Source: The Intercept
By Mehdi Hasan, who is a Columnist, The Intercept. Contributing Editor, New Statesman. Host, Al Jazeera English. Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University.
YOU THINK LIFE is bad for Muslims in Trump’s America? Spare a thought for the Muslims of France.
Over the past few years, they have been collectively blamed, and punished, for a series of horrific terror attacks carried out in France by so-called jihadists. The latest, a knife attack in Paris by a man shouting “Allahu akbar,” killed one person and injured four others last weekend.
While anti-Muslim bigotry has become a hallmark of the Republican right in America, in France it is a truly bipartisan affair. Islamophobia is peddled by the left and right alike, with both socialists and conservatives falling over one another to defend French secularism, or laïcité, by demonizing French Muslims.
Consider: Successive French governments have criminalized the face veil and banned the headscarf in schools. French mayors have targeted Muslim women who want to cover up at the beach and Muslim school kids who try to have a pork-free lunch. The French president — and new liberal heartthrob — Emmanuel Macron has introduced draconian counterterror legislation that United Nations human rights experts have warned could have a discriminatory impact on Muslims in particular.
And the latest big idea? To go after the Quran. On April 21, the newspaper Le Parisien published a manifesto “against the new anti-Semitism,” signed by 300 public figures — ranging from former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls, to actor Gérard Depardieu and singer Charles Aznavour. According to The Atlantic, the manifesto states that “11 Jews have been assassinated — and some tortured — by radical Islamists” in France, and demands that “the verses of the Quran calling for murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers be struck to obsolescence by religious authorities,” so that “no believer can refer to a sacred text to commit a crime.”
Such rhetoric is a reflection both of Gallic bigotry and sheer stupidity, a toxic combination of ignorance and privilege.
First, where are these Muslim “religious authorities” who would be willing to do to the Quran what Thomas Jefferson did to the Bible? Establishment-friendly French imams, such as Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, and Tareq Oubrou, imam of Bordeaux’s Grand Mosque, have denounced the manifesto as “unbelievable and unfair” and “nearly blasphemous.” And were such mainstream figures to even agree to edit the Quran — believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God! — does anyone really believe that the fanatics of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda would give a damn?
Second, violent extremism isn’t a product of scripture. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and as I have argued in the past while citing a raft of studies and experts, religious faith “isn’t a crucial factor” in terror attacks — or in the process of so-called radicalization. Why, then, obsess over Quranic verses? As the French journalist Didier Francois, who was held hostage by ISIS in Syria, told CNN in 2015: “There was never really discussion about texts or — it was not a religious discussion. It was a political discussion. … Because it has nothing to do with the Quran.” Or, as his fellow former French hostage, Nicolas Henin, has said, “I noticed that these jihadists have little to do with … Arab or Muslim culture — they are children of our societies. … They are products of our culture, our world.”
Who do you take more seriously? Two former ISIS hostages? Or the guy from “Green Card“?