Charlie Hebdo: A Christ Befitting the Modern West

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Paris, January 7, 2015: Two men invoking Allah enter the office of a satirical magazine and shoot its staff, employees, and two policemen.  Two days later, also in the name of Allah, a black killer opens fire on a kosher supermarket, bringing the total to 17 dead.  A planetary uproar follows.  Mourners, presidents gather in tears around the world brandishing posters declaring, “I am Charlie.”  What is to be made of all that?

The targeted magazine, Charlie Hebdo, the heir to one called “Hara Kiri, the stupid and mean magazine,” and named in derisive reference to De Gaulle, continues to display utterly vulgar, coarse, and simpleminded cartoons that can only amuse morons or thoroughly politically correct individuals.  Who, for instance, could find funny a drawing that depicts an open vagina entitled “the grotto of Lourdes”?  An insult is not an idea.  The magazine’s main inspiration can be summed up in the famous slogan of 1968: “It is forbidden to forbid.”  Its cartoonists obviously considered themselves freedom fighters—and thinking ones, at that.  Now they are hailed as martyrs.

Let’s put things in perspective.  These murders represent only the third act of a protracted drama made up of four closely concatenated ones.

The first act covers a few decades, from the 50’s to the 80’s.  The “Glorious Thirty” (Les Trente Glorieuses) years that followed World War II induced in France a call for foreign workers, which was naturally heard in her recently independent but rather hapless former colonies.  Without a second thought, France began to welcome a massive Muslim workforce from North and black Africa.  Immigration was pronounced “a chance for France,” but it took on an entirely new character when President Giscard d’Estaing made the fateful (actually criminal) decision to allow the masses of the relatives of immigrants to join the workers and settle on French soil.

The second act was the natural outcome of the first.  On one hand, what was attracting immigration was not France’s cultural achievements, discredited in 1968 at the hands of the revolutionaries.  The main reason to settle in the country was that it was a place with available jobs, free healthcare, and freedom to practice one’s customs.  On the other hand, as their numbers grew massively, the immigrants tended to assemble in communities of their own, maintaining their cultural habits, at the price of generally inferior standards of living.  This led to resentment and then to anger at being considered second-class citizens, particularly among the younger generation, who had never known any other environment, who saw the fact that they were cocooned by French officialdom as proof of its guilt, and many of whose parents, who had been faithful to France (the Harkis), had been ignominiously abandoned by Gaullist authorities to have their throats slit as traitors by the victorious Algerian rebels.  The situation resulted in a suddenly rejuvenated adherence to Islam, the majority’s ancestral religion, which turned into the emblem of a dignity matching if not overpowering the Westerners’.  A sudden devotion to a god whose cult had remained rather subdued for centuries concealed a growing contempt for France.  Then, among the considerable varieties of Islam, a growing number of Muslim immigrants became attracted to the most aggressive version.

This fact was difficult to ignore.  But, spurred by fear and/or interest, almost all politicians, as well as the major media, maintained that Islam was not an aggressive faith but a religion of peace, love, and universal brotherhood.  This was wishful thinking.  It is obvious to anyone who reads the Koran that its favorite terms are of a military nature, and it repeatedly preaches total war against the infidels.  No wonder, since Allah, the all-powerful, is to be obeyed not out of free personal conviction but out of sheer submission to his will: “Kill those who combat you whenever they cross your path,” said Muhammad (II, 190-11); be “violent against the infidels, compassionate only with one another” (XLVIII, 29).  Between a Muslim who shies away from toting Kalashnikovs against non-Muslims and an enthusiastic wielder of those peacemakers eager to put his life at stake for the sake of Islam, which is the better Muslim?  Moderates know the answer: Some just lie low, as advised by Muhammad, when the situation is too risky; others blame their brothers verbally, but don’t do much else.

