'Manifesto' lumping Islam and anti-Semitism sparks outrage in France
Vile, racist, contemptible, Islamophobic, provocative ... there has been a huge response in France after the publication of the "Manifesto against the new anti-Semitism" in Sunday's edition of Le Parisien.
Signed by some 300 French public figures - including three former prime ministers, several deputies from the National Assembly, and former president Nicolas Sarkozy - the text warns against "Islamist radicalisation" and "a surreptitious ethnic purge" allegedly targeting the Jewish community in the Paris region.
The signatories demand that "Muslim authorities ... strike with obsolescence" verses in the Quran calling for "the murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and non-believers".
The "manifesto" preceded the release this Wednesday of a book in which 16 French intellectuals denounce "the new anti-Semitism".
Rectors of mosques in France quickly responded to the Parisien article, with one warning that it could inflame relations between religious communities.
Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, said: "The unjust and delirious accusations of anti-Semitism levied against French citizens of Muslim faith and against the Islam of France in this column presents the patent risk of pitting religious communities against one another."
Translation: The French want to rewrite the Quran? Why not, but in that case let’s start by rewriting the violent French national anthem. Aren’t young French children singing along to “March, March! Let impure blood water our furrows”?
Tareq Obrou, the rector of the Great Mosque of Bordeaux, was outraged: "Attributing anti-Semitism to Islam almost constitutes blasphemy, as two-thirds of the Quran’s prophets are Jewish! This makes no sense.
"The Quran does not call for murder, it calls for fighting back against hostile people," Obrou said. "This is the same misinterpretation made by a number of ignorant Muslims, delinquents who pick and choose texts depriving them of their historical context."
Oubrou is a signatory of another column, written by some 30 French imams and published in Le Monde on Tuesday which denounces anti-Semitism and terrorism, and rejects the conflations made by the now infamous "new anti-Semitism" manifesto.
"We call on our other fellow citizens, particularly intellectuals and politicians, to be more discerning. Because these criminal practices claimed to be in the name of Islam could in effect confirm cliches already burned into people’s minds," the Le Monde column reads.
"Some have already seen (in this manifesto) a long awaited opportunity to incriminate an entire religion. They no longer hesitate to publicly propagate, including in the media, that the Quran itself calls for murder. This pernicious idea is incredibly violent."
Despite being a signatory of the manifesto, even the chief rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, expressed reservations about the text:
"When someone proposes a text, there are always things that don't really suit you. I had winced regarding two principles: the first, indeed, a sort of comparison of the inherent risks of being Jewish to the [lesser, the manifesto claims] inherent risks of being Muslim. Perhaps by comparing to the rest of the population, it would have sounded coherent to me ...
"The second thing is that I thought it was inconceivable to demand that Muslims transform the Quran. I pushed for the manifesto to speak of contextualisation and interpretation, instead of repealing such and such verse."
There is no pope in Islam, nor a council that could transform a centralised religion. Practice and time have softened the edges of the Quran, except in radical circles
- Claude Askolovitch, journalist and essayist
Writing this week about the gap between the manifesto and the religious and sociological realities of Islam, essayist and journalist Claude Askolovitch described the text as "chilling, for the truth from which it emerges as well as the lies it induces".
"The manifesto's injunction disconcerts by its simplicity. There is no pope in Islam, nor a council that could transform a centralised religion. Practice and time have softened the edges of the Quran, except in radical circles over which, precisely, no one - and certainly not institutions - has influence. Finally, one does not reform by besieging believers."
Askolovitch, who in his lengthy and detailed reaction discussed his Jewish origins, sees in Le Parisien's manifesto a tendency of the French right and far-right to turn Muslims, immigrants, Africans, asylum seekers, refugees and Arabs into enemies of an imagined France.
"Would France, without Jews, not be itself? Are Jews the victims of Muslims? France, because of Muslims, would no longer be France. This conclusion haunts our debates and this text," the essayist noted.
For author and journalist Dominique Vidal, who recently published Anti-Zionism = Anti-Semitism? Response to Emmanuel Macron, "to hold radical Islam as the sole cause of anti-Jewish violence is to ignore an important part of the phenomenon.
"First, because as I have repeatedly stated, the far-right's anti-Semitism is enduring and often violent. Secondly, because even among suburban youth, violence - and jihadism - do not only bear an ideological or religious dimension: they are rooted in social despair produced by economic, social and ethnic discrimination, whether the signatories like it or not."
The massacres of these past few weeks targeting demonstrations in Gaza, and justified by a number of signatories, provoke more anti-Semitism, for example, than all the pinpointed verses of the Quran
- Dominique Vidal, essayist
The French writer pointed to "the great omission of the manifesto": the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
"This cowardice, while probably necessary to bring together such an disparate group [of signatories], is absurd. Who would dare deny it?" wrote Vidal.
"The massacres of these past few weeks targeting demonstrations in Gaza, and justified by a number of signatories, provoke more anti-Semitism, for example, than all the pinpointed verses of the Quran. When was the last burst of violence against Jews in our country, if not during the brutal repression of the Second Intifada?"
To conclude, Askolovitch fears that the final objective of such excesses might be to "push the young President [Emmanuel] Macron towards an identitarianism he has so far eluded" and to "snatch a new law, a new edict to make our 'Muslim fellow citizens' unfortunate French of whom everyone will be wary, and who will be wary of everyone".
The original version of this piece ran on MEE's French website