Below is a subtitled version of the excellent keynote speech by Alain Wagner, chairman of International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA), at the beginning of a colloquium on Radical Islam sponsored by the Union of Jewish Entrepreneurs and Professionals of France (L’Union des Patrons et Professionnels Juifs de France, UPJ). It was given in Paris on June 9, 2013.
I’m Alain Wagner, International Civil Liberties Alliance’s chairman. Our actions take place in international forums like OSCE, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and are focused on defense of freedom of speech and we’re trying to prevent attempts to undermine it. Attempts coming from very powerful international organizations like OIC, Organisation for Islamic Cooperation which aims to restrict freedom of speech in western countries regarding Islamic related topics.
When I was invited to speak during the conference keynote address entitled “reflection on radical Islam,” I asked myself what my response should be.
Claim to sum up all that is known about the subject in 15 minutes seemed to me not only pretentious — there are indeed many things to say — but also counterproductive because if everything is said from the beginning of the conference … so what is next?
So how can I contribute to the success of this conference? Well simply it may well be by defining a clear and unambiguous foundation that will support the reflections this afternoon.
Radical Islam. The phrase sounds familiar. It occurs regularly in the media, but rarely with a precise definition. What are we meaning when we talk about radical Islam? In today’s society when the word Islam is pronounced, warning lights turn red, adrenaline level soars and trembling hands are ready to press the alarm button.
The obvious reason that brings us here to this conference is that emergence in our country and around the world, of an Islam seen as radical, an Islam close to its roots and faithful to its entire doctrine … such an emergence is a cause of concern.
The topic is considered as “politically sensitive” by medias and politicians. Consequently, the vast majority of those who bring up the topic of Islam cautiously stay on the safe side carefully avoiding to cross the limits imposed by the so-called “political correctness”. Those who know me, know what I think of political correctness. It is the enforcement of an opinion declared “correct” at the expense of reality. Political correctness is not only an insult to the intelligence but also a breach into the main pillar of democracy: freedom of expression.
So don’t expect any politically correct in what follows. If it was the case you still just have the time to run out of this conference room.
Well… radical Islam.
Let’s begin with something not too controversial…
Radical is easy to define: Adjective radicalis medieval Latin, classical Latin radix, root. Belonging to the essence, to the very nature of a thing or a being. Having an absolute, total or permanent feature.
Islam is a bit more complex, but basically only three things are important if we want to discuss meaningfully of the impact of Islam on our society.
- First thing: the Islamic doctrine, its contents, requirements and normative rules.
- Second thing: The actions of individuals, organizations and states considering themselves members of the Muslim community.
- And finally, the potential degree of influence of Muslim doctrine on the actions of those influenced by it or claiming to put it into action. This is where the concept of radicalism operates.
Well, getting into the heart of the matter, I must say frankly, that in France (but not only here) radical Islam is an extremely negative expression.
It is associated with violence, terrorism, jihad, hatred of the Jews, lowered status for women, homosexuals and non-Muslims, rejection of democracy, human rights and religious freedom, general rejection of anything that does not correspond to Sharia rules and the will to impose these in lieu of local laws and customs.
In common usage, including in the media, ‘radical Islam’ is not far from becoming a synonym of extremist Islam. Only blood and violence still separates the two terms. And maybe not for long. Radical Islam inevitably evokes a potential for violence.
So how can we define what we are talking about this afternoon?
The definition of the word radical indicates that “radical Islam” is the one that refers to the absolute essence, the very roots of Islam. That is to say, to its foundations: the prophet, its doctrine, its rules, Sharia law.
Radical Islam is an Islam … faithful to Islam.
Untainted by any other system of thought and reference (like ours for example). An Islam 100% Islam.
From this observation based on facts, it follows a logical and inevitable consequence: It is impossible to separate “radical Islam” from Islam as such. It’s impossible to separate those two items because radical Islam derives all its substance from Islamic doctrine. The two cannot be considered entirely separate and distinct items.
It is impossible to talk of one without mentioning the other, the two are inextricably linked.
The problem of radical Islam is not that being radical, changes its substance and its practice into something perverted and eventually dangerous for our society. But rather the fact that a stricter Muslim doctrine practice, therefore closer to its fundaments, reveals the problematic nature of some aspects of Islamic doctrine itself.
Maybe this last statement seems a little bit abstruse. In other words, being radical doesn’t changes Islam, because it’s a comeback to its roots, to its essence. Radical Islam reveals what are the roots of Islam, at the heart of Islamic doctrine. These unsavory aspects do not appear with a superficial practice of Islam, with an incomplete application of the doctrine.
It is an incomplete practice of a problematic doctrine that many confuse, by ignorance, with a complete practice of a moderate doctrine.
