Emmanuel Macron

Building an Islam of the Enlightenment

Building an Islam of the Enlightenment
Getty images
Text settings

What is it that today, in our society, endangers our Republic, our ability to live together, and inform you of the decisions taken as a result which are the result of methodical work carried out for nearly three years?

The problem is not secularism. Secularism in the French Republic is the freedom to believe or not to believe, the possibility of exercising one's worship from the moment public order is ensured. Secularism is the neutrality of the State and in no case the erasure of religions in society in the public space. Secularism is the glue of a united France. If spirituality is everyone's domain, secularism is everyone's business. And therefore, sincere Republicans must never give in to those who, in the name of the principle of secularism, try to arouse divisions, confrontations from multiple subjects which, very often, are the essence of our discussions, but not the main one.

In this area, we have rules, we must enforce them firmly and fairly. Everywhere, without concessions. Likewise, let us not let ourselves be drawn into the trap of amalgamation set by polemicists and extremes which would consist in stigmatising all Muslims. This trap is the one set for us by the enemies of the Republic, which would consist in making each citizen of the Muslim faith an objective ally because he would be the victim of a well-organised system. Too easy.

What we need to tackle is Islamist separatism. It is a conscious, theorised, politico-religious project, which materialises by repeated deviations from the values of the Republic, which often results in the constitution of a counter-society and whose manifestations are the dropping out of schooling of children, the development of sporting and cultural community practices which are the pretext for teaching principles which are not in conformity with the laws of the Republic. It is indoctrination and through it the negation of our principles, equality between women and men, human dignity.

The problem is this ideology, which affirms that its own laws are superior to those of the Republic. I ask any citizen, whatever his religion or not, to respect absolutely all the laws of the Republic. And there is in this radical Islamism, since it is the heart of the subject, let us approach it and name it, a will claimed, displayed, a methodical organisation to contravene the laws of the Republic and create a parallel order, to erect other values, develop another organisation of society, separatist at first, but whose final goal is to take control, complete this one.

And this is what makes us gradually come to reject freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, the right to blasphemy. Insidiously, we lead to radicalisation. We sometimes go as far as going to jihad. We know that we have 70 young people who left for Syria, in the department and who are often children of the Republic following this drift, even going so far as to take action by trying to shed blood or sometimes until worse. It is also this way of which we again saw the demonstrations last Friday, near the premises of Charlie Hebdo.

In this regard, when I mention all of this, I obviously do not forget when and where we are speaking. The moment, that of the trial of the attacks of January 2015, and I have a heartfelt and fraternal thought for the families of the wounded, the families of victims and their loved ones who lived the horror in January 2015.

It is clear that there is a radical Islamism which leads to deny the laws of the Republic, which leads to trivialise violence and which has led some of our citizens, our children to choose the worst or to consider that the worse had become natural, and therefore to create conditions of political excesses but also of violent excesses, those of Islamist terrorism. What is our challenge today is to fight against the drift of some in the name of religion by ensuring that those who want to believe in Islam and are fully citizens of our Republic are not targeted. And deep down for years, we have been encumbered by this reality.

Islam is a religion that is in crisis today all over the world. We do not see it that in our country, it is a deep crisis which is linked to tensions between fundamentalisms, precisely religious and political projects which, we see in all regions of the world, lead to a very strong hardening, including in countries where Islam is the majority religion. Look at our friend, Tunisia, to cite just one example. 30 years ago, the situation was radically different in the application of this religion, the way of living it and the tensions that we live in our society are present in this one which is undoubtedly one of the most educated, developed in the region. There is therefore a crisis of Islam, everywhere that is plagued by these radical forms, by these radical temptations and by a yearning for a reinvented jihad, which is the destruction of the other. The project of a territorial caliphate against which we fought in the Levant, against which we are fighting in the Sahel, but everywhere, more or less insidious, the most radical forms. This crisis affects us by definition too.

To this are added the external influences and a methodical organisation of political powers, of private organisations which have pushed these most radical forms. It must be said that we let it happen, at home and abroad. Wahhabism, Salafism, Muslim Brotherhood, many of these forms were initially peaceful for some. They gradually degenerated in their expression. They have radicalised themselves. They carried messages of rupture, a political project, a radicalism in the negation for example of equality between women and men, and by external funding, by indoctrination from outside, they reached our territory in its privacy.

Added to this is the breeding ground on which everything I have just described has been established. We ourselves have built our own separatism. It is that of our neighbourhoods, it is the ghettoisation that our Republic, initially with the best intentions in the world, but let it happen, that is to say that we had a policy, we have sometimes called it a settlement policy, but we have built a concentration of misery and hardship, and we know that very well.

We have concentrated populations often according to their origins, their social backgrounds. We have concentrated the educational and economic difficulties in certain districts of the Republic.

Despite the efforts of elected officials and prefects of the Republic whose commitment I welcome, we have not been able, precisely because of this, to recreate enough diversity, and above all, we have not succeeded in going as fast as this phenomenon in terms of educational and social mobility. We have thus created neighbourhoods where the promise of the Republic has no longer been kept, and therefore neighbourhoods where the attraction of these messages, where these most radical forms that were sources of hope, which brought and which bring , let's be clear, solutions to educate children, learn the language of origin, take care of the elderly, provide services, allow to play sports.

