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This is perhaps the most important of the 425 posts I have published so far in this Blog.  It will definitely be the least original, because it consists essentially of quotations from a recently published book in French  :  Jean Birnbaum, “Un Silence Religieux.  La Gauche Face au Djihadisme” (“A Religious Silence.  The Left in Face of Jihadism”), Seuil, Paris, janvier, 2016.   One thing is certain : readers of this Blog are highly unlikely to read anywhere else what I am about to write and translate here.  Even if you can read French, you may never, regrettably, read the book, though I would urge you to do so ASAP.

The thesis : the raison d’être of Daesh, Islamic State, ISIS, and the motivation of its terrorist members are primarily religious, founded on an Islamism inspired directly by the Koran and the Hadiths.  Their objective in the short term is the provocation of terror and civil war, and in the long term the elimination of Infidels and the installation of a worldwide Caliphate and the universal rule of the Charia.

The author rejects the politically correct distinction that has led President Hollande and his Minister of the Interior to state that the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish deli in January 2015 and on the Stade de France, the Bataclan and Paris cafés in November 2015, “had nothing to do with Islam”.  For fear of exacerbating existent “islamophobia”, the French Government has preferred to protect “moderate” Muslims by insisting that the only “bad guys” are the “Islamist” (not Islamic) terrorists.  These are, moreover, said to be the products of poverty, lack of education and social and economic discrimination, whose motivations are based on a thirst for recognition, power, fame and adventure, rather than on the Islamic faith practised by the “good guys”, the moderate, friendly, well-behaved Muslim citizens in your neighborhood.  The problem, for Birnbaum, remains the religion they share with the fanatical, radicalized terrorists.

It seems to me that the best service I can offer readers, rather than paraphrase the author’s ideas, is to present a selection of his texts.  The choice is difficult and extremely limited, but I hope adequate to correct certain mistaken ideas about the true nature and dimensions of the challenge now facing the whole world.

  1.   “Top representatives of the State … have repeated one and only one idea : that the attacks which have recently spilled so much blood in France have ‘nothing to do’ with religion in general and with Islam in particular.  The men who committed these crimes ‘have nothing to do with the Muslim religion’, said François Hollande.”  (page 13)
  2.    “The men who committed these attacks” (in fact explicitly) “cite religion as their source : ‘I am Amedy Coulibaly” (the assassin in the Jewish deli) “a Malian and a Muslim.  I belong to Islamic State …  The difference between Muslims and you Jews” (he was speaking to hostages in the Hyper Cacher) “is that you give a sacred meaning to life … We give a sacred meaning to death.  You attack the Islamic State ?  We attack you.  You and your coalition bombard us, you kill civilians and our troops … We are not going to let you do that.  We will fight you, Inch Allah, to glorify the word of Allah.”  Like Coulibaly, Saïd and Cherif Kouachi – the assassins of Charlie Hebdo – were proud to identify themselves as soldiers of God : ‘We have avenged the Prophet Mahomet’ “.  (pages 15-16)
  3.    “What links the French terrorists with their confreres in Somalia or Syria is not their social origin or their personal itinerary.  It is essentially the same messianic certitude, the same discourse.”  (page 19)
  4.     ” ‘Barbarians’, ‘Weirdos’, ‘Psychopaths’ – any label will do so long as there is no reference to faith  (page 21) … Since the attacks of January 2015, all sorts of explanations have been given, every possible cause has been envisaged, except one : Religion (page 22)  … Today everything happens as it it were quasi-impossible to reconcile two objectives : on the one hand, to avoid the ‘confusion’ between Islam and terrorism, thereby disassociating Muslim faith from its Islamist perversion: and on the other hand, to take fully into account the religious dimension of jihadist violence …  What is central here is our own reticence to envisage religious belief as a specific cause. ”  (page 23)
  5.     “The idea which links sectarian extremism and a low social and educational level is quite simply false.”  (the author is quoting Gérard Bronner, page 25)
  6.     “In fact, jihadism is practised by men (and women) who identify themselves as Muslims, and who are convinced that they are the only Muslims worthy of the name.” (page 29)

Readers will discover in Birnbaum’s book much more than quotations like these.  His profound analysis of the religious dimension of the war in Franco’s Spain and later in Algeria, his rereading of Marx and Feuerbach, his study of Michel Foucault’s first-hand experience in Iran and of his 1979 prophetic warning :  “Islam, which is not simply a religion but a way of life, a belonging to a history and to a civilization, is in danger of constituting a powder keg threatening millions of people” (page 110), as well as his references to Jacques Derrida (page 113 et al.), his dissection of the Theology of Liberation (page 144 f.), and his criticism of the contemporary French Left, demolish the accepted idea  that once society has changed, religion will disappear (page 170).

“A Religious Silence” arrives at the following conclusion :

“The jihadists are convinced that the destiny of the world depends on what will become of Syria, or rather the region of the Levant they call ‘Sham’.  In their vision, jihadists view the ‘best of Allah’s lands’ as the scene of a Third World War which will result in the Coming of Paradise on Earth.  The ISIS videos hammer the message : ‘Good News for Sham !  I see Allah’s angels covering the whole of  Sham with their wings …  Rupture with the West : only a religious force is capable of achieving it; the power of the Sacred alone can desacralize profane power.”  (pages 208-210)

It is time for us to admit that Islam is the problem, and that unless it is radically reformed, unless its teeth are removed, it will devour us all.