Djemila Benhabib on Secularism in France and Quebec

Djemila Benhabib is a secular feminist in Quebec who comes from an Algerian background. Earlier this year she made negative remarks about a madrassa on talk radio. Her words upset the school’s leaders so much that they decided to sue Ms. Benhabib for slander. This week a judge in Quebec’s superior court ruled against the plaintiffs, saying that the defendant’s statements did not constitute slander.

Canada is in the process of criminalizing speech that insults Islam. With Justin “Baby Doc” Trudeau and the Liberals now in power, the institution of Islamic blasphemy laws as prescribed by Sharia has become a very real possibility. It seems that the madrassa’s leaders just jumped the gun a little bit, thinking they could obtain in a civil procedure what will soon be enshrined in Canadian criminal statutes.

The following interview with Djemila Benhabib aired in France before the Quebec court ruled on her case. Many thanks to Ava Lon for the translation, and to Vlad Tepes for the subtitling:

Below is a report from the CBC on the verdict in the superior court:

Djemila Benhabib Not Guilty of Slander, Quebec Superior Court Finds

Comments made by a secular feminist about a Montreal private Islamic school ruled to be legal by Quebec judge

A feminist, secular author did not slander a Montreal private Muslim school when she likened it to military training camps, a Quebec Superior court has found.

Author and activist Djemila Benhabib told 98.5 radio host Benoît Dutrizac the Muslim Schools in Montreal “resembles the kind of indoctrination similar to what goes on in a military camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan.”

In the same interview, she also said the school’s religious teachings were a form of indoctrination that conveyed sexist values. She used the example of Quranic verses which made reference to the importance of young women remaining pure.

The school accused her of “greatly tarnishing” its reputation and sued her for $95,000. It was represented by human rights lawyer Julius Grey, who argued that comparing a local school to terrorism was a dangerous tactic.

Shortly before her trial began in September, Benhabib showed little remorse.

“I regret nothing,” she said in a separate radio interview.

Video transcript:

