Culture Politics

France ponders its response to shootings: Will xenophobia or multiculturalism win?

High school student Amina Tadjouri, right, with a friend at Place de la Republique in Paris during a demonstration Sunday (January 11, 2015). Religion News Service photo by Elizabeth Bryant
Michel Houellebecq’s book "Soumission" seen on display in Gilbert Jeune bookstore in Paris. Hours after the first copies of Submission appeared in bookstores, assailants stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo, gunning down a dozen people and unleashing a three-day bloodbath. Religion News Service photo by Elizabeth Bryant

Michel Houellebecq’s book “Soumission” seen on display in a Gibert Jeune bookstore in Paris. Hours after the first copies of the book (“Submission” in English) appeared in bookstores, assailants stormed the office of Charlie Hebdo, gunning down a dozen people and unleashing a three-day bloodbath. Religion News Service photo by Elizabeth Bryant

PARIS (RNS) As France emerges from its worst terrorist attack in decades, a biting novel that imagines the country governed by Islamic law is part of a swirling debate about its basic values. Will the country respond to the shootings with fear and xenophobia, as suggested by the book “Soumission,” or “Submission” — or embrace its multicultural, multifaith identity?

On Sunday (Jan. 11), solidarity was on display as heads of state and religious leaders joined millions on the streets of Paris in a massive march for free expression and to honor last week’s victims from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.

Along with “I am Charlie,” some protesters also chanted “I am Jewish” in tribute to the four men gunned down by one of the assailants at a kosher market.

Muslims carried signs saying, “I am Charlie and Muslim.” And on Twitter, thousands of French rallied behind “#JeSuisAhmed” — referring to policeman Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim, who also died in the attack on the magazine.

High school student Amina Tadjouri, right, with a friend at Place de la Republique in Paris during a demonstration Sunday (January 11, 2014). Religion News Service photo by Elizabeth Bryant

High school student Amina Tadjouri, right, with a friend at Place de la Republique in Paris during a demonstration Sunday (Jan. 11, 2015). Religion News Service photo by Elizabeth Bryant

On the edge of the dense crowd, high school student Amina Tadjouri clasped a Jewish newspaper, as she stood next to a Muslim cleric railing against radical Islam.

“I’m Muslim, and I’m not OK with these killings,” she said. “Jews and Muslims refuse to be enemies. And we refuse to let people be killed for free expression. Everyone should be allowed to say what they want.”

French leaders are echoing the message of inclusiveness. “France is not Houellebecq. It’s not intolerance and fear,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said last week, referring to the controversial novelist Michel Houellebecq.

Shortly after the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the novelist called off his book tour and ducked out of view. Through a friend, Houellebecq said he was “deeply affected” by the attack on the magazine — which, strikingly, ran his cartoon on its cover the day of the attack.

But “Submission,” which is expected to be published in English later this year, is still selling. At a bookstore in downtown Paris, Jacqueline Buades thumbed through a copy before heading to the checkout counter. “I’m interested in what he writes about Islam,” said Buades. “He’s acerbic and he’s provocative, which I like.”

Critics say Houellebecq’s books — like Charlie Hebdo’s religious cartoons — push the limits of free speech. He has been sued — and acquitted — for inciting racial violence, after having called Islam the “stupidest” faith.

His latest novel stirs long-held fears here about foreigners and Islam, and reflects the surging popularity of France’s far-right National Front party. Set in the year 2022, “Submission” describes a Muslim leader beating out the National Front in elections to capture the French presidency.

For some mainstream Muslims, already fearful of a backlash after the shootings — there have been 21 attacks and other incidents against mosques in France and Corsica — the book represents a further insult.

“French Muslims are sick of being stigmatized; we’re tired of being the scapegoats for everything that happens,” said Abdallah Zekri, head of the National Observatory Against Islamophobia, an arm of the French Muslim Council. Noting that the U.S. elected Barack Obama as its first black president, “what’s the problem of electing a Muslim president in France?” he asked.

Houellebecq has defended his novel, which also takes a stab at leftist politicians and French society. In an interview with the Paris Review before its publication, he suggested his views on Islam have softened.

“The Quran turns out to be much better than I thought, now that I’ve reread it — or read it,” he told the magazine.

But observers say the book taps simmering anxieties and prejudices of French people such as Francklin Boulot.

“I’m afraid of Islam; it wants to destroy our society,” said Boulot, who joined Sunday’s rally not to defend multiculturalism but to protest the Muslim religion.

Such sentiments suggest the rare unity on display on French streets and in cyberspace in recent days may be crumbling already.

