The Rising Tide of Islamist Violence in France, and the Anti-Semitism at Its Core

Jan. 25 2021

In October of last year, a concerted online agitation by Islamic radicals focused on a suburban schoolteacher named Samuel Paty, who had the temerity to discuss cartoons of Mohammad in the context of a lesson on free speech. The result—Paty’s murder and beheading by the son of Chechen refugees—shocked France deeply. Playing a key role in encouraging antipathy toward Paty, writes Marc Weitzmann, was Abdelhakim Sefrioui. (Free registration required.)

Sefrioui, sixty-one, is an Islamist militant from Morocco who has been in France since the late 1980s and has been well known for his fiery anti-Semitic speeches. In the 2000s he founded a group called the Sheikh Yassin Collective, named for a founder of Hamas.

Several pictures taken in the early 2000s show Sefrioui with the French comedian Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala. Last year, Dieudonné was banned from Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok for anti-Semitic posts, including mockery of Holocaust victims; he has been convicted in France of hate speech. In the early 2000s Dieudonné was instrumental in spreading a certain anti-Semitic, pro-Islamist populism, especially among young followers of his in the working-class [and predominantly Muslim slums known as] banlieues.

For a complex mix of reasons—including the collapse of the Middle East peace process, Islamist propaganda that attributes the Iraq war to a Jewish lobby in Washington, and Dieudonné’s popularity—anti-Semitism has been the leading motivation of these tensions for the past twenty years. . . . “It is because of the Jews,” Chérif Kouachi, one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen, said after the attacks. At the Hyper Cacher [grocery store massacre that followed], according to survivors, [the perpetrator] said to his hostages, “You are two of the things I hate most: French and Jewish.”

Indeed, writes Weitzmann in his investigation of the growth of Islamist violence in France, anti-Semitism has worked as a sort of gateway drug to Islamism; and the violence of the past five years—from the Charlie Hebdo in 2015 attack to the slaying of a priest last summer—was presaged by many years of brutal attacks on Jews:

It was between 2001 and 2015 that Islamist violence in France germinated. . . . Random acts of brutality included the killing in 2003 of twenty-three-year-old Sébastien Selam by his childhood friend Adel Amastaibou (Amastaibou plunged a knife in Selam’s eye before yelling in the streets, “I killed a Jew!”), or the torture and killing in 2006 of Ilan Halimi, also twenty-three, by a gang, which ultimately involved the complicity of dozens of people. Neither of these murders was committed by Islamists. What they expressed, however, was a blind rage that an Islamist ideology would later be able to shape. By the end of 2014, after fifteen years of rising tension that had included the 2012 killings of Jewish children and French soldiers in Toulouse by Mohamed Merah, the number of anti-Semitic incidents had reached 800 a year, or more than two per day.

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Read more at New York Review of Books

More about: Anti-Semitism, Charlie Hebdo, European Islam, France, Jihadism

 

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter