Religious conflict: Why Muslim world took up arms against France?

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Muslim world opposes France's fight against Islamism
16:47, 3 November 2020

The Guardian

In October, waves of violence by Islamic extremists swept across France. On October 16, 18-year-old Chechen Abdullah Anzorov stabbed to death 47-year-old school history and geography teacher Samuel Paty in Conflans-Saint-Honorine. During the freedom lesson, Paty showed children of Muslim migrants caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad from the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The criminal published a photo on social networks with the teacher's head cut off and wrote a message to French President Emmanuel Macron that he avenged his insult to the Prophet Muhammad. French policemen shot Anzorov on October 18 while resisting arrest. On Thursday, October 29, a Tunisian refugee stabbed three people near a church in Nice, and another attacked police in Avignon. On the same day, a man armed with a knife attacked a guard near the French Consulate General in the city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. A local conflict on religious grounds escalated into an international crisis due to the reaction of French President Emmanuel Macron.

Muslim revenge                                                                     

Prophet Muhammad enjoys great prestige among Muslims, like Jesus Christ among Christians. He lived in the 6-7 century in the territory of modern Saudi Arabia and had a serious influence on the formation of Islam. Samuel Paty was an adherent of a secular way of life, in which a clear separation of religion from the state is observed and he loved to give his students clear examples of the fact that in France it is possible to criticize religion.

He showed cartoons of the naked Prophet Muhammad, as well as Jesus Christ. After he was transferred to teach in Conflans-Saint-Honorine, where many Muslims live, he began to have conflicts with his students and their parents. According to French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, the father of one of the schoolgirls called for the murder of Paty for caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad. The Chechen learned about the teacher from social networks.

Macron's crusade

French President Emmanuel Macron contributed to the religious conflict. He proposed tightening control over foreign funding for mosques and school programs to reduce the influence of radical Islamists in French society, and also proposed to pass a law on the official separation of church and state by December. The murder of Paty caused a loud resonance in French society. Thousands of French people took to the demonstrations in solidarity with the views of the teacher, in defense of freedom of speech and belief.

Macron called the crime a "terrorist attack" and the teacher's activities "a quiet protest." The President promised to expel Islamic extremists from the country and strengthen the integration of Muslims into French society. Macron believes that Islam is in crisis due to the dominance of radical elements and stressed that France will not refuse to publish cartoons. They were broadcast on government buildings in Paris. French law enforcement officers are arresting Muslims suspected of having links with Islamic extremists.

It seems that Macron is using the incident to develop ratings. His presidency is accompanied by anti-government protests and crisis phenomena. In 2018-2019, France was shaken by protests of "yellow vests" and strikes by railway workers, who demanded higher wages, lower taxes and prices for electricity, gas, fuel, and an increase in government spending on the social sector. The French health system was not ready for the coronavirus pandemic, which has claimed the lives of over 35 000 French people. Doctors are unhappy with the level of salaries. France is now experiencing a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

From 2017 to June 2020, the level of support for Macron in French society dropped from 66% to 38%. The Forward Republic Party lost the local elections in June this year. The victory in Lyon, Marseille, Paris was won by candidates for the post of mayor from the party "Ecological Europe", in Perpignan - from the ultra-right anti-immigrant "Nationalist movement". In small towns, the center-right Republicans won. With such successes, Macron and the Forward Republic Party will not be re-elected in the 2022 elections.

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The French president hopes to increase his authority among the French by strengthening the fight against radical Islamists. Since 2001, the number of Muslims in France has increased from 4 to 6 million because of the open door policy for labor migrants and refugees, but the education system has proved to be an ineffective tool for their socialization, as Anzorov's bitter experience has shown. In France, there is a problem of the "ghettoization" of Muslims: they live in their own communities and lead their usual way of life. For example, the Anzorov family migrated to France in 2008 from Moscow, received political asylum and settled in the city, where many migrants from the former French colonies live.

Most often, children of migrants face the problem of self-identification: they do not feel at ease in French society, but at the same time they lose touch with their historical homeland, where the influence of Islam is strong. The feeling of alienation and self-examination lead young Muslims into the clutches of Islamic extremists who are looking for new adherents. Anzorov was a self-contained guy who was fond of mixed martial arts. For a while, he attended a sports club in Toulouse, where only Muslims were involved, and women did not wear short sleeves and short skirts. Since June 2020, he began to write aggressive posts on his Twitter against Christians and Jews. Anzorov was a friend of a girl who was a supporter of ISIS.

At least 2 thousand French citizens (most of all in the West) went to fight in Syria and Iraq on the side of ISIS. French law enforcers suspect 15 thousand people of terrorism. About 1.4 thousand people became adherents of radical Islam in French prisons.

