We are all familiar with the horror stories coming out of Europe concerning the radicalisation of home-grown Muslims and the failure of integration, especially of second- and third-generation members of immigrant families. France has stood firm against some of the challenges and provocations, resisting what can be only be described as “dhimmitude” — a common and frustrating trend in other governments throughout the Western world.
A few years ago, the French were the first to ban the wearing of simple head scarves in schools. Fadela Amara, a Sarkozy junior minister , said at the time, "The veil is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women, and therefore has no place in the mixed, secular spaces of France’s state school system." Later, Sarkozy went further and banned the total face veil, saying it was "not welcome within France”. The ban was "to protect women from being forced to cover their faces and to uphold France’s secular values," he said. Astonishingly, four out of five French voters supported him.
Worth noting is that Dalil Boubakeur, grand mufti of the Paris Mosque, the largest and most influential in France, testified before parliament during the bill’s preparation that the niqāb was not prescribed in Islam, that in the French and contemporary context its spread was associated with radicalisation and criminal behavior, and that its wearing was inconsistent with France’s concept of the secular state.
Yet the fundamentalists continue to sow discord and chaos. Only last week, France witnessed extreme violence and car-burning by 250 rampaging young men in the town of Trappes, where they fired weapons and hurled petrol bombs at police to protest the burqa ban, confirming the association of burqas and niqāb with radicalisation and criminal behavior.
Hearteningly, even under the new Socialist President Francois Hollande, the government has refused to overturn the burqa ban. Interior Minister Manuel Valls has been courageous and emphatic. “There is no valid reason for the violence," he said, "… the law should be applied, and applies to everyone."
Important to note is that the number of women in France actually wearing the full head cover is estimated at a mere 2000-or-so — a very small fraction of the millions of French Muslims. One needs to reflect on the scale of violence instigated by the “Sharia supremacists” of Trappes and other cities, which has been out of all proportion with the small number of women affected.
A few years ago the government immediately expelled an Algerian-born Lyon imam who publicly endorsed women being stoned and wives being beaten. An outraged justice minister, Dominique Perben, said, "The government cannot tolerate remarks being made in public that run counter to human rights and human dignity." France has expelled many Muslim preachers and clerics for promoting radical Islam. Dhimmitude for the French is not an option.
France does better at policing terrorism than other European countries, as I learned after looking at Interpol statistics. Each year around 80 to 90 Islamists are arrested by the French anti-terrorist services, a figure that amounjts to more than half of all terrorism-related arrests throughout Europe. However, there is a new and emerging problem concerning the subsequent release of terrorists, one that applies throughout all of Europe. On average, the sentence a convicted terrorist receives in France is only five years, which amounts to an effective 30 months once early-release provisions are taken into account. The problem thus becomes what to do with them.
Forty leave prison every year in France, and only last month a radical jihadist, Said Afrif, disappeared after fleeing his residential placement in Auvergne. According to the former judge Jean Louis Bruguiere, who presided at terror trials, Afrif is “a dangerous man, having the charisma of a network chief, and the knowledge of an explosives expert.” Afrif’s own words add a chilling edge to that appraisal. In a local paper he hailed suicide attacks as“economical”, noting that a well-placed car bomb might claim 200 lives in exchange for that of a single jihadi "martyr".
France also provides a practical warning to other Western governments, including Australia, on how not to set up and fund structures and institutions that create more problems than they were conceived to solve. The French Council of the Muslim Faith [CFCM] provides just such a case study. Established by Sarkozy ten years ago in a bid to give an official face and voice to Islam and aid the integration of Muslims, it is now being torn apart by rivalries stemming from its members’ disparate countries of origin — exactly the tensions the organisation was supposed to calm.
Another of the CFCM’s goals was to reduce the militantacy of certain imams, but this, too, has only grown worse. Divisions between Moroccans and Algerians — over the issue of Polisario and the independence of Western Sahara — and the Muslim Brotherhood from Egypt, have all exacerbated and fuelled internal conflicts, the various fracas underwritten with the help of government money. The question being asked in France is this: does government, and government money, have any role in these intramural conflicts? The present and immediate problem is that the CFCM is now so divided, so riven with rivalries, that the election of a new leader is proving impossible. Amid this paralysing rancour, the organisation is now widely regarded as a complete failure.
That view appears to be shared by a majority of French Muslims, who do not see any practical value in the CFCM. The clearest summary of the CFCM’s general uselessness came from a worshiper interviewed outside a Bordeaux mosque. “I have a need for them if the government does us harm, but then they are not there," he said. "And if the government protects us, then we have no need for them. The projects they define are not for us, only for those in the Council with their own interests.”
Meanwhile, last month saw the copycat murder of a French soldier in the business district of La Defence, just outside Paris, following the similar and gruesome attack in London just one week earlier. We should learn from the courage and determination of the French in resisting the temptation to embrace appeasement. Unfortunately, that is a lesson the Anglosphere has yet to absorb.