February 12, 2015
Guest blogpost by Philippe Juvin, member of the European Parliament (EPP), spokesman for French deputies.
A few months ago, the French cartoonist Cabu was in La Garenne-Colombes, a town close to Paris where I am the mayor. He was presenting a collection of original cartoons on jazz and was signing his book on this same subject. He was lively, mischievous and kind. He didn’t disappoint his audience. Surrounded by intelligent people – even those with different political opinions to his own – you always had a good time in Cabu’s company.
A few weeks ago, two terrorists shot him dead in cold blood. In the space of three days, 17 unfortunate people fell victim to terrorist attacks. Several days later, the French people, accompanied by many heads of State from allied countries, came out in their millions in a huge demonstration of solidarity.
With a few moments of hindsight, what lessons can be learnt from this great tragedy?
Firstly, the terrorists were French. They were born and grew up in our country. They went to same schools as all my compatriots and were educated in the same values France teaches all its children. They had undoubtedly learnt the Marseillaise, studied the Enlightenment and Human Rights. In short, the teachers who were dedicated to their vocation had wanted to make good citizens of them. Nevertheless, they carried out their attacks in the name of hatred for France. First of all, therefore, these events represent a failure in our system of integration.
Secondly, the demonstrations that took place throughout France were underpinned by a deep emotional unity. What do we do now? Essentially, the problem is that those taking part were roused by very different feelings, even opposing feelings at times, as witnessed by the varied nature of slogans present at the demonstration. However, at times the feelings were also confused. For example, a banner held aloft by one young woman read: “No to Islamophobia”. It was as if Islamophobia was the cause of the 17 deaths… There was even confusion in people’s minds over the very title of the demonstration: “The Republican March”. It was a name with the benefit of angering nobody. However, I would like to point out that Great Britain and Spain, which are not republics, have also been
victims of terrorism. Therefore it was the western world and its way of life and thought that were targeted. These attacks must be an opportunity to name the dangers clearly, even though this is uncomfortable for the cosy security of the politically correct. It is indeed our civilisation that is at risk.
Thirdly, we have tried to play down the phenomenon and dangerous nature of radical Islam for a long time. In the early days we talked about “fanatics” of God, about madness, allowing us to avoid questioning the real problems. Next, we tried to plead the existence of “lone wolves”. However, the string of attacks in Madrid, London, Toulouse, the Jewish Museum in Brussels, serial beheadings, the Charlie Hebdo attacks and many other events, the methodical nature of these attacks, the killers’ equipment and training, even for those who don’t want to see, now exclude madness and isolation as a motive for such acts. As an aggressive organisation, radical Islam is a broader movement, one which is at least partially coordinated. Europe, in spite of itself, is at war against it.
Fourthly, it is therefore no longer possible to ignore the danger that exists. Yes, radical Islam exists in Europe; it loathes the western world and kills people. The 17 victims were not murdered by an abstraction. It has to be repeated, even though it’s obvious: European Muslims did not want this. But due to being forbidden from naming the religion claimed by the terrorists, so as not to risk confusion, and by constantly brandishing the danger of Islamophobia, European Muslims themselves are being forbidden from building an Enlightened Islam, which many Muslim intellectuals (Malek Chebel, Abdul Karim Soroush, Mohamed Arkoun, Abdennour Bidar, etc.) are calling for. The Muslim religion must have its interpreters. Therefore, Christian thought became fully compatible with civil society when it was freely able to be commented on. And far from impoverishing it, commentary has enriched it. Because peaceful religions need commentary, namely reasoned commentary. These events must represent an opportunity to help the emergence of a European Islam which, like other religions adapted to the modern world, finds its place in the private sphere and breaks with an archaism that allows barbaric actions.
Fifthly, European Muslims must feel comfortable in this Europe which although historically is predominantly Judaeo-Christian, is
in fact universal. This Europe has room for all those who believe in its civilisation. Let us recall the philosopher Renan for whom “possession in common of a rich legacy of memories” creates “the desire to live together, the will to perpetuate the value of the heritage that one has received in an undivided form”. This heritage, in which each person can dwell, is our civilisation, our practices and customs. Europe is not a Spanish inn where you can bring your own system of values without paying attention to the complex and robust one that has been maturing there for centuries. “(European) Man is a slave neither of his race nor his language, nor of his religion,” said Renan, and this “large aggregate of men, healthy in mind and warm of heart, creates the kind of moral conscience which we call a nation.” Today, those who deny the Holocaust refuse to recognise the Greek, Roman and Christian heritage of Europe and exclude themselves from this moral awareness which is the European Nation.
Sixthly, Europe believes in equality between men and women and free will. It offers people the choice of believing or not believing in Heaven, and even the possibility of changing their religion. It does not punish blasphemy. It confines religion to the private sphere. It is the freedom of conscience, that of speaking one’s mind and the freedom of images. It is the civilisation of dialogue, through intellectual debate. It is the place of reason and civility. Europe has learned to interpret holy texts, by drawing from them greater strength for its political, intellectual and even religious life. Now radical Islam wants to silence such treasures, accumulated over the centuries. How? With weapons, as in the Charlie Hebdo case. But also, and above all, by neutralising the critical mind with terror. While forbidding us to make any comment about Islam. In the name of the sacrosanct principle of one-way respect. A great victory: prevent the West from thinking, by proving to it that its very thought is an attack. A kind of remake of the cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. With the entire procession of cowards who don’t want to take the risk of infuriating the dog that barks. History always repeats itself: in Munich, the democrats gave way to Hitler’s ranting when he succeeded in persuading them that they, themselves, were the aggressors. Today, once more, people want to make us believe that we are the aggressors. And in this way, subjugate us.
We will not be subjugated, because we are not the aggressors and because we are Europe.Blogactiv Team