The medias and politically correct soaked discourses (strongly smelling of oil in some cases and of an acrid smell of fear in many others) are trying to hide this fact in an effort to preserve Islamic doctrine, Islam as such in fact, from any potential or critical review.
Creating a false dichotomy, for diversion, in order to avoid getting to the core of the issue.
What is this false dichotomy?
It is the opposition between a radical Islam ‘worrying but the fact of a small minority’ and a “moderate Islam” also called Islam of (in) France that would be expected to be “the normal Islam of a large majority” in our country.
But this opposition against “radical Islam” and “moderate” one is a double intellectual fraud, it is not relevant.
First scam : We can only compare what is comparable and therefore oppose what is opposable.
The so-called “radical Islam” is a powerful collective politico-religious thinking movement, supported with billions of dollars in funding by international organizations such as the OIC and the Muslim Brotherhood. The various actors of this movement are Sharia proponents. We know what Sharia is by books like this one, this is a Sharia manual code.
Very often people ask : what is Sharia? The answer is in Sharia books like this one, read them. We perfectly know what is Sharia, which is promoted by these big international organizations.
These organizations are implacable enemies of democracy and civil liberties. Because Sharia is incompatible with the democratic principles, incompatible with Human rights. And this is not my opinion, it’s a ruling from the European Court of Human Right. The 13 February 2003 it says : “Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of Democracy” Sharia law and its associated regulations destroy human rights wherever it is applied. Sharia legitimates the use of violence for religious reasons and that is why, among other things, it is unacceptable in our societies.
In front of this, we are shown ordinary people without any particular organization with the only characteristic of being of Muslim faith and living in non-Muslim countries without killing anyone. A lot of people indeed.
They are arbitrarily amalgamated and designated by the name of “moderate Muslims.” And we are expected to infer from this semantic trick that there is a doctrinally moderate Islam And that the dangerous nature of the first group is a mere flight of fancy?
A bit hard to swallow.
The second scam is the use as an evidence of a concept without any proven substance: Moderate Islam, what is this “moderate Islam”?
This Islam — supposed to be reassuring and acceptable- is a new media concept present only in Western countries. To date, no clear definition of what constitutes moderate Islam exists.
Where is the evidence of its existence, while the Muslims themselves do not use this term and find it insulting?
What has recently been moderated and thus officially removed or modified in the Quran or in the Islamic doctrine as defined by indisputable authorities such as Al Azhar university in Egypt?
Where are the “moderate Qurans?” Where are the scholars and doctrinal books of “moderate Islam” used for teaching in the mosques? When and where did they remove jihad, stoning, the obligation of the Islamic veil, execution of apostates from the Muslim doctrine?
So, if ultimately, this “moderate Islam” appears to be a hollow formula, a phrase without substance, then the dichotomy between radical and moderate Islam disappears.
So what is left?
Well, there is a fracture line left. A clearly visible fracture line when we decide to open our eyes and face reality. A dividing line between individuals and organizations that promote Sharia and all the others.
The red line of radicalism which is this afternoon’s main topic is the Sharia.
Either you are for Sharia law and you’re a radical, an Islamist, (it’s the same thing). You are not necessarily violent in this case, we have to be able to discriminate being radical and being violent. One can be radical and a Sharia proponent without killing anyone. But such persons, even non violent, are nonetheless enemies of democracy and human rights.
Constantly you are trying to introduce one by one the elements of Sharia law where you live. First inside your family, then locally around you, and finally in the country you are living in. You feel dislike or even revulsion for the culture of the country in which you live and you aspire to the establishment of a social order based on the rules of Sharia.
If it’s not the case. If you’re not for the Sharia rules, you have the full capacity to integrate harmoniously within societies that respect the rights and freedoms of others. You are not a danger to democracy, not a danger to women (women’s rights actually) or to your neighbors.
It must be said again, the red line is there and not elsewhere. Sharia IS the red line.
What questions should be asked about the gradual emergence of rules of Sharia law in the social, political and cultural space of our society?
What questions should be asked about the actors in this emergence? About their relations with foreign interests and their motivations?
What questions should be asked about the legitimacy and desirability of Sharia promotion activities in our society?
What questions should be asked about the duty of care and protection our countries have towards their citizens (and especially their Muslim women citizens) against social control attempts made by all kinds of Sharia proponents?
And finally, what questions should be asked about the use and perversion of the rules of our democracy by the enemies of democracy? Are there not gaping holes and deficiencies that need to be addressed? Lessons to be learned, here and now? Lesson to be learned from the ongoing agony of Turkish secularism but also from successful enterprises of subversion by the Muslim Brotherhood throughout North Africa?
Here are issues that are rarely openly discussed by journalists or politicians.
Here are some ideas for discussion this afternoon.