00:00   Good morning Djemila Benhabib. — Good morning. —You are a journalist, you are an author,
00:04   you are a fervent militant for secularism, you have, incidentally, received
00:08   several awards, several medals. How would you like
00:12   to be perceived? —Well: an involved woman
00:16   engaged for freedom, for women rights, for secularism,
00:20   for great humanist values; that’s what I would like to be perceived as.
00:24   So there’s often a question of secularism in France
00:28   especially in the last couple of months. December 9th, today,
00:32   is the anniversary of the law of the separation of church and state in France,
00:36   the famous law of 1905. And this year the government asked the teachers
00:40   to organize a sensitization initiative in the schools
00:44   about the question of secularism. What would you like to say
00:48   about the question of secularism to a student or to students
00:52   with whom it’s sometimes very very difficult to start conversation about it today?
00:56   Well, listen, I think that going back to history
01:00   seems essential to me, with a window on the world; meaning:
01:04   bringing their attention to the difficulties
01:08   met by populations, societies that haven’t settled that issue.
01:12   So if I take Iraq, for example,
01:16   which is going through an absolutely terrible war
01:20   because of having multiple faiths present in the public space,
01:24   well it’s a way of connecting the past and the present,
01:28   a way of opening a window on the latest news,
01:32   Well, it’s in reality telling them, that somewhere
01:36   we have here in France tools and keys, to understand
01:40   the present and even to find tangible solutions.
01:44   And concerning Muslims who see in French secularism
01:48   a way of preventing them from expressing their religion, what would you tell them?
01:52   Listen, first of all there are
01:56   a number of Muslims who support secularism… —That’s why I said “to those who…”
02:01   Yes, exactly, and who are very happy, believe me, whom I meet every day and who are
02:05   super happy —Who see in it a protection? —Absolutely! Absolutely!
02:09   And also a way of leaving behind their origins, their environment,
02:13   their community; and the others, in fact,
02:17   meaning the political militants, meaning psalmists,
02:21   who in fact refuse to adapt
02:25   to modernity, to submit to the great rule
02:29   of democracy, well, I would like to tell them
02:33   that they are fighting the wrong battle, that in France
02:37   the secular model is the very model that shaped
02:41   France, and because of that it’s not going to disappear!
02:45   It is there to protect the entirety
02:49   of the citizens, to build commonality.
02:53   In your books or in your articles you denounced several times
02:57   what you call “islamo-gauchism” [islamo-leftism].
03:01   What exactly do you mean with this word? —Well, it’s a concept,
03:05   which makes me smile in the first place, because
03:09   it’s in fact, voilà, two entities, that are perhaps
03:13   light-years apart from one another, meaning
03:17   the Left, a part of the Left, and Islamism.
03:21   As political doctrines, as political regimes. And there you have them
03:25   in bed with each other, because
03:29   they have a world concept that the enemy of my
03:33   enemy is my friend. Voilà, in a way it’s that, and so
03:37   since the “Great Enemy” is America,
03:41   it’s Israel, so they’ll become allies [left and Islamism]
03:46   in order to defend a political attitude
03:50   that doesn’t in fact resemble
03:54   the Left as we used to know it.
03:58   And I have to say that there is a part of the Left that
04:02   went astray, that became communitarist, that distanced itself from its great values
04:06   which characterized the Left, in our case the fight for secularism.
04:10   Faced with the radical Islam, society
04:14   has to oppose it with radical secularism?
04:18   Look, no. Secularism is never radical.
04:22   Secularism cannot be radical.
04:26   Secularism is good will, tolerance, it’s generosity.
04:30   You should never make secularism fight all the fights of society.
04:34   The fight against political Islam, against
04:38   radical Islam, goes beyond secularism.
04:42   It questions democracy itself.
04:46   It questions the rights between… the equality…
04:50   between men and women, it’s questioning diversity, it’s questioning the possibility
04:54   of meeting [other people], so it goes well beyond secularism
04:58   So I would say that secularism needs to be protected.
05:02   You were just talking about good faith.
05:06   There’s a way of good faith, of goodwill that is expressed sometimes towards
05:10   veiled women for example. There has been,
05:14   and we mentioned it here before, what is called Hijab Day.
05:18   Hijab Day, which was organized
05:22   for example in the prestigious school Science Po [political sciences].
05:26   You have mercilessly attacked this initiative.
05:30   What is it revealing for you, this type of initiative? — No, no, listen,
05:35   it’s not good faith or goodwill; this is complacency! Relative to…
05:39   It’s being presented as defense of young women who would be stigmatized —Yes, yes…
05:43   Of course, but this is pure garbage, I mean,
05:47   listen, you cannot trivialize a garment
05:51   that is carrying such a heavy symbolic load!
05:55   In my case, I recognize my destiny also in
05:59   the destiny of all the women in the world who are fighting for dignity
06:03   for respect as people, for the right to live,
06:07   for the right to exist, for the right to escape
06:11   the rules of their societies also. So you cannot
06:15   wear a symbol that oppresses women more or less everywhere in the world!
06:19   If it’s Iran,
06:23   or Afghanistan, or Pakistan, or the Maghreb,
06:27   where there are more and more women who are being forced to veil, because
06:31   social pressure is terrible, and also because
06:35   local regimes get more rigid and,
06:39   political Islam is gaining territory every day.
06:43   So one cannot ignore all that, especially if
06:47   one is a student in Science Po! —You live in Canada,
06:51   which is a multicultural country, which has inscribed in
06:55   their law the veil, over there, a full covering or not is a non-issue.
06:59   Is there in France, as some say,
07:03   a kind of obsession? Are French too preoccupied by this question?
07:07   We also saw it with the debate about burkini last Summer.
07:11   Listen, you cannot say that in Canada it’s a non-issue.
07:15   They talk about it all the time, you know? We are like, I think, like
07:19   a little like you, except that in order to… they are
07:24   trying to shut down the French, who are being told: you talk too much. Well, I’ll tell you,
07:28   I like that! Because in France there is a real
07:32   debating space, which is getting smaller, because
07:36   there is this way of disqualifying an adversary,
07:40   of course, by calling him an “islamophobe”; this is
07:44   another story though. But I think that it is
07:48   a form of intellectual strength, and also a form of…
07:52   and it’s healthy, that a society can debate
07:56   about the veil, because, remember,
08:00   In 1989 the question was asked. It was a breach,
08:04   an open door, and who would have thought that we would be here today,
08:08   in 2016, talking not about —I would like to say —
08:12   not about just a veil, a scarf, but the FULL covering! Do you realize?
08:16   The state of regression we found ourselves in?
08:20   Today there are totalitarian regimes
08:24   well, that, fully veil their women,
08:28   and we are here in the democracies, asking ourselves the question
08:32   whether or not to forbid this garment.
08:36   I’m saying, listen: we’re lucky that forbidding it is still an option!
08:40   Here in France and in Belgium,
08:44   What should French government be doing that they perhaps aren’t?
08:48   To fight today against this phenomenon of
08:52   political Islam? And what the sociologist
08:56   who is your friend, I think, Mathieu Bock-Côté is calling
09:00   “identitarian exhibitionism”? —Listen, I am not going to
09:04   give lessons. I have no lessons to give to anybody, but
09:08   I do, however, have experience
09:12   from Algeria, which is very interesting. It seems you should never
09:16   remove ideology, politics from
09:21   military. So what we see today, it’s terrorism, sure,
09:25   what is preoccupying and occupying us is this explosion of violence.
09:29   It’s true, but you have always attach it to
09:33   a paradigm of politics, of ideology.
09:37   So what is preoccupying me is
09:41   the lost spaces in the Republic. They are now everywhere more or less
09:45   in France. And it’s time to look at them, time to
09:49   total up of what we have done all these years,
09:53   and recognize what hasn’t worked, to re-start the machine.
09:57   Thank you Djemila Benhabib. —Thank you!