We are a country that has a colonial past and that has traumas that it still has not resolved with facts that are founders in our collective psyche, in our project, in our way, to see us. The Algerian war is part of it and basically everything, this whole period of our history is being seen backwards, because we have never unfolded things ourselves. And so we see children of the Republic, sometimes from elsewhere, children or grandchildren of citizens today from an immigrant background and come from the Maghreb, from sub-Saharan Africa, revisiting their identity through a post-colonial or anti-colonial discourse. We see children in the Republic who have never known colonisation, whose parents have been on our soil and grandparents for a long time, but who fall into the trap, again methodical, of certain others who use this discourse, this form of self-hatred that the Republic should nurture against itself, but also taboos that we ourselves have maintained and which reflect their origins with our history, also feed this separatism. I distinguish each of these elements methodically, but they all blend into the reality of our lives. They all mix, and feed on each other. And the political project, moreover, that is why I called it Islamist separatism because it sometimes even breaks free from strict religion in a designed project - mix all these realities, but they are there.

We must therefore face with great determination and force the unacceptable and radical forms today, in the short term. We must regain everything that the Republic has allowed to happen and which has led part of our youth or our citizens to be attracted by this radical Islam. And we also have to come back to our own traumas and our own shortcomings to somehow open this book. And I say this because this is all that we have to hold together, if we have a reductive speech, we will send a simple message to all the youth of the neighbourhoods: ‘We do not love you. You have no place in the Republic. Go home.’

If we have a naive message, we will also let slip a whole part of our Republic which will tell us ‘They do not know how to tackle the problems of my daily life. I live the consequences: I see the school closing next to my home, the practices, the association, the chanters.’ We have to deal with both at the same time by unfolding each of the points I have just mentioned. It is an action which begins today and it is an action all together that we will have to carry out and which will take years and years.

I am not going to repeat here everything that has been done for three years in the fight against terrorism, but a lot has been done by our intelligence services, by our internal security forces, by our magistrates. Laws passed at the start of the five-year term, a new organisation, better coordinated intelligence services, a specialised prosecution created, resources granted, 32 attacks thwarted.

Since 2017, we have also stepped up the fight against radicalisation, again with clear, precise and firm actions. From the end of 2017, anti-radicalisation plans involving all state services were rolled out quietly in 15 neighbourhoods, in an extremely confidential manner, in order to have the most effective methods with the cooperation of all state services, magistrates in the field, and intelligence services. 212 drinking establishments, 15 places of worship, four schools, 13 associative and cultural establishments have been closed, hundreds of checks carried out, millions of euros seized in these districts. The results obtained led us to extend this method to the whole of the territory. The results, we have them, this method has proven its effectiveness. We are extending it and we are now taking it everywhere on French soil. In each department, cells to fight Islamism and community withdrawal were set up last winter. They have already made it possible to ban conferences organised by radical Islamist movements, to financially hamper an association diverting its raison d'être to promote political Islam. Elsewhere, to close an underground school, where seven-year-old girls wore the full veil. In total, since 1 January 2020, 400 checks have been carried out, 93 closings declared.

Our response must be broader, more powerful, responding to the concrete problems observed on the ground. And the answer goes through measures of public order, it also goes through measures of re-engagement of the Republic, and basically, by an overall strategy that I want to present here, and which, for me, revolves around five main pillars.

  1. A set of measures of public order and public service neutrality, which constitute immediate, firm responses to observed, known situations that are contrary to our principles.
  2. Associations must unite the nation and not fracture it. We will therefore strengthen controls, put into law the principles under which it will be allowed to dissolve associations and assume that, by virtue of our republican principles and without waiting for the worst, we can dissolve associations of which it is established that they carry these messages, that they violate our laws and our principles.
  3. Schools: This is what ensures that our children are completely protected from any religious symbol. On the course of personnel, the educational content of lessons, the origin of funding, it is legitimate for the State to strengthen controls.
  4. We intend to lead in finally building an Islam in France which can be an Islam of the Enlightenment. We must help this religion in our country to structure itself to be a partner of the Republic in terms of the affairs that we share.
  5. Finally, and this is the fifth axis on which I wanted to emphasise. If the Republic must be feared by applying its rules without weakness and restoring force to the law, if it is necessary to reconquer the essential axes that I have mentioned, we must also make it loved again by showing that it can allow everyone to build their life. We have at bottom a duty of hope. This implies in effect re-entering the Republic into the concrete of lives.

It is a whole strategy of mobilising the nation for a republican awakening. This republican awakening, it cannot be the work of a few. We do not administer consciences. We govern a country, we hire citizens. And so this awakening is that of political leaders that we are, prefects, police officers, gendarmes, teachers, civil servants, elected officials, associations, magistrates. Of all those who, on a daily basis, have to make this promise live. They did not wait for me to make the observations that I mentioned, but today we want to give them the means to do so and a clarified framework and also the means accordingly to be able to act.

This awakening is that of all citizens, it is that of a France united around its values. The more our enemies seek to oppose us, the more we will be united. The more they seek to destroy us, the more we will unite. The more they seek to undermine our values, the more we will be uncompromising, uncompromising, because it is our history that it is about but uncompromising because to this intransigence corresponds the republican benevolence that I mentioned. But I tell you with great conviction, there is basically, behind this existential question for our nation, to relearn the reasons we have to live together.

Every day, everyone wants to put forward the good reasons for dividing us. We are not a society of individuals. We are a nation of citizens. It changes everything. We learn to be a citizen, we become one. These are rights and duties. But I will not give in to those who want to divide us one way or the other, because I believe that our greatest treasure is this block that we form. It is one and plural, let us never forget it. This is the strength of our republic. Plural, that does not mean that we would be an agglomeration of communities. It is because we are a national community. But this national community has 66 million stories. And something that is each time greater than each individual, which makes an individual become a citizen. Its adherence to the universal Republican, that is what we must defend.

Long live the Republic and long live France! 

This is an edited version of a speech Macron made. Translation by Julie Ezvan

Watch Andrew Neil and Ayaan Hirsi Ali discuss Macron's speech on 'Islamist separatism':