Saturday, January 10, 2015

A Churchillian moment for France

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.


  1. Charly5:33 AM

    And yet, this is a war of Europe against medieval Islam. Today there was another looting in Catia. Where is our fight, local or international? As they say, le monde il est devenu fou.

  2. Despite the French being the most favourable Western to Muslims, having most sympathy for and accommodated the most Muslim immigrants, there are two horrific facts:

    that suggest that the more friendly and accomodating a Western country is to Islam, the more in danger it will be of becoming a Dhimmi state.

  3. Boludo Tejano8:13 PM

    It’s time to break, finally, from Leninist reasoning about the sociology of poverty and frustration behind terrorism.

    With all due respect to Bernard-Henry Levy, I thought that Osama Bin Laden's mega-wealthy family background would have already put paid to that claim.

    1. Certainly. But let's not nitpick more than necessary these days. Shall we? 😊

  4. There must be a unified approach to halt this small, but fanatical arm of Islam. The tool that they use to condone committing atrocities(not allowing their spiritual leader to be caricatured) needs to be obliterated. Possibly, a cartoon deplicting Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, and secularism, sharing a joint, can break the ice. I remember, not to long ago, when Americans were condemned for attacking a Mosque. Now these fringe elements of Islam do it almost weekly.

  5. Unfortunately for Bernard-henri Lévy, Islam is already undergoing a reformation in the literal sense of the word. Islam is being re-formed by going back to the original sources of Islam. And what do the original sources of Islam say? They say that Mohammed is the prfect example to follow to be a perfect muslim. Mohammed, the warlord who beheaded all the males of a Jewish tribe, who sent people to kill those that criticized him, who had sexual slaves (concubine), who owned/sold/captured slaves, who had a nine year old wife when he was 53, who killed anyone who left islam. The kouachi bros are just emulating Mohammed which all perfect muslims need to do according to the koran 68:4.

    1. Charly7:01 PM

      There is an interesting book about the origins of Islam titled "In the Shadow of the Sword", written by Tom Holland, a British Historian. How this gentleman did not get a Fatwa pronounced against him is beyond me, proving that Islam is a tolerant religion if there is one. The book mixes historical facts with small stuff such as: when Theodora, the empress of Byzantium was a prostitute, she was known for an act where her private parts were picked by geese or Arabian diplomats used to reek of leather and camel shit (in the text).

      For me, the book was invaluable because it deals with the period of history when two antagonistic empires, the Roman and the Persian where collapsing at the same time, period I new little about.

  6. Anonymous7:21 AM

    Show me a spiritual passage from the Koran. There isn't any. From the very beginning all it talks about are the bad things that will happen to nonbelievers. This is not a divinely inspired scripture. It is time the world stopped pretending that it is.

  7. I'm sorry, but the islamophobia sure is getting a bit stinky for my nose.

  8. One of the police agents who died trying to defend the French was a Muslim.
    This bloke is a Muslim as well:

    Islam does have particular bad problems, but what I see in this comment's section is a bunch of bigotry and ignorance.

    1. The issue is what does Islam teach? Your argument doesn't look into the sources. You found a decent muslim (99% of the are) and you say: there, Islam ideology is acceptable. By the same token, Oskar Schindler was a decent person and a nazi. Does that make nazism acceptable?

      Isla still teaches that gays, apostates, blasphemers, critics of Mohammed should be murdered. Just because the majority of muslims ignore those precepts doesn't change the fact that the precepts exist and a minority will act upon them.

      As another example, just because catholics use birth control doesn't mean the catholic church accepts birth control.

  9. Read Deuteronomy and Judges in the Old Testament. Then come back and recount what those holy books teach. Christian homophobia is supported by homophobic comments in the Bible. The same applies to just about anything. All religions have extremists, Kahane, bin Laden, Koresh, Reverend Jones, the list is endless.

    1. Boludo Tejano10:13 PM

      All religions have extremists...Reverend Jones, the list is endless.
      Interesting that the Reverend Jim Jones of Jonestown fame was a fairly prominent player in Democratic Party politics in San Francisco. You are correct that all religions have extremists. Regarding how that plays out today, I would suggest that you recall the adage "By their fruits ye shall know them" and consult the website Religion of Peace. Just sayin'.

  10. Even if Deuteronomy and Judges are violent that doesn't mean that Islam is less violent. This is the "Tu quoque" fallacy.

    No school of christianity or judaism that I know teaches that gays and apostates must be killed, even if they condemn them. All schools of Islamic thought say that apostates must be killed and any muslim that murders an apostate is blameless.

  11. This serious professor is actually putting numbers to Christian vs. Muslim fundamentalism in European countries:

    Fundamentalism means 1. only one interpretation of holy scripture 2. every believer must stick to this one interpretation 3. religious rules are more important than secular laws.
    Extreme fundamentalism means to be prepared to use violence to defend one's religion and/or to attack Jews.

    Fundamentalists in Europe:
    Muslims 40-45% Christians 5-10%
    Extreme fundamentalists in Europe:
    Muslims 10-15%

    The violent group is small but it can thrive because it feels supported in their ideas by a much larger part of the Muslim community. Without acknowledging that it is not possible to combat the problem because otherwise we direct all our attention to this small group and that is insufficient as a solution.


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