Will France fall into the trap of pitting ‘Islamism’ vs. ‘Nativism?’

January 8, 2015


The brutal attack that took place in Paris Wednesday on the headquarters of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, leaving at least 12 dead and more than 20 injured, could lead to dreadful consequences. 

Beyond grief for the victims and those close to them, many are speculating as to what the political reactions to this attack will be. In a speech delivered on site just a few hours after the attack, the French President François Hollande called for “national unity” in the face of a “tragedy that affects everyone.” It is clear, however, that the attack runs the risk of fanning the flames of an already tense situation not only in France but also across Europe.

Reports strongly suggest that the attack is linked to a form of militant Islamism. If this were to be confirmed, the result could be a strong boost for rampant anti-Islamic rhetoric across Europe.

If forced to match the French far right’s anti-Islamic program, the already struggling Hollande government could be pushed into making some unwise decisions. If, for example, it were to turn out that the attack could be linked with the perpetrators receiving support or military training from Islamist organizations operating from abroad, how is the French president — and public opinion — going to react?

To take stock of the risks, it might be worthwhile to examine the greater context in which the attack took place. Doing so in no way justifies or even exculpates the perpetrators of the attacks. Such acts are to be condemned without reservation. It is also important, however, not to lose sight of the issues and events that have shaped them.

Monday in Dresden, Germany, more than 18,000 people attended a rally organized by Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West. Similar anti-Islam events took place in Stuttgart, Muenster and Hamburg.

A few days earlier, Sweden witnessed three reported arson attacks against a mosque within a week. In that country, the primary response was an anti-racism rally in front of the parliament, while Sweden’s culture minister called for the government to intervene to counter Islamophobia.

In France, the most recent Charlie Hebdo magazine cover before the attack featured a cartoon of the controversial novelist Michel Houellebecq, whose latest book imagines a dystopic future in which an Islamist president takes power in France. The issue was released the day of the attack.

One key detail of that novel that commentators have noted is the symbolism of the election in the plot. This sees the imaginary French “Muslim Brotherhood” win a run-off election against a less-than-imaginary Front National, led by Marine Le Pen, leaving the country with no choice but to pick an extreme. The center has fallen by the wayside. As the author himself later explained in an interview on the Paris Review, this element reflected his fears that French politics might be in the process of degenerating into a struggle between ‘Islamists’ and ‘nativists’.

The imagined scenario would indeed be a nightmare. But is this binary opposition the best way of viewing the problem?

The greatest risk now is to fall into the trap of framing the attack in terms of a struggle between Islam and the West.

On one hand, framing the attack that way is precisely what the terrorists want — it is the way they perceive the world – and it is a framework within which their actions make sense. On the other hand, it is a virtually certain way of losing sight of what is at stake in the struggle against terrorism — the values of openness, pluralism and tolerance that the terrorists so manifestly despise.

The only way to answer is the attack on Charlie Hebdo to stand by the values that the French Republic supposedly embodies — treat these gunmen for what they are: dangerous criminals who need to be brought before the justice system for what they have done.


PHOTO: A woman holds a placard that reads, “Hand in hand against barbarity”, during a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, at Republique square on Jan. 7, 2015. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal


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This author appears bent on avoiding the term “Islamic Terrorists”, insisting instead on using the term “criminals.” The author’s term, if accepted by the French, would also result in the perpetrators being tried in a French criminal court rather than a military court. I tend to side with the news organizations that treat these and other jihadists like terrorists. I’m not so fearful of people blaming normal Muslims unjustly as a result of using the term jihadist, as I am having the leaders of the free world sticking their heads in the sand by adhering to the term criminal. If we allow leaders to keep looking the other way, they will continue their pacifist stance and let this problem get totally out of control.

Posted by hometown | Report as abusive

The bigger question is: “Will Islam fall into its same tired trap of screwing up every place it goes?”

