The time is ripe for collective action
France is strong and will overcome the effects of the horrific attack perpetrated by a group of less than human criminals acting in the name of Islam. It is not for nothing that the motto of Paris for over 600 years has been “Fluctuat nec mergitur,” which is Latin for “shaken but not sunk.”
This is the city that modern history and culture emanate from. In order to do so it had to get rid of the overbearing influence of the church in the political domain in favor of the secular outlook on life that lies at the core of all advanced cultures.
The question of whether France has always respected these values itself does not alter the fact that it is the ultimate source of our notions of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité.” The Islamic world is at a decisive moment in this respect. Islamic leaders, thinkers, and opinion makers have to understand that things can’t go the way they are.
If they refuse to do so they will see the democratic world rally, no matter what it is made to suffer, and ensure that it protects its basic values. No one will allow the clock to be turned back 1400 years. The West had to defeat its own religious reactionaries, now it is the turn of the Islamic world.
If it does not, and continues to blame others for the state that it finds itself in, it will ultimately be law-abiding and hard-working Muslims who simply want to get on in life who suffer the most, while the good name of their religion deteriorates further. It remains a wide-open question whether the Islamic world can rise to the occasion.
The Arab Spring provided an opportunity but it was squandered. Muhammed Morsi in Egypt, for example, proved that Islamic leaders, even if they are elected, have a long way to go before they come to terms with the requirements of secular pluralism demanded by advanced democracies.
Morsi used his ballot box victory not to advance democracy but to impose his own religious outlook on society.
In doing so he also invited the coup that toppled him. Looking at the woeful results of the Arab Spring one is led to the conclusion that as matters stand Islam is not compatible with democracy, because it has no respect for pluralism and the inalienable rights of other creeds and beliefs.
Turkey is the only example of a predominantly Islamic country that provides hope in this respect. This is why secularism and pluralistic democracy must be protected in this country against all authoritarian tendencies which use the ballot box to advance a backward outlook on life.
The hope is that our leaders have what it takes to do this. The jury remains out on this score presently.
There is, however, the other side of the coin. European countries, starting with France, have to also understand what lies at the core of the hatred some of their Muslim citizens feel for their country. It is all too easy to point to the radicalization of youth by alien factors or to blame Islam.
There must be more to it than that for a young person, who clearly sees no hope or future in this life, to destroy himself or herself for the sake of a better afterlife. The conditions that can create such bestial hatred, for which Islam is used as a convenient cover, must be researched without prejudice.
This is not a “white man/black man” affair in its broadest sense either. Many of the French people who turned out at the Place de la République to commemorate those killed were originally from other parts of the world, many from France’s former colonies including those in North Africa.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has proved it is the enemy of all countries, including a predominantly Islamic one like Turkey, which has already suffered the Ankara and Suruç massacres perpetrated by the group. There is no “us and them” in the fight against these groups. Those who see it that way will only inflame the situation.
The time is ripe for collective action against barbarism without caveats and blame games.