It must be emphasized that true secularism is not opposed to religion, and a secular democratic state will not only eliminate ethnic and religious discrimination, such as pitting Shiites against Sunnis, but will also create the conditions for the religious people to practice their beliefs free of the government. Islam and secularism are completely compatible. In fact, a true "Islamic state" is not only unjustified, but also impossible to establish.
The radical actors of the Muslim world, in destroying the troublesome symbols of free thinking, are destroying their own cultural vitality and dynamism. In truth, their Islamist culture of death has resulted in a death of Islamic culture. The urgent task for Islamic pluralists is to lift the shadow of violence from the Islamic culture and recall Muslims to their traditions of an empathetic civilization that feels another's sorrow and does not need an enemy for its sustenance.
France must reengineer social policies that will help address the rising anti-Semitism, particularly among poorer immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim leaders and imams, while speaking out loudly against Islamophobia, must also unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism. "Je suis humain" should be the battle cry against those who want to divide us.
Who would say that deadly acts and statements have never been committed in the name of a faith -- whichever faith it may be -- throughout history? What historian would explain away the "wars of religion" between European Christians in the 16th and 17th centuries as mere socio-economic casualties? What is the rationale behind this bastion of thought that, in recent days, led to the statements that this was a case of "madmen" who "distorted religion," as if there were religious elements purely detached from what these men did?
Whenever there is news of a shooting, kidnapping or attack, the first thought that goes through my mind is "Please don't let it be a Muslim" (with "Please don't let it be a Pakistani Muslim" following closely behind). For if it's a Muslim, it will no longer be considered an isolated incident. If it's a Muslim, I have the onerous burden of having to do the following.
Why must we be particularly careful about giving the West some special status when it may well deserve to be recognized for its contemporary pluralism? The main cause for caution is that history reveals patterns of prejudice in the West, just as much as in the East, and there can still be a resurgence of such impulses if we are not careful and fail to ward them off.
This is not about Islam or Christianity or Judaism or even capitalism versus communitarianism, but their angriest and most vehement branches. If our enlightenment "wins," there will be Islam in the future and everything else. But the fuming tenor of zero-sum machismo will be gone. Those who today preach hatred will live, but not their hate. Moreover, they know this. And because hatred is addictive, like a drug, that is the wellspring of their fury.
What has happened to our "Country of Enlightenment"? France has always bragged about being a model of coexistence where the universalist and color blind philosophy of our Republic was supposed to protect us from racial tension. If we don't want our country to plunge into the abyss, the republican fable we are telling has to come to an end.
We could search for a false harmony, like they do in unfree societies, by continually criminalizing new forms of speech according to the following maxim: If you accept my taboo and you don't speak critically or offensively about all that is sensitive and sacred to me, I will do the same for you. In societies like ours, where diversity is growing, this road leads to a tyranny of silence.