When is the last time you heard of a major medical research breakthrough coming from a Muslim hospital? Or a civil engineering project in the middle east that was not paid for and designed by outside engineers? Islam blocks innovation and imagination. Islam is a trap.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Sure, France will succumb to fear just as the US and Britain and most of the west. The information dissemination organizations will assure that the debate is framed such that the assumption is that they are under attack by terrorist and must give up individual rights to allow the government to protect them. Just like the US and Britain. Most people are already slaves and this simply assures that there is a secret police state available to suppress freedom, just like the US and Britain

Posted by brotherkenny4 | Report as abusive

Islam must ask itself what it brings to the global table. Suicide vests? Throwing rocks at girls’ faces? Time to grow up and contribute something useful.

I know of very few innovations in Muslim countries. Most good things that were built in the Arab and Persian worlds were built by outsiders, or built before the Muslims ruined the place.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

The media loves to tell their readers about the how and the when, but never the why. To attack the most religious aspect of a religion is asking for trouble. To reprint the anti-Prophet Muhammad cartoons of the Dane already under fatwa, underlines for Moslems the contempt which these people have for their beliefs. People will die for their religious beliefs, but not for politics.

I have no sympathy for these desecrators .

Posted by expat75 | Report as abusive

The author makes the correct statement that until the gunmen are apprehended and the full nature of their connections and motivations are understood, that judging the underlying causes is invalid. Yet, that is exactly where he goes. It is not thoughtful to put forth arguments that current terrorist events are a reaction the right-wing activity without giving any voice to the possibility that it may be the other way around. Also missing is the concept that the recent attacks may be a tactic to promote greater activity on the right and increased polarization.

Posted by Ther | Report as abusive

I echo brotherkenny’s sentiments. No doubt this terrorism is an evil thing and must be dealt with. However, a greater evil awaits in the changes that will be passed into law in its wake.

Posted by BidnisMan | Report as abusive

Expat75 seems to think a cartoon lampooning a murderous cult leader justifies murder in the name of their religion. Well using his reasoning, are we now justified in murdering everyone of the muslim faith because they label non-muslims as infidels and Satanists? I believe he would find fault with that.

There is and never has been any justification in murdering simply because of a cartoon. Anyone who believes there is cements the belief that Islam is not and never has been a religion of peace.

I hope these murderous dogs and all who support or assist them are hunted down as the animals they are and die in shootouts with the police, saving the French peoples the cost of a trial.

Posted by Robert76 | Report as abusive

If any adherent of Islam were honest, there would be a council of Islam that will take a few hundred gallons of red ink and edit out the mayhem and ugliness of what is required of Muslim. But there is no honesty and no council will form to red ink the hate and the human sacrifice to human ego. It is either they do it or all of Islam needs to be outlawed like the Thuggee years past.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

@hometown, but they are criminals first, terrorists second. Murder is already a heinous crime, the laws already exist to punish the perpetrators. The only thing the author is doing is posing that society act rationally. Capture, prosecute and IF, because we must assume innocence until guilt is proven in court, found guilty, punish. I’m from Texas so punishment for me would be the death penalty for the murders. I don’t need to be whipped into a lather over terrorism, it’s a horrible crime. Prosecute it with the laws already in place and without the frenzy. The frenzy caused by citing terrorism gives the enemy control over us.

I can’t believe I agree with a journalist, but he’s correct.

Posted by PenDavenport | Report as abusive

This piece equates jihadist murders with the National Front and refers to both as “extremists”


So when has Marine Le Pen or any other National Front party leader executed a defenseless wounded man on the streets of Paris in broad daylight in front of dozens of witnesses?

Posted by PauvrePapillon | Report as abusive

If you’re looking for wider context acknowledge that we’re dealing with another lapse of intelligence (agencies).

Speaking of perspectives, in wider context… Have you heard what German minister said today? Charlie Hebdo attack was “an attack on Islam”.

…because they hate our freedoms.

Posted by satori23 | Report as abusive

Talking about Islam without reading quran

Posted by Zeeshan2109 | Report as abusive

Don,t Talk about islam without reading The Quran.
Get complete knowledge about something rather than information.