“I hope we are able to turn the page” on last week’s attacks, said Islam expert Franck Fregosi. “But anti-Muslim sentiment exists in French society, and I fear this drama will make it worse.”

YS/AMB END BRYANT

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Elizabeth Bryant

23 Comments

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  • Will xenophobia or multiculturalism win?

    What should ‘win’ is local self-government and a confident willingness on the part of native French to live as they please without artifacts or contrivance. Conjoined to that, a willingness to tell the foreigners in their midst that they are welcome to obey the law, appreciate the benefits of French life as it is lived, and not agitate to have newspapers and state agencies running interference for them morning, noon, and night. To buttress this last, a willingness to chart their own course on immigration and insist those proposing to settle in France learn the language first, be able to pass a background check, and wait in line for their turn.

    If you wish to be manipulative and refer to these measures as ‘xenophobia’, do not expect to be treated respectfully. While we’re at it, this is the second time that coverage of the horrors in France has been displaced or presented through the lens of the beefs of various immigrants (some of them professional agitators). The non-immigrant French might have a few things to say on this subject (presuming, of course, that writers for Religion News Service have enough activity going on between their ears to render what they say precisely).

  • There is no moral law that says a nation must be multicultural. The people of a nation have a right to respectfully and non-violently defend their culture and expect immigrants to obey the laws and customs of the nation that allowed them in. And above all there is no reason immigrants should be allowed to set up “no-go” areas where the host government is not even allowed to function there.

  • “Jews and Muslims refuse to be enemies.”

    Well, they could have fooled me!

    “And we refuse to let people be killed for free expression. Everyone should be allowed to say what they want.”

    So, the Hebdo staffers WEREN’T killed?

  • I’m rooting for the Muslims to win everything
    in the same way Christians have won.

    I want Muslims to have the right to speak freely against their religion.
    to have the right to blaspheme.
    the right to not get killed for apostasy.
    the right to ignore the call to prayer without consequences.

    I want Muslims to have the freedom to publicly thumb their noses at their Imams the same way Christians can thumb their noses at priests.

    The test of real freedom is the right to reject authority
    without having to die for it.

    ____
    AM
    for Peace, Positive Atheism and The Separation of Church and State

  • I can’t wait for the day when we treat atheism like we do three-ring circus clown acts. Laugh at the silliness and the puffed up kookiness . . . but be creeped out by the goofy costumed characters delivering the zaniness.

  • If we are to use the word xenophobia, then Muslims are the most perfect example of the behavior.

    NO ONE BUT MUSLIMS have any rights to their own ways in any “Islamic Country” on earth.

    Hello ??? “Islamic Country?”

    Strangers are not just feared, they are subjugated and harmed.

  • And above all there is no reason immigrants should be allowed to set up “no-go” areas where the host government is not even allowed to function there

    For you and for me and any man of sense, the purpose of immigration is for a country to draw strength from the human capital of foreigners with an affinity for the place and a willingness to keep it a going concern. For gliberals and leftoids, the point of immigration is to generate more clientele (leave no social worker behind) and foot soldiers to displace the native working class they despise. A seven digit population of foreigners living in public housing and drawing on open-ended doles is part of the plan.

  • Nativist bullcrap.

    “The native working class” has diminished all by itself for reasons having nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with globalization and outsourcing. In their zeal to attack organized labor, conservatives caused wages for working class citizens to drop dramatically over the last generation. White collar workers outside of IT and financial markets have faced stagnant wages for decades now. Again nothing to do with immigration.

    Our illegal immigrant population changes dramatically based on given economic conditions. It swells when demand for cheap labor is high and diminishes during downturns. Illegal aliens filling a need for work which would otherwise be outsourced to other nations or work considered too menial for those capable of collecting the dole.

    “A seven digit population of foreigners living in public housing and drawing on open-ended doles is part of the plan.”

    Part of the plan for conservatives eager to exploit cheap foreign labor through intimidation and draconian immigration laws prone to abuse.

    The US does not face the same issues as Continental Europe when it comes to immigration/multiculturalism for many reasons. The first being real commitment to integrating immigrants into the culture. Unlike France, we also have clear separation of church and state, full free exercise of religion, unconditional citizenship by birth, no official language, never an official religion and actual enforcement of laws protecting people from discrimination.

  • Except for Albania and Bosnia. Muslim majority countries with secular democracies (perhaps the only ones). I would have counted Turkey in that category but they have been rolling back the secularism of the government in the last decade.

    Its time to put the blame where it belongs, on these autocrats who use the religion of Islam as a tool for consolidating domestic power and extending foreign power.

