Earlier this year, following the Charlie Hebdo massacre and related terrorist attacks in and around Paris, I wrote Islam and Free Speech, a “Broadside” that is part of the series published by Encounter Books. The following is an excerpt.
How did we get to this historical anomaly in France where, as the estimable scholar Daniel Pipes observes, “a majority population accepts the customs and even the criminality of a poorer and weaker community”? It is the result of a conquest ideology taking the measure of a civilization that no longer values its heritage, no longer regards itself as worthy of defense.
France’s population of 66 million is now approximately 10 percent Islamic. Estimates are sketchy because, in a vestige of its vanishing secularist tradition, France does not collect census data about religious affiliation. Still, between 6 and 7 million Muslims are reasonably believed to be resident in the country (Pew put the total at 4.7 million back in 2010 – other analysts peg it higher today). To many in France, the number seems higher, due to both the outsize influence of Islamist activists on the political class and the dense Muslim communities in and around Paris – approximating 15 percent of the local population. An online poll conducted by Ipsos Mosi in 2014 found that the average French citizen believes Muslims make up about a third of the country’s population.
As night follows day, when Muslim populations surge, so does support for jihadism and the sharia supremacist ideology that catalyzes it. The reason is plain to see, even if Western elites remain willfully blind to it: For a not insignificant percentage of the growing Muslim millions in Europe, infiltration – by both mass immigration and the establishment of swelling Islamic enclaves – is a purposeful strategy of conquest, sometimes referred to as “voluntary apartheid.”
One of its leading advocates is Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. A Qatar-based Egyptian octogenarian, Qaradawi is a Muslim Brotherhood icon. He is a copiously published scholar graduated from Cairo’s al-Azhar University, the seat of Sunni Islamic learning for over a millennium, and thus oversees both the International Union of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research. Thanks to his pioneering of the highly trafficked IslamOnline website and, especially, to his hugely popular al-Jazeera television program, Sharia and Life, he has become the world’s most influential sharia jurist.
Qaradawi is the sharia backbone of the violent jihad to exterminate Israel – a tiny country surrounded by hundreds of millions of hostile Muslims. The sheikh also vows that Islam will “conquer” both Europe and America, but acknowledges that this conquest will require a strategy more suited to a determined minority that knows it cannot win by force of arms. The key, he asserts, is dawa, the Muslim equivalent of proselytism. In radical Islam, it is hyper-aggressive, pushing on every cultural cylinder, pressuring every institution, and exploiting the atmosphere of intimidation created by jihadist terror to blur the lines between legal advocacy and extortion.
In France, dawa presses against laïcité, the credo of secularism through the strict separation of religion and the state. Qaradawi is quite clear that “secularism can never enjoy a general acceptance in an Islamic society.” He is equally adamant that Muslims, who are bound to live in accordance with the strictures of sharia, must reject a secular framework because “acceptance of secularism means abandonment of sharia, a denial of the divine guidance and a rejection of Allah’s injunctions.” Thus, he elaborates, “The call for secularism among Muslims is atheism and a rejection of Islam. Its acceptance as a basis for rule in place of sharia is downright apostasy.”
This nexus between free speech and Western democracy is worth pausing over. Notice that, in focusing on the incompatibility between Islamic law and democracy’s secular, pluralist underpinnings, Qaradawi draws the inevitable conclusion that democracy equals apostasy. The term apostasy is not invoked idly in radical Islam. As explained in Reliance of the Traveller, a classic sharia manual endorsed by al-Azhar scholars, the renunciation of Islam is a death penalty offense.
Free speech does not exist in a vacuum. It is the plinth of freedom’s fortress. It is the ineliminable imperative if there is to be the robust exchange of knowledge and ideas, the rule of reason, freedom of conscience, equality before the law, property rights, and equality of opportunity. That is why it must be extinguished if there is to be what Qaradawi calls a “place of religion” – meaning his religion. For all its arrogance and triumphalist claims, radical Islam must suppress speech because it cannot compete in a free market of conscience.
To sustain their movement, therefore, Islamist leaders must separate Muslims from secular society. In the West, this means forming Islamic enclaves in which sharia gradually takes root as the de facto and, eventually, the de jure law – enabling Muslims to resist the challenge of critical thinking under the guise avoiding the near occasion of apostasy. Over time, dominion is established over swaths of not only physical territory but legal privilege. Qaradawi puts the matter succinctly:
Were we to convince Western leaders and decision-makers of our right to live according to our faith — ideologically, legislatively, and ethically — without imposing our views or inflicting harm upon them, we would have traversed an immense barrier in our quest for an Islamic state.
The key to the conquest strategy is to coerce the West into accepting a Muslim right to resist assimilation, to regard sharia as superseding Western law and custom when the two conflict. For precisely this reason, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation – a bloc of 56 Muslim countries (plus the Palestinian Authority) – has decreed that “Muslims should not be marginalized or attempted to be assimilated, but should be accommodated.” Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist president of Turkey who has systematically dismantled that country’s secular, pro-Western system, similarly pronounces that pressuring Muslims to assimilate in the West “is a crime against humanity.”
Free expression is the gateway to assimilation. Consequently, radical Islam cannot tolerate it.
As a result, France is now rife with Zones Urbaines Sensibiles – “sensitive urban areas.” The government officially lists some 751 of them: Islamic enclaves in the banlieues, often referred to as “no go zones” because the indigenous populations discourage the presence of non-Muslims who do not conform to Islamic standards of dress and social interaction, and of public officials – police, fire-fighters, emergency medical teams, and building inspectors – who are seen as symbols of the state’s effort to exercise sovereignty in areas Muslims seek to possess adversely.
Some of these zones inevitably evolve into hotbeds of jihadist activity. As the Gatestone Institute’s Soeren Kern notes, there has been no shortage of Internet traffic suggesting, for example, “the killing of France’s ambassadors, just as the manly Libyan fighters killed the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi.” In a low-intensity jihadist thrum stretching back several years, the torching of automobiles has become a commonplace – as many as 40,000 cars burned annually. Perhaps most alarmingly, over a thousand French Muslims, more than from any other Western country, are estimated to have traveled to Syria to fight for ISIS – meaning many will return to the country as trained, battle-hardened jihadists. Beyond the direct ISIS participants, moreover, the Washington Post has reported that a recent poll found 16 percent of French citizens expressing some degree of support for ISIS – an organization whose rule over the vast territory it has seized is best known for decapitations, rapine, the execution of homosexuals, mass graves, and the enslavement of non-Muslim communities.
Once one grasps the voluntary apartheid strategy, it becomes obvious why radical Islam’s inroads in France, and elsewhere in Europe, seamlessly translate into demands for the enforcement of sharia’s curbs on speech and artistic expression. What is not so obvious is just how profound a challenge to the West this constitutes.