Since 2011, Muslims have committed 20 major terrorist attacks in France, among which the most resonant were in 2015: the shooting of 12 journalists in the Charlie Hebdo office by al-Qaeda members for the published cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad and the massacre in the Paris theater "Bataklan" (130 people killed), organized by ISIS member Salah Abdeslam. All of these terrorists were born in France. In 2020, in addition to the Conflans-Saint-Honorine incident, people were stabbed with a knife in Dieuze in February, in Paris near the former Charlie Hebdo office in September and in Nice near the Catholic Cathedral on October 29.

In the neighborhoods of French cities, home to Muslims from North Africa, drug trafficking and crime are rampant. In 2018, drug trafficking in France amounted to € 2.7 billion, they are imported from Morocco through Spain. Despite the bans, France has the highest consumption of cannabis. The Arabs involved in drug trafficking intimidate anyone who tries to stop them. In June, they beat a young Chechen in the city of Dijon. Chechen migrants from all over Europe gathered for a showdown with presumptuous Arabs against the backdrop of the inaction of French law enforcement officers.

International crisis

France has spoiled relations with the countries of the Muslim world. Pakistan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar condemned Paris. The Palestinians and Syrians burned portraits of Macron, and the Libyans burned the flags of France. Russia was drawn into the international crisis, since the head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, also criticized the French president. Subsequently, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov called on the heads of the subjects of the federation to adhere to the line of President Vladimir Putin, whose competence includes foreign policy.

The authorities of Turkey and Iran reacted harshly to the French cartoons, as both countries compete for the role of leader of the Muslim world. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said 1.9 billion Muslims are victims of the hate cult projected by colonial regimes. The Iranian newspaper Watanemruz has published a cartoon depicting Macron as a shaitan. Previously, the French president appealed to the Iranians, as he advocated the preservation of the nuclear treaty and tried to convince US President Donald Trump to return to its observance.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took the cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad as an insult and a threat to national security and even recommended Macron to visit a psychiatrist. After Charlie Hebdo published a cartoon of him, the Turkish president called for a boycott of French products. Turkey is the largest buyer of French goods in the Muslim world.

The crisis could have negative consequences for French business, supported by Macron. Social media users from Kuwait, Qatar, Palestine, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia have issued calls to boycott French goods. Trade associations "Al-Naim", "Dahyat al-Tuhr" have decided to remove French goods from store shelves. France's trade with Muslim countries is about $ 100 billion (8% of foreign trade). France exports cars, gas turbines, aircraft products, automobiles and spare parts, tractors, metal, electronics, medicines to the countries of Africa and the Middle East, and imports oil and natural gas.

The religious conflict revealed the antagonism in the relations between the West and the East. EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borell called Erdogan's rhetoric unacceptable and called on Turkey to end the confrontation. The Prime Minister of Greece Kiriyakos Mitsotakis agrees with him. Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Shinas, in response to criticism of Muslim countries, quoted Article 2 of the EU Treaty on Respect for Human Dignity, Freedom, Democracy and confirmed that this is the essence of the European way of life.

The leadership of Poland and Hungary opposes the admission of Muslim refugees, sees them as a threat to national identity. Former head of German intelligence Gerhard Schindler condemned German Chancellor Angela Merkel for the open door policy that led to the emergence of Arab mafia clans and an increase in crime, the emergence of a large number of Muslim men who are the social base of Islamic extremists.

The fruits of radical liberalism

Any migrant or refugee, paying tribute to the country where he moved, is obliged to observe its laws and way of life, not to impose his worldview and traditions. However, Emmanuel Macron, the editors of Charlie Hebdo and the late Samuel Paty went too far. Their words and actions violate freedom of religion. To be a believer or an atheist is a personal matter for every person. To scoff at religious figures, shrines is a manifestation of ignorance, political illiteracy and shortsightedness. The problem is not Islam, but the extremists who hide behind it to satisfy their selfish interests. A caricature of the Prophet Muhammad is just as offensive to any respectable Muslim as caricatures of the icon of the Mother of God with the face of Putin or the icon of St. George the Victorious in the form of noodles striking a coronavirus molecule with a fork are disgusting for Orthodox Ukrainians.

Macron should not have spit in the face of 10% of French residents who profess Islam, but should limit himself to criticism of extremism, focusing on the advisability of limiting the admission of migrants and refugees. Jordanian Islamic Minister Mohammed al-Khalayleh stressed that insulting the prophets is not related to personal freedom, but is a crime that provokes violence. Paris was condemned by the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah, and the Iraqi Shiite group "Rabaa Allah" took Macron's demarche as an insult to Muslims around the world who will respond when they see fit.

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