The French newsweekly Marianne has featured excellent analyses of the Charlie Hebdo and Kosher supermarket attacks. Some of them are in abridged form on the magazine’s new website.
One of their journalists, Eric Conan, looked at the development of radical Islam (16-22 January 2015 issue, p. 16):
After a century of colonial domination, with no leadership since the end of the last caliphate in 1924, the Islamic world was once again in flux, torn between partisans of modernity (a Turkish or Tunisian version of Islam) and those who wanted a return to the glorious past of centuries of rapid expansion by sword and hunting down infidels.
He added that André Malraux understood that events in the 21st century would revolve around this conflict.
Conan says that the author and first Minister of Cultural Affairs never uttered the words often attributed to him:
The 21st century will be religious or it won’t happen.
He went on to cite what Malraux wrote in 1956:
The big phenomenon of our era is the violence of the Islamic eruption. Underestimated by most of our contemporaries, this rise of Islam can be compared analogically to the early days of communism from Lenin’s time. The consequences of this phenomenon are still unpredictable …
Africa will not be unaffected by this phenomenon for long … The Western world hardly seems prepared to confront this problem.
This morning’s RMC talk show discussion revolved around the violence and insularity in France’s poor suburbs. Mohammed Chirani, a consultant in public policy who was closely involved with this demographic between 2009 and 2013, says that those who live there must stop denying the reality of their situation.
He told the other panellists on Les Grandes Gueules that he could not put all of the stark truth in his book Réconciliation Française because most readers would have found it too alarming.
Chirani said that whilst the government can implement programmes in schools to help integrate these children into society, no real progress can be made until families admit that life in these suburbs is violent and dysfunctional. Violence in the streets and at home — notional conflict resolution — will lead some youths to pursue religious extremism. This can stop only when residents of these areas admit they have a problem and start changing their behaviour.
He posited that this continued denial has also led to the many conspiracy theories about the Paris attacks now circulating in households in these vulnerable areas. Teachers emailing RMC — and commenting online elsewhere — reveal that students of all ages are convinced the attacks did not happen as shown on television news. These children receive their news from a handful of popular conspiracy sites and from what their parents tell them.
Clearly, much work needs to be done, but a government educational programme on French values is unlikely to help.
Chirani and his colleagues in the Radicalisation Awareness Network will probably be able to do more. I wish them much success.