and elsewhere—can only be disappointed by this unified response.
The question is whether the moderate spirit can endure in France. It is essential that the de facto democratic union of people across the religious and political spectrum who filled the streets in the hours following the carnage continue to mount a response to the “France for the French” of Marine Le Pen and her far-right ilk. Because France for the French is the opposite of national unity. From Cato the Elder to the theoreticians of the modern social contract, the beautiful idea of national unity never mistakes its true enemy. National unity is a sign that the French have understood that the Charlie Hebdo killers are not “the Muslims,” but rather the small fraction of Muslims who confuse the Quran with a death warrant.
Those whose faith is Islam must proclaim very loudly, very often and in great numbers their rejection of this corrupt and abject form of theocratic passion. Too often have we heard that France’s Muslims should be summoned to explain themselves. They don’t need to explain themselves, but they should feel called to express their tangible brotherhood with their massacred fellow citizens. In so doing, they would put to rest once and for all the lie of a spiritual commonality between their faith as they know it and that of the murderers.
They have the responsibility—the opportunity—before history and their own conscience to echo the “Not in our name!” with which Britain’s Muslims dissociated themselves last year from the Islamic State killers of journalist James Foley. But they also have the even more urgent duty to define their identity as sons and daughters of an Islam of tolerance and peace.
Islam must be freed from radical Islam. We must say and say again: To assassinate in the name of God is to make God an assassin by association. What is needed from Islamic scholars and their many followers is a courageous statement of modernization—like theaggiornamento of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s—clearly stating that, in a democracy, forcing obeisance to the holy is an attack on the freedom of thought. They should explicitly acknowledge that in the eyes of the law, religions are systems of thought with no greater or lesser status than that of secular ideologies—and that the right to doubt them, debate them and laugh at them, like the right to join or leave them, is the inalienable right of every citizen.
In the dark times ahead, battles await: Islam against Islam, pluralistic civilization against the nihilists of jihad. But it is really one war, and we must wage it together, united.
Mr. Lévy’s books include “Left in Dark Times: A Stand Against the New Barbarism” (Random House, 2008). This op-ed was translated from the French by Steven B. Kennedy.