Bastille Day is meant to be a moment of celebration in France. But when my wife and I had dinner on Thursday evening with neighbours near our French home in the Loire region, we encountered visceral despair about the state of the Gallic nation. The company was charming, the hospitality magnificent, yet parts of the conversation were profoundly sombre. This was hours before the news of the Islamist atrocity in Nice emerged, but our friends' concern for France's future was palpable.
Mass immigration, the relentless growth of the Muslim population, the alarming spread of jihadism and the enfeebled stance of President Hollande's socialist government had left them with a feeling that their country is increasingly under siege.
[...] One night I woke up to the smell of acrid smoke in the air [the author lived in Carpentras]. Looking out from my bedroom window, I saw to my astonishment that five cars had been set on fire in our street.On another occasion, while out in the countryside with my wife, I was menaced by a Muslim armed with scythe.When, slightly shaken, I told this to a neighbour, who was a French army veteran, he recounted how a local Muslim had one day threatened to slit his throat.Let's be absolutely clear: most of the Muslim population were thoroughly decent people who wanted nothing more than to live their lives in harmony with other peaceful French people.That said, the religious and racial tension in Carpentras was palpable in everyday life.Carpentras has the oldest synagogue in France, and the town's Jewish roots were another source of this tension.My wife and I went one night to a choral concert at the town hall by a renowned Israeli choir, but because of Islamist threats of violence, security was as tight as it might have been for a visiting foreign leader, complete with guard dogs and armed troops.It was partly because of the death of our Provencal dream that we sold our Carpentras house three years ago and moved further north. [...]
Until recently, violent anti-semitism in France was largely seen as the preserve of the far Right, a dark legacy of Vichy France's collusion with the Nazis during the war, but today it is another weapon of Islamist intimidation.