A controversy has erupted in France in wake of a manifesto by 41 Muslim intellectuals. Following is the article, published in Le Journal du Dimanche, by the noted author and former Charlie Hebdo editor Philippe Val, recipient of UN Watch’s 2015 Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award, as translated from the original French.
Philippe Val: “A Reply from a non-Muslim, non-Jewish Frenchman to the Appeal by the 41”
The former director of Charlie Hebdo and France Inter, Philippe Val, responds to the appeal made by 41 French Muslims in Le Journal du Dimanche on July 31.
My dear friends, by publishing an appeal in Le Journal du Dimanche last week, you courageously met a need. As French and Muslim people, you are the first voice that dares to recognize, at your own risk, that Islam is experiencing a profound internal crisis. You agree to take a hard look at reality in order to observe what many are pretending to fail to notice: that Islamic radicalization is at the heart of this crisis and represents a deadly threat to democratic and republican harmony. And you are calling for intellectual, cultural and legislative work to reform Islam in France and to answer the question of the national collective conscience, which of course includes French Muslims, “Where are you? What are you doing?”
I think that the vast majority of French people, regardless of their origins, were waiting for this gesture for a long time and welcome it with gratitude. No matter what the extremist parties may think, the French have had diverse origins for centuries, and the long peace we have had since the mid-twentieth century has marginalized racism, which although it should still be fought against strongly, only holds sway among the minority in France. The wise public reactions to the atrocity of terrorist attacks have proven this countless times, and your outstretched hand can only reinforce this desire for friendship that constitutes the beauty of this country.
Yet in reading your appeal, the first doubts arise: you don’t mention Charlie Hebdo, only the cartoonists. Then comes the fittingly dramatic confirmation: you, yourselves, have doomed and wasted your gesture in the first lines of your appeal. In your strange list of victims of terrorism (you mention the Bataclan theater, the murder of police officers, the people in Nice, the priest), you forgot about the Jews, who are among the first targets of terrorism and are at the top of the list of intended victims. To mention only those in France, you forgot about the victims of Mohamed Merah [in the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse] and those at Hyper Cacher.
There are only two explanations, each equally appalling:
- Either you did this on purpose to rally the largest possible number of people without having to deal with the antisemitism that is a firmly entrenched and not negligible element in Islam. And this comes down to admitting that you have already lost the battle you claim to be fighting;
- Or this is an unconscious omission, meaning that you still haven’t understood the nature of the disease that threatens the very life of the rule of law, a disease that you haven’t managed to cure among yourselves.
One must hope that at least some of you have signed this appeal trustingly, without reading it. We cannot believe that certain honorable people could have committed this error.
This episode is reminiscent of the reaction of Prime Minister Raymond Barre after the attack on the synagogue on Rue Copernic, when he regretted that in addition to Jews, there were also innocent victims.
My friends, I insist on telling you this: we shall never accept such linguistic “compromises”, which are no more or less than silent permission granted to future anti-Semitic criminals. Still—we must incessantly persuade those who doubt this, without which your gesture is meaningless—France is also the country of French Jews. We share an unbreakable bond with the Jewish community of France through our shared history, our culture, and the establishment of laws that guarantee liberty and harmony. Those who think we can find such a shameful exit from the dramatic period we are going through are sorely mistaken. We won’t allow ourselves to be deceived. Just as the French will stand up to defend the French Muslims who enrich their country by loving and respecting the rule of law, they will also stand up in the same way to defend their Jewish compatriots and the indelible memory of the victims who were killed for being Jewish.
My friends who signed the appeal, we are all prepared to give you credit for good intentions. It’s never too late to do good. Republish your appeal, with an exhaustive list of the attacks in chronological order. And precisely because you know that this is problematic for a part of the Muslim community, write the word “Jewish” in full. Only the effort involved in looking at and naming reality can allow us to start thinking about solutions. If we start our thoughts with a lie by omission, we are condemned to war by submission.