Reflections on Europeanism, Radical Islam, the Muslims' Task and Slips of the Tongue

PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 27:  People with the French Tricolore flag at the 'Bataclan' concert hall in memory of the 130 victi
PARIS, FRANCE - NOVEMBER 27: People with the French Tricolore flag at the 'Bataclan' concert hall in memory of the 130 victims of the Paris terrorist attacks on November 27, 2015 in Paris, France. French President Francois Hollande called on all French citizens to hang the tricolore national flag from their windows to pay tribute to the victims of the terrorist attacks. (Photo by Patrick Aventurier/Getty Images)

Romain Gary's famous distinction between nationalism as hatred for others and patriotism as love for one's own no doubt applies to the prominent display of the French flag. But, by the same token, why not the flag of Europe as well? Has it become such a meaningless rag that no one thinks of claiming it as his or her own? If so, that is a pity because it is on the European level, and only on the European level, that the three most pressing issues of our time will ever be resolved: First, the undetectable financial flows that fund terrorism; second, the Schengen zone's porous internal borders, of which the assassins take full advantage; and third, the effectiveness of a military response for which France can set the direction but cannot provide, on its own and without allies, all of the means and logistics.

I hesitate to return to the next point, but, because a pernicious argument seems to be gaining traction, I will. The birth of modern Islamist terrorism dates back to the Iranian revolution of 1979 or to the bloody spiral of violence that was Algeria in the 1990s. Temporally, it has nothing to do with the wars in Iraq, Libya and Syria of the 2000s. And because the recent wave of terror has struck, willy-nilly, in Kenya, Nigeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Tunisia and other countries, it has no geographic link with the allegedly neo-colonial wars of a west that is supposedly bent on destroying the Arab world. Therefore, the Paris massacres are not a boomerang returning to punish France for her bad policy in the Middle East; rather, they are episodes in a long-term war declared by Islamo-fascism against anything anywhere that vaguely resembles democracy. A word to the wise. And enough mental appeasement!

Another piece of intolerable sophistry is the argument that asking Muslims in France to dissociate themselves from Islamism is tantamount to holding them collectively responsible for the attacks, and casts a shadow on all Muslims everywhere. No. Asking Muslims in France to dissociate themselves from Islamism implies that only a Muslim is in a position to say to other Muslims, "Your Islam is not the right one," and that only a reader of the Koran can say with authority to other readers of the Koran, "Let's eradicate, or at least reinterpret, the notions of jihad and sharia in the holy book we share."

It recognizes, in other words, that Islam is the site of an ideological battle that is at least as critical as the military one, an ideological battle that Christians, Jews and atheists are simply not in a position to wage. So, yes, imams, intellectuals, and ordinary observant Muslims must rise in great number and say to the Islamists, "Not in our name!" Together they must carry out the re-interpretions of word and dogma that will enable them to say to those tempted by the jihadist horror, "This is where Islam stops." Nothing is more urgent.

It is wise to avoid over-interpreting slips of the tongue. But this one is too ripe to ignore -- and, oddly, it has not been raised. One of Putin's Sukhoi fighters has just been shot down by a Turkish patrol. What is his first reaction? "A stab in the back!" For the history-minded, those were the words of defeated Germans of a century ago. First used to refer to the supposed betrayal of the Reich's army by the draft dodgers and other "reds" in the rear, they were then repeated ad nauseam by Germany's panoply of revolutionary conservatives, national-Bolsheviks and other pre-Hitlerites. History is real. As is the unconscious in political language. And the (unconscious) return of the theme of the "stab in the back" should be sufficient to convince us that although we can work with Russia, we must keep an eye on the terms of the alliance. The goal of this war is to annihilate Daesh, not to exterminate the Syrian moderates or to strengthen Bashar al-Assad.

And finally, this awful pearl from John Kerry. Like Putin's, no one seems to have noticed it. The American secretary of state is in Paris addressing the staff of the American embassy. There is a difference, he says, between the crimes of November 13 and those of last January (Charlie Hebdo and the kosher market). The latter had "a particular focus," "even a legitimacy." From the transcription, you can sense the secretary of state correcting himself: "not a legitimacy, but a rationale," he says. Whereas the attacks of two weeks ago, he continues, go after "everything that we do stand for" and are therefore even more inexcusable. Wait. So the assassinated cartoonists, the Jews doing their Sabbath shopping and the police at work protecting the republic did not embody everything we stand for? This is not far from what French prime minister Raymond Barre said thirty years ago about the infamous attack that, although "aimed at Israelites heading to the synagogue" killed "innocent French people crossing the Rue Copernic." This ugly little insinuation that the blasphemers of a satirical weekly and the customers of a kosher supermarket are somehow lesser victims than Parisian youth hit indiscriminately -- we are starting to hear it whispered here and there. And that is not consistent with national unity. The patriotic spirit with which France has met the attacks of November 13 must not allow such invidious sentiments to spread.

Translated by Steven B. Kennedy