    It all comes down to this:
    If you have immigrants, you have to figure out how to integrate them into your society. Guest worker programs never worked. Sane naturalization systems, freedom of religion, and enforceable anti-discrimination laws work.

    A perfect example of how much better the US handles the situation is that Muslim majority Dearborn Michigan is about the only part of the Detroit metro area which DOESN’T resemble a demilitarized zone. Little Baghdad in Brooklyn is getting colonized by hipsters and in no way does it resemble a West Bank settlement.

  • Ken,

    “the puffed up kookiness”

    Saudi Arabia Outlaws Making Snow Men as Un-Islamic, Jan 12, 2015 news item, Associated Press

    “The only cure for homosexuals is that they be put to death”
    Pastor Robbie Gallaty, Sept 4, 2014, Tennessee megachurch, Memphis

    “Execute my enemies in front of me” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    What do we hear from Atheists?

    ” I might as well put my mug to some good use” – ATHEIST Paul Newman, founder of ‘Newman’s Own’ charity which donated all proceeds of $370 Million to children and families in need.

    Religion is so overrated is is disgusting.

  • Ken,
    “NO ONE BUT MUSLIMS have any rights to their own ways in any “Islamic Country” on earth.”

    Which is why blasphemy is so important.
    Religion leads to unfreedom and disaster every time.

  • I don’t know what the exact statistics are, but tens of thousands of Middle Eastern immigrants are NOT Moslem. Many are terrorized Christians –including many types of Catholics and Orthodox (Coptic, Chaldean, Maronite,etc.) which use Arabic or other Mid-east languages in their Masses and services.
    (

  • And your point?

    We both agree that the Middle East (sans Israel and a case could be made for Iraq) is a morass of brutal dictatorship crapholes. Not the sort of governments one should emulate or take cues from if you support democracy and freedom.

    If not for the willingness of the US and Western Europe to sell their souls for cheaper foreign oil, you would see far more refugees from those countries.

  • Deacon,

    All religion is set against other religions. You should know that better than I do.

    No idea has brought more reason for suffering than the notion (completely wrong) that there is a god somewhere up there on one’s side.

    It has all been tried.
    More Christianity? Results: Crusades, Pogroms, Rwanda, etc…
    More Islam? Results: Al Queda, ISIS, Iranian Ayatollahs, Saudi Wahabis…
    More Judaism? Results: Zionism, Occupation…

    Name a culture which has not been destroyed by religion. You won’t find one. The problem is not ‘man’s proper understanding’ of a god.
    It is Man’s insistence beyond all reason that a God is on his side.

    Religion is depraved.

  • @ AMax,

    There is neither good or bad in atheistic behavior. Just life and death of an organism. NOTHING MORE and absolutely nothing less. And I believe the Salvation Army puts Newman’s worthless actions to shame.

    While I had to wait to respond because of the discomforting laughter filling my stomach muscles with lactate acid (this happens from time to time when I think what atheism truly is), I then arrive at a solemn place as I realize the hundreds of millions of human being slaughtered by atheists over these last many decades of human history. And of course what the atheists did in the French Revolution makes Muslim Jihadists look like Walmart shoppers on Black Friday.

    Atheism is a disease of the brain and an infection of the conscience. somehow inputting the ability to demand that nothing times nothing can make the universe and human babies happen.

    No, no, the time to listen to atheists spout on and on about what is good and what is bad has to be defined as pure futility.

    “The atheist Paul Newman?”

    You meant to say a rotting body planted in the ground somewhere. Newman did nothing either good or bad. he was simply a male mammal that was birthed by a female of the species, lived, produced offspring and died nothing more inspiring than a Banana slug becoming a lesbian after mating.

    Atheism is nothing times nothing. And so are its advocates. If dealing with fact is a problem for some, a well-functioning calculator should help them be able to return to the land of the sane where reality is not created by invisible vacuums that somehow can do stuff.

  • “There is neither good or bad in atheistic behavior. Just life and death of an organism. NOTHING MORE and absolutely nothing less.”

    Untrue, but it is a common lie told about atheists.

    Atheists just don’t use arbitrary and capricious scriptural pronouncements and deference authority figures which typifies religious approaches to morality. There is nothing more relativistic, slippery and illusory than religious takes on morality. You even have people pretending genocide is morally justified using scripture right on this site.
    http://religionnews.com/2015/01/12/god-command-genocide-bible/

    If you want to see how atheists can create a moral code. One not mired down by sectarian and arbitrary nonsense such as your religious codes, take a look at humanism.
    http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_III

    “Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.”

    Its a far cry from religious morality which posits that people are worthy of eternal damnation for eating shrimp or their emotional connections.

