Douglas Murray Douglas Murray

Macron alone: where are France’s allies in the fight against Islamism?

(Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A few years ago, in a Lords debate on the treatment of Christians in the Middle East, the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks reminded his peers of some famous words of Martin Luther King: ‘In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.’

That reflection may now be going through the head of the French President, Emmanuel Macron. In recent weeks he has been left alone on one of the most dangerous and delicate ledges of our time: that of Islamic extremism. And while he has already incurred the wrath of much of the so-called Muslim world — with French goods disappearing from many Arab supermarkets and Macron condemned from Ankara to Islamabad — it is the silence of everyone else that has been so striking.

A string of fast-moving events began early last month when President Macron delivered some remarks on what he called ‘Islamist separatism’ in France. In a major speech he warned that a portion of France’s roughly six million Muslims were forming a ‘counter-society’. A fortnight later a French schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, was decapitated in a Paris suburb on his way home from school. The teacher’s ‘crime’ had been to talk to his class about the importance of free expression. This included showing them some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed. A campaign of vilification occurred among some of the local Muslim community and soon an 18-year-old Chechen armed with a 12-inch knife was on the way to Paty’s school. As Macron said subsequently, Paty was killed ‘because he taught the… freedom of expression, the freedom to believe or not believe’.

Such speeches are now common after such atrocities. We say ‘Je suis Charlie’ and then forget about it. But Macron seems to be serious. In the best traditions of the Republic, he stressed the non-negotiability of French secularism.

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