What happened yesterday in France? Anything? Nothing?
1) Very few Muslims took part in any of the demonstrations. In Lyons, 300,000 people took part. In Marseille, the second most populous city in France, but with a population that is 40% Muslim, only 60,000 showed up.
2) Despite this notable lack of Muslim representation, many Western networks made enormous efforts to find, and interview, “representative” Muslims. I saw, in a solid day of television watching of major networks, and a French station, a handful of Muslims, with most having their origins in countries of West Africa, with their syncretism, and easygoing version of Islam. I am sure that if, anywhere in the country, there were reports of “massive” Muslim participation, or “large” Muslim participation, or “notable” Muslim participation, or something other than practically-no-Musliim–participation-but-let’s-play-up-what-we-can to show that this is indeed a rally that is all about Unity, all about how we all cherish freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and Muslims are indeed eager to stand up for the country of which they are now proud and loyal citizens. That was what the BBC and other networks, including the French, took as their remit. Ask those who were there just now many Muslims were marching.
3) There was one imam, only one, who appeared at the synagogue. This man is known to everyone in France. He is the one Good Imam: Chalgoumi, from a mosque in Drancy. He is the only one who discusses the Holocaust, discusses the need for Muslims to behave decently toward Jews. For his pains, he has been vilifiied and threatened by other Muslims, and many left his mosque. Don’t take the a sighting of the white-turbaneed Imam Chalgoumi of Drancy as a sign of hope. He is the exception. He proves the rule.
4) The turn-out was capillary: even in, or especially in, small villages people turned out in large numbers. They were expressing solidarity with France, with Voltaire, with each other, they were expressing their fear for the future. . They were not expressing the belief, or the hope, that Muslim could or would stop being Muslims. They did not think that Muslim terrorists, not “terrorists,” would stop. They did not think that these marches would end these attacks by Muslims. They did not think that Muslims would cease to cause displiinary nightmares for non-Muslim teachers and students in the French schools, that Muslims would not harass and torment poor non-Muslims who had the misfortune to remain in HLM (public housing) with them, they did not think that Muslims would treat women differently, or cease to be a permanent physical threat to Jews, Jews on the street, Jews in synagogues and schools, Jews anywhere. That doesn’t mean they won’t attack, and haven’t already attacked, non-Jewish targets (including statues in less-attended churches), but just is that, for now, given that Jews are fewer in number, with easily identifiable targets (like the Hyper Cacher), and that in the Qur’an and Sunnah, while Jews and Christians are the enemy of Islam as are all those who refuse to receive and accept the Message of Muhammad, there is plenty of textual support in both Qur’an and Sunnah for seeing Jews as particularly intransigent, and they are depicted as the “worst enemies” of the Muslims for refusing to bend (there is even a Tradition that a Jewish woman poisoned Muhammad) the Muslim Arab lands were emptied first of Jews, and then Christians, the Christians (or those whom Muslims, being unable to distinguish post-Christians from practicing Christians, take to be Christians).
5) The main underlying point of the rallies, la Grande Manif in Paris and those up and down the land, was not, as the news reports want you to believe, a “coming together” of everyone. It was not a general standing-together for “liberty and tolerance.” There was no need to give lessons to anyone, save for Muslims, in liberty and in tolerance. It was an expression, rather, especially in the smaller towns, of an underlying j’en-ai-marre, ras-le-bol attitude: I’ve had it, we’ve had it, we’ve all had it up to here. For god’s sake, we’ll use this event – it’s all we have now — but we want those in power, those who have for decades allowed Muslims to come in, and outbreeed us, and do us damage in our daily lives, and deprive us of our sense of security and wellbeing, and now to threaten and attack us, to do something. Something. That wasn’t the theme of everyone — some no doubt just enjoyed being out, clapping in unison, “Charlie, Charlie” and for them it was a lark. But many others were expressing, silently, not hope but despair, or rather, the hope they allowed themselves to have that, just perhaps, had their despair would be listened to, and heeded.
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