Friday, June 30, 2017

French Islam's radical turn, and its ramifications for French Jews

Via Mosaic Magazine (Neil Rogachevsky):
Murdered by Mohamed Merah
Recent attacks in Paris, London, and Manchester have supplied horrifying evidence that “homegrown jihad” remains a potent force in Western countries, especially but not only in Europe. Yet a good understanding of the phenomenon remains elusive. Why are non-negligible numbers of young Muslim men, born often to quite secular parents and brought up in Western societies, transforming themselves into self-styled knights of jihad? 
Of the many explanations that have been advanced, two may be regarded as serious. (...)
According to the second explanation, the problem originates within Islam itself and is related to the religion’s accumulating demographic strength in Europe, to its ideological vigor (and rigor), and to inflammatory geopolitical factors like today’s civil war in the Middle East. In this reading, it is to internal developments within Islam that we should look in grappling with the rise of sharia-friendly politics in Europe and the creation of environments hospitable to the jihadist impulse. 
A principal promoter of the second view is Gilles Kepel, a political scientist at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris. An expert less in Islamic theology than in the politics of Islam today, Kepel has written extensively on the Middle East and France, most recently on the deteriorating situation in the immigrant-heavy suburbs (banlieues) that surround many French cities. 
His latest book, Terror in France, first published in French as Terreur dans L’Hexagone, offers a concrete account of how Islamism, in both its more passive and more militant varieties, has gained ground in France over the last few decades. (...) 
In general, as Kepel shows, the growing toleration of Islamist opinion and belief has created environments in which aspiring jihadists can find nourishment or, at a minimum, passive acquiescence in their schemes.   
In this connection, Kepel offers an interesting take on the role of Jews and anti-Semitism in this strengthening of Islamism in France. Anti-Semitism, he shows, has been one of the chief engines for the consolidation of Islamist opinion and belief. Over the last decade, pamphlets, speakers, and activists have intensively demonized Israel for its alleged crimes in Gaza and elsewhere. Islamist political propaganda, whose goal is to perpetuate the sense that Western Muslims are under siege, is riddled with references to the evil of Israel, Zionism, and the French government’s alleged favoritism toward the Jewish state. (You learn something new every day!) 
Moreover, as is well known, Jews have been a principal target of homegrown French jihadists. In 2012, a full three years before the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the kosher supermarket in Paris, the Toulouse-born Mohammed Merah murdered a rabbi and three Jewish schoolchildren in his rampage through southern France—without prompting anything like the emotional outpouring of Je suis Charlie-style identification with his victims. 
Kepel’s analysis here—aside from a few lazy and sadly typical comparisons between “total Islam” and “total Judaism”—confirms Ruth Wisse’s point that anti-Semitism can be a potent force for mobilizing and conjoining otherwise disparate groups, individuals, and interests. Thus, he cites the 2014 comments of the president of the mosque in the southern French town of Lunel, home many centuries ago to the great ibn Tibbon family of Jewish physicians and translators. Pressured to respond to the fact that no fewer than twenty young Lunel residents had gone to fight in Syria, he extenuated by asking: 
Why condemn these young people who left in the name of an injustice in Syria—and not the French [Jewish] people who left and killed Palestinian babies with [the IDF in Gaza] last summer? . . . I don’t see why I should issue a statement if ten [sic] people left out of a thousand.
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