The stage was set for the third act.  Charlie Hebdo, a leftist magazine if ever there was one, had fought against all forms of patriotism: France was supposed to become a multicultural country welcoming all who fancied coming.  Charlie’s world is one of atheistic, hedonistic, and permissive anarchism, infused with savage hostility to anything that smacks of demands on individuals and infringement on their unfettered freedom.  This is why Charlie’s main target is the Catholic Church, a supposed bastion of intolerance, and beyond the Church, all religions, understood as so many denials of the rights of man.  On the contrary, whatever one thinks of Islam, and whatever the misconduct of some Muslims, it can hardly be denied, as shown by the behavior of the radicals, that Islam means submission to the point of total self-sacrifice, or at least obedience to stringently imposed rules.  All things considered, permissiveness is totally alien to Islam.  The failure of Muslims to fit into Charlie Hebdo’s vision of the world confronted leftists with a dilemma: surrender to the demands of the loudest of the immigrants they so enthusiastically patronized, or stick to their trademark.  They chose the latter.  Indeed, once the Catholic Church had shown a willingness to surrender (notably by the Pope continually calling for the enforcement of the right to immigrate), their obvious target was an Islam continuously strengthening and thirsty for power.  The clash was predictable as soon as Islam became too visible.

At that point the conflict took a fascinating turn.  Islam suddenly appeared as an enemy to a left that thrived on all the dogmas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, and notably laicism—if not atheism—the firstborn of the god of progress.  The “chance for France” turned out to be the worst enemy of a French Republic considered the traditional host country of the persecuted of this world, one whose hailed values were openness to others, tolerance, rejection of racism and xenophobia, fraternity, secularism, the rights of man—the bywords of a nation intent on being modern, one that has rid herself of all attachment to her traditional soul, one entirely purged of all national prejudices.  No wonder Islam suddenly appeared imbued with what is now dubbed a totalitarian spirit, the very spirit that had infused National Socialism—an ideology whose most noted victims were Jews.  In other words, it suddenly appeared that Islam could be what it had long been in the Middle East, but had not yet become in such a glaringly obvious manner in the West: an antisemitic creed.  Fighting for Charlie was suddenly fighting for a France purified of any whiff of antisemitism and victorious over the revived black plague.  The war was against a new Hitler.

France is now playing the last act of the drama.

Once the ghost of Hitler was conjured up, there was no question but that Mr. Hollande’s France would go to war.  But against whom?  Against the new totalitarians, the Islamist assassins firing Kalashnikovs in the name of Allah?  If so, then war would have to be declared on French Muslims—not to mention some nations obviously funding jihadists.  Yet official wisdom pronounced Islam not to be the enemy.  Of course, most French Muslims are peaceful, but what is to be made of the murderers boasting that they are avenging Allah?  The real reason for France’s official muteness regarding Islam per se is actually, I think, both intricate and quite simple.  Charlie Hebdo’s prime target has always been traditional France, whose detested symbol is a Catholic Church that, since the Middle Ages, has always opposed Islam.  Then fighting Islam would mean siding with the Church, whereas exonerating Islam for the recent crimes was in keeping with the hidden war waged on traditional France by an inside enemy such as Charlie.

Hence, two fateful consequences.

First, officialdom labeled terrorists not as “Muslims” who happen to be French, but French “criminals,” lone wolves, who happen to be Muslims.  So systematic warlike aggressions are met with mere police operations, targeting not enemies but criminals, which amounts to France refusing to wage the war being waged against her, while building mosques all over her soil with the taxpayer’s money.

Second, the banner of France was redesigned.  Asking the French to side with a magazine that had always played the enemy of France might have raised some dissent.  So the French were called to defend freedom of expression, a crass freedom that confuses insult with criticism.  Unfortunately, it may be that the fight for freedom of expression rather than against a real enemy is the fight that best suits the mood of the French masses.  It is obvious that the wailing crowds called to arms were not composed of warriors but of mourners, indignant, protesting, but extremely careful not to fight an actual battle.  Fighting an abstraction (terrorism) is great for people unwilling to fight.

The war that is developing is a war of religions, or rather a war of people dedicated to a faith—whatever one may think of it—against people who not only have no faith anymore but boast that they have none.  No society has ever survived without a faith, and the only chance Old Europe has is to fall back to the ramparts of its only true stronghold, traditional Christianity.  But that is precisely what Charlie and its buddies tell the French not to do, which deprives them of the only effective weapon that could hold their opponents at bay and forces them to use rifles that fire backward.

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