Posted by Zeeshan2109 | Report as abusive

Can anyone name a vehicle designed and manufactured in a Muslim country?

How about a really good bicycle company? Light bulbs?


Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Remove Islam and you have people of various geographic backgrounds which have various civilizations. Europeans do not act Protestant or Roman Catholic or Anglican or Lutheran, etc,; they don’t impose a long ago non-existent political system on the populace as Islam does and insists upon doing. The world no longer insists that everyone born within certain boundaries be of a certain political system that claims to be a religion; well, except some really backward countries that lack true basics in education but the education of the religious-political system which is absolutely NO education at all. If adherents of Islam do not condone the murder that is an everyday occurence in the name of psychotic everyday ego, then they need to red-line the atrocities out of their religious-political system. If they do not, then they are tell lies through their teeth and it is the political system of Islam that matters as it never was nor will it ever be a religion.

Posted by SixthRomeo | Report as abusive

The issue is the assault by Islamoterror on the rights and freedoms we enjoy in the western world. The tolerance that these islamofacist demand and expect from others is the very thing they sorely lack. There perverted hypocrisy is not only evident in France but also Australia, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Syria, Iraq , Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, US etc. Paris is not an isolated incident. The belief that an insulting cartoon should be answered by death and mayhem is completely beyond my understanding and empathy. They define what insults them to the point of violence and murder – what’s next. Take a stand now lest our freedoms be whittled away to nothing over time – that, sir, is the real and ultimate trap.

Ben Franklin Quotes. “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Posted by garravagh | Report as abusive

I think the governments (French and British) are partly to blame through being overly cautious about challenging Islamist fundamentalism. Not one of the British media has sought to publish the original Danish cartoons – which would have been the strongest way to re-enforce the freedom of speech across the free world.

Islamists have sought, very successfully, to place Islam beyond reproach. Accordingly, our politicians and media treat Islam with kid gloves. Christianity and Judaism receive scrutiny and satire on a routine basis, but nobody dares to challenge Islamic philosophy and ideas. Few journalists seem to recognise this.

Posted by Gilada | Report as abusive

Appeasement didn’t work with Nazi Germany and it won’t work with Muslim fundamentalism either. It needs to be tackled head on. We should all draw cartoons of the prophet and post them on social media or in newspapers.

Relgion must be a part of society, not separate from it. Once Muslims get used to seeing their views challenged, then maybe they will start to integrate because they will see themselves as no different to Christians, Jews, and people of other faiths and none. Currently, they do regard themselves and their religion as separate / different from western society – and therein lies the problem.

In centuries gone by, people had to fight for their views to be critical of Christianity too. Heretics were murdered in their thousands, just for holding a different view from the mainstream orthodoxy. It seems society has to revisit that struggle now with Islam. It cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged and unscrutinised.

Posted by Gilada | Report as abusive

Carlo Acceti is worried about a trap and an over-reaction. I have always felt the US fell into a trap when it decided to invade Iraq. So as long as France doesn’t invade we should be ok.

However – Carlo.. you can’t ignore the tie to extremist camps in Yemen and elsewhere. The west needs to address Islamic terrorism wherever it appears. The Islamic faith needs to do the same. Where are the leaders of Islam on this issue?

So –

1. capture and prosecute these terrorists – as long as it’s a fair trial I don’t care if it’s civilian or military courts.

2. Pass laws that make it illegal to promote terrorism and enforce the laws. If there are Imams out their preaching hate and violence – that’s not religion – that’s a crime against society. Throw them in jail pronto – confiscate their property and stamp them out.

3. Have laws that protect the peaceful practice of any religion. Any fire bomb throwing right wingnut should go to the same jail as the radical imams…

That is what Charlie would want…

Posted by michaelryan | Report as abusive

Islam = ignorance.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Humanity is greatest. Allah is nothing.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

It’s not a trap. It’s a choice, and the French must make it. I hope and trust they will choose nativism.

