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The Honor of Muslims

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Two seemingly minor but, in reality, important events have just occurred in France, and we have no choice but to try to contemplate the two together.

The first was the act of Marine Le Pen, of whom I declared, a few weeks ago, that she was even more frightening than her father, National Front chief Jean-Marie Le Pen. Little did I know how right I was, as she has just proven with her outburst about Muslims, whose prayers, in public places, would be tantamount to an "occupation".

The second was the Rally Against the Islamisation of Europe, organized in Paris a few days later by the small group of neo-Nazis whose former claim to fame was the July 14, 2002 attempt to assassinate then-French President Jacques Chirac and who were joined, for the occasion, by a small band of former Trotskyites gathered under the banner of the French Internet site, Secular Riposte.

It must be said and reiterated: to present the stigmatization of Islam as such as a "secular riposte" is an idiocy doubled by an insult to an ideal of secularism, one which has always implied both the separation of the theological and the political and the equal right, once that separation has been established, of all the faithful to decently practice their respective religions.

It must be said and reiterated: to present as a "republican arc" or a blending of "republicans of the two sides" this new red-brown alliance in which skinheads of the Bloc identitaire* rub shoulders with the likes of former Le Monde diplomatique Editor Bernard Cassen, is like spitting in the face of a Republic that, at Monte Cassino, and during the combat for the liberation of Marseille, all the way to the Colmar pocket of Alsace, facing the Waffen SS division Das Reich, had no more valiant defenders than the fathers and grandfathers of these men and women whom, today, some wish to pillory.

And in the face of the amalgam that turns five million citizens into all-powerful occupants, against the astounding act of symbolic violence that would transform a spirituality into the countenance of the worst, that is to say, Naziism, it is urgent to raise our voices to recall that, first of all, the immense majority of Muslims in France are French citizens whose remaining relation to Islam, whether vague or familiar, is cultural. Secondly, even when that may not be the case, even were they all pious, strict observers of the faith, attached to their rites and to the mosques where they practice them, it takes a low-grade moron to ignore the fact that this practice, like all the others, has its dignity--one can be Jewish, Christian, Voltarian, or atheist, and have no particular affinity with the Koran, and yet be sensitive to the grandeur, the gentleness, and the honor of Islam when it has its sources, as well, in Averro, Al Kindi, Al Farabi, Al Ghazzali, or in Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's "The Keys to the Unknown".

But that is not even the most important point.

For today, a political battle is going on at the heart of Islam, one that pits this heritage of gentleness against that which would nourish the preachers of jihad, a pitiless war between, on one side, the partisans of the aggiornamento of a faith that, like the other monotheisms before it, may decide to update itself in terms of the rights of the individual and, on the other, the artisans of what, if I am not mistaken, I was the first to term "fascislamism". It is obvious that the former are often too timid or, quite simply, too few, and that it is the latter, I mean the fanatics, who are currently at center stage nearly everywhere.

But to confuse one with the other, to behave as though there were no difference between the tenants of the Enlightenment and those of obscurantism, to dismiss as one Massoud's heirs and the disciples of Ben Laden, the Moroccans who encourage their wives to bare their faces and the Somalians who imprison them in cages of fabric, to act as though the Imam of Drancy read from the same Koran as that of the fanatics who harass him and force him to live under heavy security, or as though the European Moslems of Bosnia belonged to the same bloc (of identity?) as the Saudis (or Iranians) crusading against the emancipating values represented, in their eyes, by Europe--in short, to fail to discriminate, within the area of Muslim civilization, between the assassins and those who resist them is of a rare strategic imbecility--and can only demoralize the resistants and encourage the rabid.

It is true that our pyromaniacs are used to this game. Wasn't Jean-Marie Le Pen, once upon a time, among the most ardent partisans of Saddam Hussein's Ba'athist dictatorship? And when, in Algeria, the Islamists of the GIA eviscerated pregnant women whose apparel seemed excessively westernized, cutting the foetuses to pieces, did he not clearly come out in support of the "national djelaba" as opposed to "cosmopolitan jeans"?

But things must still be stated, and, in the battle that is being prepared, one must know clearly who is who and who does what. Because they mix up that which must be separated, because they deny the contradictions that must be accentuated in order to achieve their resolution, because they offend those who, victims on the front lines of the battle with the God fanatics, should be our allies, the bawlers of the National Front are contributing not to the weakening but to the triumph of fascism with an Islamist face.

*Le Bloc identitaire is a French extreme right wing group whose declared purpose is the «defense of historical and carnal identity».