Criticism of Macron’s Islam Policy Is Over the Top

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron gives a speech in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, April 17, 2018 (European Parliament)

Emmanuel Macron is the most liberal president France has had since the 1970s, when Valéry Giscard d’Estaing legalized abortion and made contraceptives commercially available. Yet there has been a tendency on the left to blow every hint of Macronist illiberalism out of proportion.

Macron did not, on balance, cut public spending. He raised welfare benefits, extended unemployment insurance to the self-employed and penalized companies that made excessive use of short-term contracts. But he also liberalized labor law, to make it easier for firms to hire and fire workers, and abolished a wealth tax few millionaires paid, which earned him the moniker “president of the rich”.

Police largely tolerated the so-called Yellow Vests protests against Macron in 2018, but left-wing critics seized on a few instances of police violence to argue the president couldn’t stand criticism.

Now that Macron is taking a harder line against Islamic extremism, following the beheading of a French teacher who showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils, John Lichfield reports for Politico Europe that the same tendency is rearing its head on the (American) left.

The New York Times claims Macron has ordered a “broad government crackdown against Muslim individuals and groups.” The World Socialist Web Site, in a widely retweeted story, accuses Macron of “whipping up … anti-Muslim hysteria.” An American sociologist who researches white supremacists laments that French officials “respond to violent extremism with violent extremism.”

What is this “broad crackdown”? Macron’s government has closed a mosque, which was run by a radical imam. A number of arrests have been made. “Anti-Muslim hysteria”? 51 more Islamic organizations are being investigated for alleged extremist sympathies. What about “violent extremism”? There are plans to take away the French passports of 231 foreign-born criminals.

Some of this may be an overreaction. Expelling dual citizens will be difficult if their countries of origin refuse to take them back. The rhetoric of Macron’s interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, has not been helpful. He believes France is fighting a “civil war” against Islamists.

But — the convictions of the woke American left notwithstanding — words are not violence, and anyway Macron himself hasn’t gone so far. Read more “Criticism of Macron’s Islam Policy Is Over the Top”

Macron the Secret Islamophobe

Emmanuel Macron
French president Emmanuel Macron speaks with Renaud Muselier, president of the Regions of France, in Paris, November 15 (Elysée/Kadidia Nimaga)

French president Emmanuel Macron has startled observers with a number of policies that might seem to contradict his previously held beliefs.

Despite being pro-EU, he blocked membership talks with Albania and North Macedonia. Once clear-eyed on the Russian threat, Macron now argues for dialogue with Moscow and calls Islamic terror NATO’s number-one enemy. He even made a point of attacking political Islam.

Some hear dog whistles to the far right, assume bad faith and call Macron an Islamophobe. That is unfair to the most liberal president France has had since Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. Read more “Macron the Secret Islamophobe”

Trump Gave a Surprisingly Intelligent Speech to Muslim Leaders

Donald Trump
Businessman Donald Trump makes a speech in Derry, New Hampshire, August 19, 2015 (Michael Vadon)

This could have gone a lot worse. The speech Donald Trump gave on Islam and terror in Riyadh on Sunday was surprisingly intelligent.

According to his prepared remarks, the president rejected the clash-of-civilizations paradigm some of his fanatical underlings, like Steve Bannon, have promoted.

“This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects or different civilizations,” Trump told an assembly of Muslim leaders.

This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it.

That is quite right — and a reversal from Trump’s previous rhetoric. Read more “Trump Gave a Surprisingly Intelligent Speech to Muslim Leaders”

Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy

Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015
Businessman Donald Trump appears at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 27, 2015 (Gage Skidmore)

Donald Trump has always had a difficult relationship with the truth. His sheer volume of daily falsehoods overwhelms an unprepared news media — and buries unsavory stories which the Republican would prefer to keep hidden.

Trump even manages to construct entire narratives via a steady diet of alternative facts delivered to his supporters.

This weekend, we saw something new: For the first time, those falsehoods came together to generate, enact and justify policy. Read more “Trump’s Ban: Alternative Facts Create Real-Life Policy”

Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes

Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010
Visitors wait in line outside the Islamic Institute of Orange County, California, October 17, 2010 (IIOC)

As the Trump transition rolls along, the infamous “Muslim ban” has returned to the forefront.