    But given the bile spewing from your post, you are far from interested in informing yourself on the subject. Your goal is merely hurling insults.

  • @Ken,

    “You meant to say a rotting body planted in the ground somewhere. Newman …”

    Your dead body will rot someday just like mine.
    The difference is I know it – you don’t.

    “Atheism is nothing times nothing….”

    Yet, I’m guessing you would prefer it if the Muslims who attacked Hebdo were Atheists like me – without a Prophet and without a motive to kill 17 people in France last week.

    So Atheism can’t be entirely worthless if it removes a motive to kill.

  • @Ken,

    WHY ARE ATHEISTS SO GOOD?

    95% of the members of the National Academy of Sciences are Atheists.
That is about 3,000 people.


    55% of the doctors working for Doctors Without Borders are Atheists (22,000 members worldwide working for free every day)


    100% of American Association of Atheists (53,200 people) has the lowest crime statistics of any other group in the country.

    If morality comes from Jesus, God or Allah, one would expect these Atheists to be stealing, raping, murdering and deeply unwelcome everywhere. Instead, these are the most stable, peaceful, productive, generous individuals in society.

    Atheist Billionaires are among the most generous people in our society:
    Warren Buffett

    Bill Gates
    
Jeff Bezos
    
Carl Icahn

    Meanwhile, The Religious billionaires are power mad nut cases:
    The Koch Brothers

    Rupert Murdoch
    Sheldon Adelson
    Pat Robertson worth $600 million has famously NEVER donated to any cause!

    Atheists are almost never arrested.
    Their numbers in prison are statistically zero. (pew)

    Atheists almost never end up in jail.


    Non-Believers make up 15% of the American population.

    But they cause almost none of the crime.

    The vast majority in prison are Christian, Muslim and
 other religions.
    To whom shall we credit their immorality? God, of course – who claims to forgive every crime. But doesn’t care if you go to jail along the way.

    Atheists are not only good without god.
    They are statistically the best behaving members of society.
    
Norway, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand are simultaneously the most peaceful, successful
and most Atheistic countries in the world.

    Meanwhile, where Religion is strong all is misery:

    dramatic inequality of wealth (Latin America, North America),
    High tolerance for fascism
 (Italy, Greece, Spain, Texas)
    High of repression of women’s rights (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Texas, Pakistan)
    high use of the Death penalty. (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Texas, Pakistan)

    Morality seems to be better handled by Atheists.
    And before you bring up your usual red herrings: Pol Pot, Hirohito, Stalin and Kim il sun – be aware that I will point with conclusive evidence that these straw men are religionists with strong unfounded beliefs and convictions which they religiously enforced on their populations.

    They are not examples of atheism.

    Meanwhile our US Constitution is exactly the kind of ATHEISM we need more of in the world:

    “Congress shall make no law establishing a religion…”That is ATHEISM

    May Dog Bless the US Constitution! 🙂

    ____
    AM
    For Peace, Civility and The Separation of Church and State

  • Actually, private sector unionism imploded for reasons having very little to do with public policy and the penetration of unions into private sector workplaces has seen monotonic decline over nearly six decades. It antedated observable changes in income distribution and the labor share of personal income by nearly two decades. The one place unions have prospered is in the public sector, where they are predatory and a component of the Democratic Party’s vote farm. Unionism always had ambivalent effects, benefiting certain fractions of wage labor at the expense of other fractions of wage labor.

    While we’re at it, the work of George Borjas has demonstrated that any benefits from trade in factors of production skew to the affluent at the expense of low-skilled workers. This is unsurprising.

    I see you use the term ‘conservatives’ to stand in for whatever bogey is passing through your head at one time.

    We get it: no one ever impressed upon you that you might on occasion be listening as well as talking.

  • So “right to work” legislation, legal restrictions on union activities, and active political campaigns against unions had nothing at all to do with their decline? Riiiight

    The demise of a unskilled labor middle class has nothing to do with immigration and everything to do with globalization, loss of power of organized labor and shifts in economy. We simply do not have the market for well paid blue collar work not involved in the trades anymore.

    Illegal labor fills the need for conservatives both financially and politically. Financially they allow outsourcing tactics to be applied domestically. Cheap disposable labor which can be kept in check through intimidation and draconian penalties. Politically they are a good scapegoat and easily vilified group. The politics of prejudice always played well with that crowd and its a against a group which has no political power.

    “I see you use the term ‘conservatives’ to stand in for whatever bogey is passing through your head at one time.”

    I was not the one who started by hurling partisan insults. You cast the first stone with “gliberals and leftoids”. You really should not expect a lot of courtesy in response, given the invective nature of your usual postings.

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