In Normandy every day since the end of July, we celebrate and commemorate the liberation of our territory thanks in particular to the “Gars de Leclerc”. The Leclerc division, or the second armored division, is the glorious army to which we respectfully chant the anthem before each headstone and tenacious veteran, eager to testify again and again their commitment to a free France, fraternal and victorious.
The Burkini Affair
The events of this year have taken on a particular tone, especially on the debate raging around the “burkini affair”, where just one part of our society in an identity crisis, has found the Muslim, the cause of his troubles.
Candidates for the highest office, that of President of the Republic, and their supporters, are aligning themselves on a discourse of exclusion and suspicion, without seeking to elevate the debate or talk about possible causes of radicalization. Islam has become a variable for applauses at meetings and likes on Facebook. Deep thought has been reduced to elementary expressions in 140 characters. Twitter has become a new arena with its rules, censors labeling the good and bad, and small groups attributing good points and insults.
“In France it is the state that is secular, not the citizens, not the suits. The burkini is not prohibited by law.”
I have said repeatedly, that having a rational discourse on Islam is now impossible. The vox populi vox dei does not want to hear such a discourse. The Burkini Affair is the latest example of this terrifying avatar, a reduction of public debate and the dumbing down of reasoning. These shortcuts, amalgams, and confusion are fueling hatreds.
I had the opportunity to recall that in France, it is the state that is secular, not citizens, not swimsuits. The burkini is not prohibited by law. If it can be, it is for health reasons in the pools, or by a municipal decree – if the mayors judge it to be inappropriate or if it presents a risk to the maintenance of public order on the beaches of their municipalities. For those who see the hand of Salafists or the Wahhabism of Saudi Arabia, we can recall that the burkini was invented in 2004 in Australia by an Australian of Lebanese origin, Aheda Zanetti. Let’s end this delusion!
Let’s return to the discourse of hatred and all the excess that surrounds the discord over the Burkini. Once the law is recalled, you can always engage in another debate – that of the appropriateness and compatibility [of the Burkini] with secularism, and at the same time reopen the debate about the veil. All debates are legitimate in a democracy, but this does not mean that they are all well founded: this is where the problem lies.
The dumbing down of public debate by political elites, themselves making use of shortcuts and amalgams, has led everyone to consider his position as truth thereby excluding any discussion and/or confusing substantive discussions with opportunities for debate.
The Burkini ban would be felt by the Gulf as a French resignation towards them and our common arms deals. The debate is legitimate for those who believe that the veil is an enslavement of women. The Burkini gives them an opportunity to express themselves and to give lessons of modernity and secular virtues – forgetting, in passing, that the law allows the veil in public places and prohibits the burqa. The recurring debate on arms sales and relations with non-democratic countries is not less important, but we must admit that we are moving away from Burkini issue. As for the petro-monarchies of the Gulf, they are still subject to all the controversies and “responsible for all ills”.
The debate is deteriorating day by day with new excesses and controversies, and no one takes the time to reflect.
What this controversy surrounding the Burkini reveals about the state of French society is terrifying. There is an intransigence and perversion of our values. Intolerance and fantasies fed by respectable fears, fueled by more media that is emotional rather that informative. By recalling rights, you are immediately collaborative with Islamic/Saudi lobbies. By objecting to the Burkini, you are Islamophobic and racist.
Lack of public discourse and the voice of reason
Where is the public discourse? Which candidate for president will have the voice of reason in this climate of extreme tension, to recall some basics of living together – republican values, as contained in the pediments of our town halls and the legal framework of our country? Who will shout loudly that the Muslim French have their place in the Republic, that their rights are guaranteed as any other citizen and they are subject to the same laws? Who will remember that the Law of 1905 prohibits the State from interfering in the management of organizations and cults and that this recurring tropism to interfere in the management of the Muslim faith in France maintains a climate of mutual suspicion?
Who will remember that the organization and functioning of Islam is fully compatible with the Law of 1905 (as we have done with my colleague André Reichardt, co-rapporteur of the commission of information on Islam in France, published last July on the 7th)?
Who will remember that twenty mosques in France, or 1% – are financed by foreign funds? That TRACFIN (“processing information and action against clandestine financial circuits”) monitors all transactions on national soil accounts of individuals as associations? Why maintain a delusion about it? Why have we linked foreign funding of Muslim places of worship to terrorism after the heinous terrorist attacks of Nice and monstrous murder of Father Hamel?
Who will finally remember that the CFCM (French Council of the Muslim Faith), a useful creation, has no financial means to operate and that the task of its president is large? Why at the highest state level does one not also use Islam in France in the fight against terrorism?
I do not understand this incessant desire to strengthen what divides us rather than what unites us. In coming back to the beginning of my speech on the commemoration of the liberation of France, it is undoubtedly thanks to the brave men and women of the Leclerc Division, the first regiment of Moroccan SPAHIS, Croix de Guerre, and Companion of the Liberation. And I think of those Moroccan and Algerian soldiers of this division, who sleep in the land of France in the necropolis of Gateys Orne or other burial grounds, where they died for our freedom, with this ideal of peace and living together against totalitarianism.
“In the middle of this summer of all dangers, could we not think of the heroes who liberated us from the Nazis and were of all faiths?”
Today we face terrorism. It is obvious that this war we will win with the ideals that are ours. We must first carry, defend, and transmit them. We must not forget that the radicalized youth are children of the Republic. They are young men and women born in France. Lack of carrying an ideology leads our youth to Daesh, who is presumably relishing in the problems and discourse over the Burkini.
Each controversy that may directly or indirectly affect Islam and Muslims is its cause. The recruiters of Daech play on this record, “see, this country is not yours, your women are stigmatized, their modesty is not respected, the right is never in favor of Muslims, join us… ”
I am appalled by the violence of social networks, the absence of reasonable voices, this creation of a dangerous amalgam. Amidst this summer of all its dangers, could we not think of the heroes who liberated us from the Nazis and were of all faiths? Could we not just think about the image that we have of ourselves and those we project our children and abroad? To think without excesses should be possible in an enlightened France.
The Senate’s Mission
We, with the Senate commission on the “organization and functioning of Islam”, have established an inventory that shows clearly and without bias, that Islam is compatible in France, with our legal framework and with the Law of 1905. This prescient work, serious and educational passed unanimously by the left and right, should be useful to better understand the complexities of the situation and find technical solutions to our fellow Muslim citizens, so that they can exercise their religion in dignity.
But who is interested in substantive work when we surf on the fears to serve political campaign that simply look mediocre? Personally, I deplore this climate that represses reason in favor of emotion. I understand emotion, fear, compassion and chain reactions, but I find it hard that first-rank politicians are blowing on the embers of intolerance, or worse, are remaining silent …
The law of the Republic and the republican order must be applied everywhere and by everyone, hate speech must be prosecuted with zero tolerance. This is the price of a strong state that is proud of its republican values of liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism that we may find a little serenity …
With election campaigns in the coming months, I, for one, am very pessimistic.