It all started on December 7, 2015, when then-candidate Donald Trump spoke to supporters after the San Bernardino mass shooting. He advocated a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” This proposal is still on his website.

It has been willfully forgotten or explained away since, but the fact remains: Trump’s first instinct was to call for a Muslim ban of indeterminate length.

It doesn’t stop there. Even in July, Trump said his plan had undergone an “expansion” and would bar individuals from places “compromised by terrorism.” This includes NATO allies like France and Germany. They “totally” meet this definition, Trump said, because they “allowed people to come into their territory.” Read more “Muslim Registry Would Require Investigation of Thought Crimes”

The Bloody End of 2016’s Ramadan

Certainly, the end of this year’s Ramadan will go down as one of the century’s bloodiest. First Istanbul; then Dhaka, rounded off by Baghdad, Qatif, Medina and Jeddah. It’s not wholly clear just how much the Islamic State controlled or directed these attacks or merely inspired them, but owing to their scale, scope and timing they are worth examining in the wider context of the geopolitical view of Sunni supremacist terrorism.

Thus we must embark upon the road of understanding, of causation and explanation, to pinpoint sources and posit solutions. We needn’t empathize with the madness, only know that it has its own form of rationality it is playing by. Read more “The Bloody End of 2016’s Ramadan”

The Arab Spring In Review

A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012
A protester waves an Egyptian flag in Cairo, February 4, 2012 (Alisdare Hickson)

Five years later, the dismal record of the Arab Spring is all too apparent. Syria burns, Egypt’s new pharaoh goes from strength to strength while the Gulf monarchs, having launched war in Yemen, have rarely seemed so lethal. Democracy, it is clear, did not sweep in with the revolutions of the 2011-12.

But that’s no reason to dismiss the spring entirely. All such wide-scale events have resonance. For better or worse, the Arab world is certainly different and in some slim ways even improved since 2011.

Here now is the geopolitical review of the Arab Spring. Read more “The Arab Spring In Review”

Why a Western “War of Ideas” with Islam is Futile

In the wake of recent Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States, well-meaning liberals have revived calls for a “war of ideas,” arguing that the “ideology” of the terrorists must be defeated as much as the terrorists themselves.

American president Barack Obama maintains that “countering violent extremism” involves more than a military effort. “Ideologies are not defeated with guns but better ideas and more attracting and more compelling vision,” he said last year.

British prime minister David Cameron has similarly argued, “What we are fighting in Islamist extremism is an ideology.” Not only those advocating violence must be challenged, he believes, but everyone who promotes “parts of the extremist narrative.”

Politicians in other countries and thought leaders across the Western world have argued much the same.

Their attempts could be futile if Middle East expert Adam Garfinkle is right. Read more “Why a Western “War of Ideas” with Islam is Futile”

Republicans to America: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26
Republican senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, February 26 (Gage Skidmore)

Republican presidential candidates in the United States have seized on a mass shooting in San Bernardino earlier this month to ramp up their war rhetoric.

Carried out by a self-radicalized Muslim couple who were apparently inspired by the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East, the murder of fourteen people in southern California is a vindication for Republicans who have long accused President Barack Obama, the Democrat they hope to succeed, of wavering in the fight against radical Islam. Read more “Republicans to America: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid”

Hawks Are Right: Paris Terrorists Hated Our Way of Life

Paris France
A young man looks out over the skyline of Paris, France from the Arab World Institute (Unsplash/Gwendal Cottin)

When terrorists strike, hawks always say it is our freedom and our democracy they despise.

This weekend was no different. After more than 130 people were killed in terrorist attacks across Paris, the Front national in France itself, the right-wing press in the United Kingdom and Republicans in the United States all gave the same explanation: The terrorists struck because they hate us for who we are.

It is not always that simple. But they are not altogether wrong either.

The leaders and ideologues do resent Western civilization and what it stands for. Their foot soldiers in the West are driven to madness less out of conviction than spite. Read more “Hawks Are Right: Paris Terrorists Hated Our Way of Life”