Overdue Lessons of Charlie Hebdo

by ALEX ALEXIEV January 12, 2015

The liquidation of the jihadists guilty of the Charlie Hebdo massacre has closed the first act of yet another  European drama. It was not the first and will not be the last in the war of radical Islam against civilization. The lessons to be drawn have been in front of us for years, yet many in the politically correct France and the West are seemingly afraid to see the reality for what it is and draw the logical conclusions. If they continue to do that, European civilization is facing an existential danger.

So let's see what transpired in Paris. Innocent people were murdered in cold blood as a revenge for an ostensible insult of the prophet Muhammad the cartoonists were said to have committed. And while common people with common sense reacted to this barbarism with a resounding "Je suis Charlie," assorted western media like CNN  tried to absolve the terrorists by intoning that Charlie Hebdo ‘had provoked the Muslims.' Nor is this unconsionable attitude atypical of the leftist establishment that rules the roost in the West. Two years ago president Obama himself declared in a speech to the UN (Sept. 25, 2012) that "The future should not belong to those who  slander the prophet of Islam," thereby expressing his solidarity with the Islamists. Many other media refuse to publish the cartoons to this day, demonstrating with their behavior that maybe the jihadists are right. No one, mentioned even once that there is no prohibition against drawing Muhammad in the Koran.  

And yet the radical Islamist campaign against cartoons of the prophet has been massive and violent since the original publication of the Danish cartoons some years back. To understand why, we need to go back briefly to the ideology of radical Islam.  In short,  it is a totalitarian political ideology masquerading as  a religion formulated in the middle of the 20th century by the radical ideologues  Sayyid Qutb and Abul ala Mawdudi , who elevated sharia law to the status of sole criterion of whether or not a given Muslim or a government are real Muslims. If a government in a Muslim country does not impose sharia as the only law in the country, says Qutb, they ipso facto become apostates and deserve the only punishment sharia envisages for apostates - death.

But what exactly is sharia law?  For the Islamists, it is both God's sacred law and the constitution of the Islamic state, which must be followed to the letter for a Muslim to secure a place in paradise. In reality, sharia is a post-Koranic doctrine invented by Muslim theologians more than a century after Muhammad in order to legitimate Arab imperialism that embarked on its greatest conquests under the Umayyad dynasty (661-750). Indeed, it is difficult to imagine as "God's sacred law" a doctrine that has four different interpretations named after their originators (shafi, hanbali, maliki, hanafi) among the sunnis alone. For the Islamists, however, sharia is their banner ideology because it is the most reactionary and hate-filled interpretation of Islam possible, which openly preaches violence and discrimination against non-Muslims and women. In short, medieval obscurantism in the 21st century. And yes, sharia does contain prohibitions on drawing Muhammad.

With sharia as its standard and Saudi money and Muslim Brotherhood operatives flooding European and French Islam as early as the 1980s, Islamism promptly became the dominant idiom in the Muslim establishment in France. Recent surveys by the reputable British polling company, ICM Research, indicate that 27% of French Muslims under the age of 24 support the terrorist Islamic State. In view of the fact that the average age of European Muslims is 26 years, this is a frightening figure. In France, this radicalization is accompanied with the dramatic increase of violent anti-Semitism. In 2014, the incidents of violence against Jewish people, synagogues and property have increased two-fold compared to 2013, leading to rapidly rising Jewish emigration out of France. In 2013, 3288 Jews left France for Israel; in 2014 the number was no less than 8,000. 

For French security authorities, undoubtedly, the most troubling trend is the rapidly growing numbers of French jihadists who join the ranks of Islamic State and the Nusra Front. In the middle of 2014, French intelligence organs spoke of 700 jihadists in the ranks of IS; by the end of 2014, they are talking about 1200 of them, with 100 of them killed and 250 who have already returned. Even if all the other Muslims in the country are normal people, 250 battle-hardened terrorists present a huge threat to society.  

Yet another, longer-term threat to stability in France and other European countries in which similar processes are observable, is the tendency of Muslims to self-isolate and incapsulate themselves from the larger society in "parallel societies." There are currently 751 ‘sensitive urban zones' (zones urbaines sensible, ZSU), which are Muslim ‘no-go' ghettoes with a population of 5 mln people, where European norms and values are seldom observed. More often than not these areas become bastions of radical Islam increasingly ruled by sharia, as well as, criminal centers for the drug, stolen goods and prostitution trade. One indication of the magnitude of the problem is the number of Muslims among the prison population. Muslims number over six million or 10% of the French population, but make up 60% of the prison inmates.

Finally, there is a threat of a political nature that few in politically correct Europe are willing to discuss. This is the ever more frequent marriage-of-convenience between the Islamists and European leftist parties for electoral advantage. It is well-known, if seldom mentioned in France, for instance, that Francois Holland became president thanks to the Muslim vote. He defeated Sarkozy by 1.1 million votes, while  receiving  93% of the 1.7 million strong Muslim vote. We are not far from the day when the Left would find it difficult to win elections without Muslim support that for now tends to bloc voting. This is already a fact in many British cities with large Muslim populations, such as Leicester, Bradford, Nothingham, Birmingham etc., where the Labor party dominates city government due to Muslim support. Not surprisingly, such cities promptly begin engaging in policies, like boycotting Israeli goods, that run counter to national policy.

The huge outpouring of emotion by the French people in the aftermath of the  barbarian attack on Charlie Hebdo show unmistakably that they understand what is at stake. With prime-minister Manuel Valls now admitting that France is at war with radical Islam, it is to be hoped that their government, at long last, also understands that. It's long overdue.

Alex Alexiev is IASC's Senior Fellow for Eurasia Affairs.  He has more than 35 years of analytical experience in U.S. national security as a senior analyst and project director with the Rand Corp's National Security Division, and several think tanks in Washington D.C.  He has directed numerous research projects for the Department of Defense, Office of Net Assessment, U.S. Army Intelligence, USAF intelligence, DIA, CIA, and other U.S. Government agencies, and has testified before Congress numerous times. He is the author of several books and myriad monographs and articles on national security issues.


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