Posted by NBE | Report as abusive

The issue is the assault by Islamoterror on the rights and freedoms we enjoy in the western world. The tolerance that these Islamofascists expect from others is the very thing they sorely lack. Their perverted hypocrisy is not only evident in France but also Australia, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Syria, Iraq , Nigeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, US etc. The belief that a satirical cartoon should be answered by death and mayhem or a girl needs to die because she wishes to be educated is completely beyond my understanding. We hold dear freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and life itself. Radical Islam is the antitheses. Live and let live is not part of their lexicon. The trap is to modify our beliefs and freedoms to accommodate them.

The Moslem leaders need to step forward and reassure us that they are doing something to combat radicalism. The onus is on them – prove to me that you are a religion of peace.

Posted by garravagh | Report as abusive

If this were the choice, I’d vote Marine Le Pen, easily. She gets it. She said:

“Time’s up for denial and hypocrisy. The absolute rejection of Islamic fundamentalism must be proclaimed loudly and clearly.”

Absolutely true. And she is not an “extremist”. She is a traditionalist, Nationalist and Conservative, trying to save France from its own undoing. Liberals/Socialists always call any Conservative or Conservative movement “extremist”, not because the person or movement is so far right, but the critic is so far left.

Posted by ChambersCD62 | Report as abusive

Sometimes you have to say “enough” and draw a line in the sand. The author of this story seems more than willing to try and please everyone all of the time. This is a impossible task. The very idea that we can all get along and live in peace and harmony is proving to be a fools quest.

Posted by cruzkit | Report as abusive

First recognize there is a war against the West. Then understand that measures must be undertaken to WIN the war. Then realize that ANY measure that will win the war must be taken. Then understand that any cultural values that MUST be compromised WILL be restored AFTER the threat TO any possibility of those values EVER to continue to exist is ELIMINATED. Remember this: Any societal value that is used as a WEAPON AGAINST a society can be eliminated OR at least MODIFIED until those who use it as a weapon against you are ELIMINATED.

Posted by Prudencenreason | Report as abusive

How does the author propose that we treat the hundreds of thousands of Islamists who are beheading, stoning, enslaving, raping the “infidels” in the Middle East? Arrest them one by one and bring them to court to face charges?

Idiocy!!!! This is a war –

Posted by AZreb | Report as abusive

I believe these Islamo- fascist murderers are working hand in hand with these Pacifist Politicians. They are trying to bring down Western Europe without firing a shot. They are most likely being highly paid to allow these mass influxes of immigrants into Western Europe. They protect them and spread their message of tolerance for them. Yet they attack the freedom of speech and call the native whites in these countries Nazi’s . I believe the European politicians are truly Nazi’s and Fifth Columnists who are helping these Immigrant murderers destroy the Native populations. We are at WAR with these Immigrant Parasites that destroy our God given rights and our culture. The dead bodies are piling-up and their and not Immigrants. Europe didn’t tolerate German Fascist murder in the past. Why is Islamo-Fascist murder tolerated today ? Who is benefiting from all this death and destruction? The bloody Politicians that’s who! They watch Europe crumble while they line their pockets with the taxpayer’s money. Native Europe needs to unite take to the streets protesting and throw-out the Immigrant Fascists and their Criminal Political backers. Europe for peace loving Christian’s not Pagan Murderers!

Posted by G-man34 | Report as abusive

The thing that the author wants to avoid, framing the attack as a struggle between Islam and the west, and the solution that they propose, bring the gunmen to justice, are not mutually exclusive.

Posted by Sewblon | Report as abusive

The truly Devout kneel on a prayer rug by the Billions at the appointed Hour while facing Mecca……You insist on the Denigration of their Beloved Spiritual Sacrifice and Worship of those images they Hold Dear…You may have F-35’s with Dime Bombs Smart Bombs Depleted Uranium Munitions and 105 Howies…They have Sandals hand washed linens AK-47’s, RPG’s, TOW missiles,and Billions of Followers…..Do the Math and Apologize….The Brave Die Only Once

Posted by DJSanDiego | Report as abusive

Religion is a choice, not a race. Islam is a particularly bad choice.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive