Our Leaders Must Stand with France
On Thursday, church bells mournfully rang out across France. An armed man burst into Notre Dame Basilica beheading a 70-year old woman and murdering two other worshippers.
It’s not the first of its kind. We can’t forget the beheading of a priest as he celebrated mass in 2016; nor more recently, only a week or so ago, Samuel Paty, beheaded in broad daylight because he showed a Charlie Hebdo cartoon to his civics class, as part of a discussion on free speech.
For doing what the Republic asked of him. Teaching the next generation to be French citizens, republicans, capable of free thought. In his memorial speech, President Macron said, aptly, that Paty had become the face of the Republic.
The same infantile oversensitivity muddied with hatred that motivated the gunmen who murdered the staff of that magazine five years ago. And, with the trial for that attack only just beginning, when they republished the cartoons in an act of defiance – a young Pakistani man ‘retaliated’ by attacking two people outside their old HQ with a meat cleaver.
Not only in France, but also in Jeddah, a knifeman stabbed a guard outside the French consulate.
But the response has been perverse. Where are the black profile photos? Where are the marches through the streets in outrage? Instead, with a magnificent sleight of hand and the help of the gutless English-speaking media, certain cynical Muslim leaders have managed to paint France as the villain. They’re Islamophobes, who have provoked Muslims, and if they want peace they must cease and desist. Cease, that is, to be France. Just as a campaign of hatred was stirred up against Paty, Muslim leaders are knowingly agitating against France. Days before the attack on the church, the Turkish Minister for Culture and Tourism tweeted at Charlie Hebdo in French ‘You are bastards, you are sons of bitches’. Countries across the Arab world boycotted French goods, removing them from their shelves. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and its 57-member states followed Pakistan, with a boycott. The bodies were barely cold before #NevertheProphet was trending alongside #Islamophobia. The Turkish government released a statement saying that France was “assaulting Islam systematically” and that Macron needed “mental treatment”. Pakistan’s Imran Khan attacked Macron for encouraging citizens to display blasphemous cartoons and had deliberately provoked Muslims. The former Indonesian PM tweeted that “Muslims have a right to be angry and to kill millions of French people for the massacres of the past”
Like psychological abusers, they’re gaslighting the victim for standing up for herself. For standing up for the things without which France cannot be France. These cynical leaders and their allies in Europe want to blackmail France and are throwing their toys out of the pram because, despite suffering intolerably and being all but abandoned by the English-speaking world, miraculously they have a president who still refuses to bow. Because he refused to disavow the cartoons or drawings ‘even if others recoil’, insisting that they would continue to ‘strongly proclaim the concept of laicite’, to ‘nurture a love for the Republic’ and fight for freedom and reason as Samuel Paty did. What other world leader would say we love our nation, its geography, landscape, history and culture?
As others have pointed out, this is about more than free speech – it is about sovereignty. About who gets to decide – the Republic or Islamists? Whether France is allowed to be France.
These leaders talk about hurt while politicking with the dead. They talk about islamophobia and oppression, while Francophobically trying to bully France to give up the sacred values of the Republic. They talk about fascism while behaving like fascists.
Remember that Turkey locks up political opponents, tries to prosecute Europeans for insulting the president, and throws journalists in jail. Erdogan says Jerusalem is a Turkish city, but says its Macron needs a mental check. Erdogan talks about religious persecution and provocations while turning the most symbolic former church in Christendom – Hagia Sofia – into a Mosque.
Meanwhile Pakistan executes people for blasphemy, and only last month sentenced a Christian to death for making derogatory remarks about Mohammed in a text message. Imran Khan is constantly pushing for more censorship of blasphemy beyond his borders under the guise of Islamophobia.
They fancy themselves as defenders of Islam. It’s about politics and power. But the only here victim is France. The church attacker arrived from Tunisia a month ago. His attack had nothing to do with secularism and free speech. They attack France because they hate France. Because leaders like Erdogan and Imran Khan are whipping up hatred, while calling the kettle black.
France has suffered– more than any other European country – from Islamist separatism – not only from car rammings, shootings, stabbings, but from an entire ecosystem that seeks to create a parallel society, separating Muslim citizens off from the Republic and the rights it affords them, undermining French sovereignty. But at least France’s opponents have shown their cards; with a little effort, perhaps the smoke and mirrors that have obscured public discussion for years can melt away.
Other European leaders have come out in support of Macron – but all we’ve had from Number 10 is tumbleweed. This is a critical moment, and we should be throwing our weight behind France, no holds barred.