Last week, a debate took place between Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the socialist party and Eric Zemmour of the far-right party, both French candidates in the upcoming French Presidential elections.
We already spoke about them in the past.
Mélenchon is trying to get votes from Muslims to take advantage of the fact that Muslims are political outcasts in France. Zemmour is the polar opposite of Mélenchon. He’s trying to draw votes from those that want to see Islam banished from the country (note that he’s now placed second in the electoral projection polls and gained 6% in only two weeks).
This debate has been taken by analysts to be the official start of the election season.
During the debate, Eric Zemmour said:
Islam is a political religion by essence. You know very well and you like it, the French motto is: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” Islam is submission… Islam means submission. “Equality”… Islam is a triple inequality: between men and women, between free men and slaves, between the faithful and the infidels. Islam is a fraternity within the ummah, i.e., the community of believers, the Islamic nation.
Many Muslims welcomed this quote of Zemmour and praised him for “saying the Truth.” We agree with the conclusion, that is, Islam and French Republicanism are fundamentally incompatible. But we still need to be careful with the reasoning that is used to arrive at that conclusion.
This is what happens when “compassionate” Islam is spread. Many Muslims are confused with the liberal version of Islam propagated by some imams because their liberal teachings contradict the Quran and the Sunnah, and it looks like they speak out of both sides of their mouths. Then, as a counter-reaction against this liberal version of Islam, they end up following the opposite extreme and think that whatever is so-called “unapologetic” is true Islam, even when it comes to things that have nothing to do with Islam.
The Reality Behind the French Slogan
The first issue in respect to what Zemmour said resides not in his description of Islam but his description of France! Never did French revolutionists think of the French slogan — Liberty, Equality, Fraternity — in the way it is understood today.
For the French Republic, Liberty followed Montesquieu’s definition: “The power to do everything that the law allows.” This, of course, means complete submission to the State. Whatever laws are passed, people are constrained by them.
According to this vision of liberty, humankind has never lacked freedom as much as in our modern society. Year after year, new laws are established and the legal codes are are becoming denser and more complex. Every new law further restricts allowable actions and, therefore, liberty.
Regarding equality, after the French Revolution priests and members of the military were not allowed to vote. The right to vote was exclusively for the rich. If it is claimed that The Declaration of Human Rights says all men, women, and children are born free and equal (this itself is a historical development), in reality, absolutely no secular system has given perfectly identical rights and duties to men and women and children, nor to citizens and foreigners.
Isn’t this a triple inequality?
After childbirth, women are granted 9 months of paid leave, but men only get 25 days in France. Where is the equality?
Foreigners can’t vote in France. They can’t benefit from a big part of France’s social care system. Will Eric Zemmour condemn this? He should be opposed to it because it is inequality between members of the French Republic versus the outsiders.
Finally, fraternity is not as universal as French Republicans try to claim. It only extends to a small number within the French population. For example, Algeria technically became a part of France’s official territory at some point in its history, but still, the same rights were not applied between white French citizens and colonized Algerians. Even, freedom of speech and religion that is so important for France, was not applied consistently in Algeria (because political Islam and pro-Islamic speech threatened French colonial control and, therefore, was brutally stamped out by the French).
This lack of fraternity exists to this day, which is exemplified by the fact that Zemmour himself is arguing that we should stop immigration because France is not rich enough to share its Social Care System with immigrants. Isn’t it contradictory to say that the French notion of fraternity is to take all humanity as brothers when at the same time you are depriving people of France’s values and social system?
What Is the Real Opposition Between the French Republic and Islam?
Zemmour is only right in his conclusion. The foundations of the French Republic and Islam are not compatible, not because Islam does not value the ideals of freedom, equality, and fraternity, but because these notions are so vaguely defined by secularists that almost all ethical systems and religions could be said to abide by them.
The real opposition between the French Republic and Islam comes from the fact that France, as a country, declared war on Islam. This is a country that has built a system of governance and society that is rabidly opposed to God and specifically Allah and His Messenger ﷺ.
This hatred of anything religion is mainstream and not some farfetched theoretical issue, nor petty word games from the likes of Zemmour. This hatred has been recognized by the most prominent sociologists in France’s history. Auguste Comte, Alexis de Tocqueville, Emile Durkheim all saw that in France there was acute aversion to God.
Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
Every day people try to prove to me that all is well in America, except precisely this religious spirit which I admire, and they teach me that on the other side of the Ocean [America] it only lacks the freedom and the happiness of the human species to believe with Spinoza in the eternity of the world and to maintain with Cabanis that the brain secretes the thought. To this, I have nothing to answer in truth, except that those who hold this language have not been to America, and have not seen more religious people than free people. I, therefore, await their return.
Democracy in America, 1st volume, p. 307-308 (French edition)
Between God and the Society, one must choose.
Sociology and Philosophy, p. 74-75
Raymond Aron, philosopher and one of the greatest specialists of the philosophy of social sciences said:
Thus, between God and society, one must choose. If there is a characteristic sentence of Durkheim’s philosophy, which shows what he believed, it is this one.
The Stades of Sociological Thought, p. 394
A decade ago, the former French minister of education Vincent Peillon said that the project of the French Republic was to construct a Secular Religion and he wrote a book titled A Religion for the Republic, the Secular Faith.
In the end, this political rhetoric that demonizes Islam because of a presumed lack of liberty, equality, and fraternity is misleading. It hides the hypocrisy of secularism while spreading half-truths about Islam, the second largest religion in France.