Saturday, August 13, 2016

Should France stay married to Islam?

Long have I waited before writing this post for so many reasons. The topic of Islam is sensitive almost by nature, almost anyway you can spin it.

Even regardless of that, I felt that I just didn't know enough to form an opinion, heck not even enough to ask the right questions. In a way, I still do feel that way, my opinion on this subject is changing directions all the time, like a crazy weathercock in the wind. But I do feel confident enough to write something, until the time I may discover something else.

This post is the more boring part and prelude to the next one that I want to call: Kyrgyzislam: marriage or bridenapping? and which would be about Islam in Kyrgyzstan as a comparison to Islam in France. But since the French part is already taking too much space, I've decided to make two of them.

As any kid growing up in southern France, our acquaintance with Islam starts early. I studied parts of the Qu'ran as school, not as a part of religious classes but as part of History.
We learned about the five pillars of Islam which are the chachada (belief of a single god), the Salat (pray five times per day), the Zakat (charity to the poor), the fast during the month of Ramadan and finally the hajj or visit of Mecca.
As I said, studying Islam is pretty straightforward in France because it is part of our history. The Christian religion which is dominant throughout the French history is of course in the same religious category as Islam, the Abrahamic religions which share the same old testaments. Moreover, it is also a well-known fact that the Christian gospel is considered to be a holy scripture of Islam together with the Qu'ran which considered as the last and most important revelation.
Christianity and Islam are ideologically so close that to me, it is not shocking to say that Islam is also a religion of France and that it is also a part of french history and that is why we learn it.
Diving deeper into history, we note that the acquaintance between France and Islam dates back into the eighth century where all of Spain was muslim as well as south-east of france and namely the city of Carcassonne. Only after the defeat of Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi by Charles Martel, the region returned to Christianity.
This is easy to teach in southern France because we are all familiar with those places, a few kids in each class already speak arabic and have parts of the Qu'ran which makes for an interesting conversation. Or it could have if everybody wasn't sleeping during class which usually happens in seventh grade.

I am not saying that everybody in France accepts Islam as theirs and it's all flowers and parties, quite the contrary, there is racism on both sides. My point is that whatever opinions we may have, we can relate because Islam is part of the French culture and landscape and it has been a long marriage.

Therefore I wouldn't rule out a risk of islamisation of the French culture and no amount of closing borders or restricting laws will stop that because islamisation, if it happens, would happen as a natural evolution of the French culture. That is why I believe that far-right's politician Marine Le Pen's ideas on immigration (to sum them up: restrict immigration and close borders in order to preserve French values) are short lived.
Not only will closing French borders not stop the influence of Islam on France from the inside but it would close any influence that France can have on Islam. By closing french borders, all France would achieve is a label "enemy of Islam", the same kind of label the USA have and any cultural teachings that France may deliver will fall on deaf ears of any muslim. Social networks would cheer up out of control with anti-western often factless propaganda about how anti-muslim everybody in France is. The only regulator that shuts them up (even if only partially), the see-for-yourself would be closed because borders would be closed and everyone is free to imagine the worst.
That would be an eternal shame because France has a lot to give, culturally speaking.

Marine le Pen would fail because she treats Islam as a disease of France, it is like treating left-handed or gay people with pills.
At best, she would just buy France a few years of artificial french-and-only-french values before true nature would emerge with all the frustration of being forced to be something that France is not.

If France and Islam is a marriage, even for a very dysfunctional one, influence goes both ways. When Islam has an influence on France, France has a chance of having an influence on Islam and in my opinion, that would be fair.

That is why I am very favourable about the creation of the fondation de l'islam de france, a government proposal which would establish muslim educational structures on French soil. Imams would then be trained in France and thus benefiting from french values, islamic and non-islamic. Those imams will hopefully have the freedom to build their faith based on the teachings of the Qu'ran as well as other philosophers, for example those of the Renaissance.

Some would argue that it is a fine line because this idea threatens the separation of state and church, the very definition of a secular republic. Why should the French government finance mosques and not christian churches or buddhist temples or any other form of religion? The answer of course is: it should not and that's why it is very important that any organisation which finances a religion stays separate from the government and that's why... well it's a fine line.

I would say that the risk is worth it.

If the marriage goes well, a new Islam slowly emerges, the one sometimes called Islam de France which means "Islam from France", an Islam which is compatible with French values.

Yes, by this process France may become more Islamic. I don't mean the state, I mean the culture. But this time, it would be a more moderate Islam. An Islam which allows weddings between muslim girls and christian boys, muslim girls and atheists, an islam which does not punish apostasy, and islam which empowers women as much as men (but for that point, I am not sure France is the best place to learn), an Islam which doesn't push anyone to convert just for the sake of it.

Forget the national level, look what it could do for the world? It could be a real milestone on a path to long overdue religious reform.

In light of all this, if the french culture becomes more influenced by this kind of Islam so what? Is there really anything to fear?