If Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilization” theory is right, France is on the front line. With at least six and maybe eight million Muslims living in its territory among a total population of 60 million, France is the most “islamized” Western country. Seeing France’s inability to adapt to globalization or to the aging of its population, it could be bad news for the world that the French are the first to be forced to facilitate the emergence of a “modern” Islam.
As nearly every Western country absorbs a fast growing Muslim minority, every Westerner should look closely at France. A French failure to integrate Muslims could lead to a general European and Western failure. Those who don’t believe in the clash of civilizations might at least see a clash between traditional Islamic values and Western republican values. This raises the question of the compatibility of Islam with secular democracy (separation of church and state) and human rights (especially the rights of women and of non-Muslims).
All Muslims do not interpret the Koran identically and do not practice the same forms of Islam. But which Islam is going to win in Western countries? Even if they do not say it openly, more and more French citizens fear an Islamist victory that could lead to religious and civil war. The vote in favour of Jean-Marie Le Pen is emblematic of this fear. Locally, votes in favour of the National Front are linked to the proportion of Muslim immigrants in the population.
Stephen Schwartz, in his book The Two Faces of Islam, has an optimistic view of the Islamic question and believes any problems stem from the radical Wahabist sect. The Saudis finance most mosques and Islamic schools all over the world. This leads to a worrisome preponderance of Wahabi influence over Muslim thought. One has to admire the courage of Schwartz, whose fight against Islamo-fascism is of extreme importance.
Schwartz thinks Islam is essentially a religion of “tolerance” and that Mohammed was a “man of peace”. Yes and no. Muslims do tolerate others but they also give them an inferior status. Mohammed was a man of peace but also a warrior. The beliefs of Mr Schwartz are so strong that he converted to Islam. His choice certainly demonstrates one solution to preventing a clash of civilization.
As every non-Muslim may not be in the mood to convert, and as every Muslim does not adhere to the same peaceful reading of the Koran, one may be permitted a more pessimistic view. The overwhelming majority of Muslims are not terrorists. But from Bali to Riyadh, from Karachi to Jerusalem, from Moscow to New York most terrorists are Muslims. In his book Why I Am Not a Muslim, Ibn Warraq, born Muslim, contends that “all Muslims still take the Koran literally” and hence “there is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism”. It is certain that, as Bernard Lewis wrote, “the creed and political program of Islamic fundamentalist are not compatible with liberal democracy.”
So what percentage of Muslims is fundamentalist? From Algeria to Turkey, when Muslims are free to vote, Islamists regularly win 30 to 40 percent of the votes. In France... the result was no different. In May 2003, the French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, organized elections for a Representative Council of French Muslims. The Islamists of the UOIF (Union des Organisations Islamistes de France) won over 40 percent of the votes.
This election was a major failure for Sarkozy, who wanted to promote moderate Muslim leaders like Dalil Boubakeur, head of the Mosque of Paris. Before the elections Dalil Boubakeur denounced “the Islam of the suburbs, the Islam of the excited” and was anxious about “more and more young going from the suburbs to Peshawar”. He asked “Why shave the beards in Kabul while cultivating them in the Paris area?”
The result of the election, which took place among Mosque-goers who are more fundamentalist than “average” Muslims, was to give power to the president of the UOIF -- who wears a beard and asserts that “our constitution is Koran” -- a way to reject the constitution of France and live according to Islamic (Sharia) law clearly opposed to French law. The problem with Islam is that it is not only a religion but also an ideology that intends to rule man’s life on earth.
Was the victory of the Islamists really a surprise given the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism, mainly instigated by young Arabs, in France? After 9/11, in the 19th Arrondissement of Paris, many blew their automobile horns loudly. After the beginning of the new Intifada in Israel, thousands shouted openly “death to the Jews” in Strasbourg. During the Iraqi war, thousands waved portraits of Saddam, Israeli flags with Nazi emblems and Bush portraits with Hitler’s moustache.
A stranger may wonder at the lack of French reaction. Is it because the Catholic French are also anti-American and anti-Semitic? The answer is: no. It is more a mixture of laziness (“we’ll see later”), fear (“do not provoke Muslims, they may become terrorists”), bad conscience (“Crusades, colonies, unemployment”), optimism (“we will invent the best system”) and difficulty confronting reality.
Economics plays a major role in the “Muslim problem”. The overwhelming poverty in Middle Eastern and North African countries, ruled for centuries by Islam, drives their populations to desperation. The Islamists, nostalgic for the glorious past of the Caliphates, place the blame for these conditions mainly on Westerners, rejecting the fact that the problem has its roots in the failure of their own societies. With one of the highest unemployment levels for youth among OECD countries, France is in a bad position to provide a model of integration.
Many Muslims came to France only to benefit from the state welfare system, get free social housing, free school, free Medicare, and family allocations but with no desire to adapt to French rule of law. Last July, Sarkozy passed a bill intended to control immigration networks and to stop some Muslim customs: polygamy, excision, repudiation and forced marriage. One hopes that he will be more successful than with the election of his Islamic council. If the Islamization of France goes on it will accelerate the clash of civilization.