Unspeakable acts of barbarism should not be an excuse for Emmanuel Macron to demonise Muslims

·5-min read
<p>Emmanuel Macron has taken a hard line in the days following events in Nice</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Emmanuel Macron has taken a hard line in the days following events in Nice

(AFP via Getty Images)

Vile criminals carrying out barbaric murders in the name of their twisted interpretations of Islam are currently making rational discussions about French Muslims impossible.

This is because those with a profound antipathy towards one of the three great Abrahamic religions are doing all they can to spread collective guilt for these outrages.  

It means that anyone who speaks out against the demonisation of all Muslims – of whom there are at least five million in France – is immediately accused of condoning terrorism.

The disgusting deceit is that members of the largest community of its kind in western Europe somehow approve of devout Roman Catholics, or a schoolteacher, or anyone else being killed in the most barbaric manner possible.  

Ghoulish conspiracy theorists propagate the idea that a vast army of snarling, brown-skinned delinquents is plotting its next strike from run-down ghettoes.  

Even when a white supremacist gunman was shot dead by police in Avignon following the Nice attacks in which three people were murdered on Thursday, he was immediately portrayed as a radicalised Islamist screaming “Allahu Akbar” – Arabic for “God is the greatest”.

In fact, the deceased had made a Nazi salute after threatening a North African shop keeper with a sidearm. The local prosecutor dismissed such evidence as a sign of someone who was “mentally unstable” and the item was soon dropped from news agendas, undoubtedly because the man’s profile did not fit that of a deviant alien with roots in the Arab world.

It is “Untermensch” thinking. This German word for sub-human was popularised by the Nazis who were well known for projecting all their “enemies within” as vermin or worse.  

The concept reduces members of entire ethnic and religious minorities to people who are considered not only inferior, but also behind every crime. And yes, the Nazis infamously used cartoons as part of their propaganda war against the “Untermensch”.

Despite this, Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, has thought nothing of using this period of justifiable fear and anger to support those who seek to portray Muslims as backward, moronic and – most terrifying of all – irrevocably savage.

Macron has done this by elevating gruesome caricatures of Muslims and their Prophet to quasi-official symbols of modern France. He is certainly the first French head of state to sanctify and champion Charlie Hebdo, once a fiercely independent and indeed dissenting outlet, as a valuable political ally.

The slaughter that took place in the Paris offices of the magazine five years ago – 12 people were murdered by two brothers professing an affiliation to Al-Qaeda – was as evil as the beheading of schoolteacher Samuel Paty by a Russia-born Chechen terrorist earlier this month.

In both cases, images that are said to have motivated the killers were of one of the most sacred figures in Islam depicted as a cretin – including as a nude idiot who exposes his genitals as he appeals to similarly worthless co-religionists in a manner that can only be described as pornographic.

It is perfectly permissible to have a negative opinion about such venomous material – the kind that would never be published by mainstream outlets in Britain – without supporting the violent fanatics who used it to justify their unspeakable assaults.  

This is why Muslim majority countries from Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey through to former French colonies including Algeria have reacted furiously against Macron’s insistence that such cartoons are a welcome part of French society and that they should indeed be displayed publicly, including in schools.  

Macron is certainly the first French head of state to have done this. Yes, the general free speech principle behind anti-establishment literature was backed by politicians, especially in a secular society with a long tradition of anti-clericalism.  

Yet suggesting specifically that Muslim hate is apparently desirable is unprecedented. Particularly so as the Macron administration pursues a clampdown against Islam – one that includes the closure of Mosques and other Muslim institutions, and regular raids on homes and workplaces. Macron’s Interior Minister has even been expressing his objection to Halal meat being sold in supermarkets.

In early October, Macron described Islam as being “in crisis all over the world” as he introduced a range of measures aimed at increasing state control of the religion. They certainly impressed the notoriously Islamophobic followers of the Rassemblement National – the former Front National party founded by the convicted racist and antisemite, Jean-Marie Le Pen, and now run by his daughter, Marine Le Pen.

Miguel Angel Moratinos, the head of the United Nations anti-extremism body, expressed “deep concern” over the growing row, while condemning the “inflammatory caricatures [that] have also provoked acts of violence against innocent civilians who were attacked for their sheer religion, belief or ethnicity.”  

Such Muslim victims have included two French-Algerian women who were repeatedly stabbed under the Eiffel Tower by assailants allegedly shouting “Dirty Arabs”.

Moratinos warned against “insulting religions” and urged “mutual respect” within French society – this is the kind that should be compatible with laïcité, the French version of secularism. It is meant to protect religion, as is plenty of French legislation focused on stamping out hate crimes.

There has never been any need for the blasphemy laws prevalent in countries including Germany and Poland – France already has all the legal tools it requires to end turmoil that has clearly spiralled out of control.  

Macron currently thinks a solution is to flood the streets of France with thousands of extra soldiers, and fight a war against an enemy largely made up of lone wolf misfits, who strike against particularly vulnerable people in places that are impossible to secure.  

If Macron had any pretence to being an international statesman, he would instead stop conflating the values and appearance of millions of innocent Muslims with the evil he seeks to erase.  

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