Here's an unusual story: Moderate French Muslims vs. the radical Islamists


France is the canary in the mine when it comes to immigration, which is why I was interested in a piece by RealClearInvestigations on how conflicted French Muslims themselves are over some worrying trends.

France is under severe internal stress. Not long ago, GetReligion’s Clemente Lisi wrote about a report on the more than 1,000 vandalisms and thefts in 2018 at Catholic churches around France. That subject was covered by RealClearInvestigations too.

Is the Islamization of France connected to the church attacks?

Sometimes yes; oftentimes no. Let’s also say that concerns about radical Islam no longer just belong to the far political right. The concerned are now other Muslims.

PARIS — They call themselves Les Resilientes, the Resisters, and they meet every week in a couple of modest rooms in the immigrant neighborhood of Saint-Denis, on the northern outskirts of Paris. Their main purpose is to provide a refuge for women who have been victims of violence, but they are fighting another battle as well.

Though most of the Resilientes are Muslims of North African heritage, they are resisting other Muslims -- the growing influence and strength of a conservative, fundamentalist Islam in their neighborhood.

“What worries me is that it's developing; it's not retreating,” the group’s founder and president, Rachida Hamdan, told me during a visit in June to the Resilientes center, located on a charmless avenue lined with public housing estates. “More and more, for example, you see little girls wearing the veil, which I oppose because I see it as a symbol of female submission. But it's also an act of open defiance against the Republic,” she said, referring to French laws that limit wearing certain religious identifiers in public. “You see it in front of the schools, mothers telling other mothers that their children should be veiled. I've been told by 17-year-old boys that I'm not a true Muslim because I'm not veiled. Who is telling them to say things like that?”

Hamdan's worries reflect a striking change in France. For decades, raising alarms about what is widely called “Islamization” has been the province of the far right, especially the anti-immigrant National Front, now called the Rally for the Nation, which is the country's second most powerful political party. And today too, many French of liberal persuasion resist criticism of Islam because it echoes, in their view, the racism and anti-Semitism that has afflicted France's and Europe's past, including the attempted anti-Muslim genocide in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Then, four years ago, came the Islamic terrorist attacks that killed 12 journalists at Charlie Hebdo magazine and, a few months later, three attacks that killed 130 people.

One of the best quotes about this comes from Pierre Manent, a political philosopher at the prestigious School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris.

But a growing part of the culture is Muslim, much of which resists assimilation. That's a fact.

“When you reach a certain critical mass,” he continued, “integration becomes impossible. It isn't even desirable any more for any of the parties in question. We may already be there.”

The percentage of French children born with Arab or Islamic names is 18.8 percent and Mohammed is one of the top 20 names for children.

No big surprise there. As fewer and fewer native French fill the country’s churches, more and more of its Muslims are going fundamentalist. One article presents a survey saying 24 percent of French Muslims favor a more conservative Islam that includes the widespread veiling of its women.

The reporter uses quotes from several books to bolster his claim that France is quietly going fundamentalist amid efforts and funding by Gulf countries to make that happen. He quoted one demographer who disagreed with such views, then switched the article to being in first person.

Still, as a former resident of France and a frequent visitor over the past 40 years, I was struck on my trip there in June how wide the alarm over Muslim immigration has become. Everybody seems to have an anecdote…Do these isolated incidents represent an alienated fringe, or do they reflect something much larger, and growing?

A suffocating political correctness, perpetuated by the French political left hand-in-glove with conservative Muslim activists prevents some of the obvious incidents from being publicized for fear of offending Muslims, he writes. Still, there are:

• In many areas, the 2010 law banning women from wearing the full veil in public “is hardly enforced, because instructions are often given to the police not to do it in areas under Islamic control.”

• To accommodate Muslim dietary rules, the rules about the humane and safe slaughter of animals are widely disregarded, such that, as Le Point put it, the French “have halal meat on their plates without even knowing it.”

• In some of areas with large Muslim populations, non-Muslim children are attacked for eating in public during Ramadan, the month-long ritual by which Muslims are allowed only one meal per day (in the evening).

One of the article’s strengths is how local Muslims interviewed join with the conservatives in saying they too wonder where all this accommodation with Islam will lead. Remember, a lot of Muslim immigrants came to France to escape the daily sharia law impositions common in the Middle East.

It’s curious how certain trends in France mirror those in the United States. Both countries have a media culture that resists criticism of Islam for fear of sounding Islamophobic, then lashes out at Christianity on far weaker pretexts.

There isn’t all that much about les resilientes in the article, but there is serves as a convenient foil for the writer to bring up Islamic extremism with the concerns voiced by Muslims themselves. It must have taken some digging to find the dissidents, as few French Muslims speak out against the intolerance in their ranks.

There is a lot of talk about whether Muslims are compatible with French values, but in the purging of its public life of its native Catholicism, one has to wonder just what are French values are these days. The basis for them has been all but wiped out. That’s where France differs from America. The latter very much has the cement of a common culture which quickly assimilates all immigrants.

In France, that assimilation didn’t happen, possibly because there is so little to assimilate to.
This RealClearInvestigations story is just one of several stories out there about the mixed bag that is France these days and how religion is at the center of the country’s struggle to define itself. Because of political correctness, not many media are covering this phenomenon. This piece may remain as one of the only ones out there saying that the canary may not have long to live in that mine.

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