Sylviane Agacinski, the French philosopher, feminist, author, professor at the École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales and wife of former Prime Minister of France Lionel Jospin, has been deluding herself with the notion that there can be a benign form of Islam, following which does not amount to Islamism or a radical interpretation of the religion. A senior civil servant, polytechnic engineer and expert in security, anti-terrorism and religious studies and disciple of Plutarch, Aurélien Marq, has challenged the notion in an article in Causeur. Marq writes in the piece: “We must recognise Sylviane Agacinski for the courage to defend what she believes to be right against the doctrine of her own political camp, which is nevertheless known to be little open to contradiction. They are too few on the left; those who like her prefer to tell the truth with Aron than to lie with Sartre — to use an ideological adage. Still, there is something tragic in having to go into raptures when a left-wing writer (admittedly of quality) finally decides to write, but more than twenty years late, the truths that have long brought shame to the right. Or at least, part of these truths, part only…
“For, in her book Facing a Holy War, listed for Causeur by Camille-Apollonia Narducci, the philosopher draws up a number of facile observations but also writes: ‘France has no problem with Islam or with Muslims, it has a problem with Islamism…’ No problem with Islam, really? Allow me to think otherwise.
“What is Islamism if not the desire to make Islam the norm, in the double sense of ‘normal’ and ‘normative’? In 1983, Jean-François Clément, probably the first to have used ‘Islamism’ in its present meaning, wrote about Islamist groups: ‘In summary, they translate in their own way the famous adage: ‘Islâm, dîn wa dunya (Islamic religion and world)’, extending the field of Islam to infinity. This should be the source of laws, the basis of basic culture, the fabric of social ethics, the form of political organization, etc.’
“If, therefore, there were no problem with Islam, what problem would there be in wanting to make Islam ‘the source of the laws, the foundation of the basic culture, the fabric of social ethics, the form of the political organization, etc’? None, and provided they only seek power through legal means, the Islamists would be just the Muslim version of a Christian democracy. But they are something else entirely, even when they do not resort to jihadist violence. Why? Because the Islam that inspires their social project, in its values as in its vision of the world and of man, is radically opposed to the very foundations of the republic, of France and of European civilisation. Islam is the negation of the enlightenment as much as of Christianity and the heritage of antiquity, incompatible with Marianne as much as with Joan of Arc and Athena because he rejects all three of them and rejects what they have in common.
“You don’t have to look very far for proof. Just over a year ago, on 23 October 2021, the Great Mosque of Paris organised a competition during which children had to memorise and recite the 40 so-called nawawi ahadith and, among these, number 8, ‘I have been commanded to fight against men until they testify that there is no god but Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger, that they perform the ritual prayer, that they pay the Zakat (religious tax)’ and number 14: ‘It is not lawful to shed the blood of a Muslim, except if it is a question of one of the three culprits here: the fornicator whose marriage has been consummated, the murderer who will suffer the fate of his victim, and the apostate who separates from the Muslim community’. So France would have ‘no problem’ with an ideology praising forced conversions and the killing of apostates? I dare to hope so, and a fundamental problem.
“One may object and say that other religions have unsavoury passages in their sacred texts as well. Certainly, many do. But of all those significantly present in France today, Islam is the only one that values rote learning of their sacred texts by children. The only one, again, in whose name these passages are put into practice almost everywhere in the world. The only religion in the world in the name of which states punish apostasy, blasphemy and homosexuality with death — and it will be remembered that the current grand imam of Al Azhar himself declared in 2016 that the four orthodox currents of Sunnism are unanimous in calling for the killing of apostates.
“So, what to believe? That the entire orthodox Sunnism, that is to say, the Islam to which the overwhelming majority of Muslims on the planet, and in particular in France, refers, would fall under Islamism but not Islam? Or that France has no problem with the refusal of freedom of conscience? Or that France, for fear of having problems with the Muslims present on its soil or of not appearing sufficiently ‘tolerant’ in its own eyes, has chosen to turn a blind eye to the true nature of Islam? Ostentatious virtuous postures, denials and compromises…
“Will Muslims one day succeed in inventing an Islam with which France — and for that matter, any country aspiring to guarantee the fundamental rights of its citizens — will not have good enough reasons to have a problem? Some are working on it, and their efforts are admirable, but no one knows if they will end up winning the support of their co-religionists, who for the moment do not show great enthusiasm for their work. At the time of writing these lines, the currents of Islam that do not pose any problem for the European civilisation are painfully in the minority, marginalised even within the Muslim community. And this community itself aspires increasingly to live in Europe by benefiting from the material advantages of European cultures but according to Islamic standards (all the polls on the subject are unanimous, and confirm the observation of common sense that anyone can do it), which is to say according to an Islamist social order, with the Muslim Brotherhood in the front line.
“Sylviane Agacinski rightly evokes ‘a certain disenchantment with the world’ to which Islamism provides an illusion of response (in reality a perverse trap, since Islam does not enchant the world but the contempt of the world and calls for its absolute reification as an offering to Allah). She is right, and agrees in substance with the observation of Michel Onfray, saying that if our society has to offer young people only Hanouna and the Kalashnikov, it is not surprising that some prefer the Kalashnikov. Owning a Rolex before its 50th birthday is not a sufficient aspiration to fill a human life…
“The philosopher wonders ‘in the name of what our ethical, legal and political culture should and could resist it’. A few years ago, Alexandra Laignel-Lavastine had asked the same question in an excellent book, Pour quoi serions-nous encore prêts à mourir? (What would we still be ready to die for?)’ that concluded by speaking of ‘breaking the dance of the invertebrates’. Invertebrates, yes, or perhaps rather with vertebrae bent and twisted by the weight of the prohibitions of ‘political correctness’, of a so-called ‘tolerance’ and of anti-racism gone mad. Will we be able to recover? Will we be able to re-enchant the sacred on which and thanks to which our civilisation was built, from Homer to Jean Moulin, in the refusal of arbitrariness, even divine, and the affirmation of the inviolable dignity of man?”
— Translated by Surajit Dasgupta