3 thoughts on “Djemila Benhabib on Secularism in France and Quebec

  1. The heroes of Dieppe, Normandy’s Juno beach are spinning in their grave while an increasingly fascistic Canada introduces Sharia, spitting in the face of all past and present warriors who sacrificed arm and limb and many made the ultimate sacrifice. Trudeau will go down in history like Merkel.

    • It’s starting to unravel for Justin ‘Baby Doc’ Trudeau. Several of his recent actions show him for the privileged globalist who’s panting to enshrine Sharia and blasphemy laws in Canada. Look for him to try bringing back the ‘Human Rights Commission’ (sic) kangaroo courts to achieve that safe space for Islamism in Canada. But more people are waking up to the jabbering cultural Marxist moron he is.

  2. She makes the important link between ideology and political-military power which characterizes both the Left and militant Islam. Neither have any concept of government as a pragmatic and cautious exercise of power to maintain stability in a community where change is modest and incremental. For the Left and Islam it’s All or Nothing! Force change down everyone’s throat whether they can swallow it or not.

    She suggests a rethink – but that is not going to happen without a huge amount of push-back on the part of the fed-up citizenry – tired of government over-regulation, the barbarism of non-Western cultures (which the PC Left cannot even admit to!) and the end of the tsunami from Africa and the Middle East.

    The problem is only getting worse as the post-colonial states unravel – NOT because they were artificially constructed, but because their native cultures have never progressed beyond tribal and religious hatreds, nor beyond tyrannical government and massive corruption! Colonialism – for all its problems, was a civilizing enterprise that has now been reversed.

    But who is expected to pick up the pieces? Who is asked to house Third World populations and feed them, despite their hostility and brutal manners? – the Western taxpayer!

    We ought to be coming down on their native governments like a ton of bricks – educate your people, look after their health, promote the Rule of Law and Human Rights – or else! It’s not our role to stabilize and reconstruct their appalling nations for them, but we should FORCE them to do it themselves or withhold aid and investment!

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