Can the moral position of the Church function when faced with islamism ?
Shmuel Trigano, Professor Emeritus, is a philosopher and sociologist, specializing in the Hebraic tradition and contemporary Judaism.
FIGAROVOX/ANALYSIS : Following the attacks [in Nice and Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray], the Church’s policy of “social peace-making” is disturbing, says Shmuel Trigano. For the philosopher, this attitude provides islamism, notably the Muslim Brotherhood, with room to manœuvre.
The reaction of the Church in France, as of the Vatican, to the religiously motivated assassination of the priest at Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, is surprising, not to say extremely worrying, at least from the point of view of a Jewish observer, as much on the theological-political level as on that of the state and its republican citizenry. Certainly, the official reaction and that served up no doubt selectively by the media, do not cover the full range of catholic opinion, and one cannot prejudge the enormous pressure that the socialist government would have brought to bear on it to accept what could be called the posture of the martyr rather than that of the citizen.
❝ By his death, and on his body, the social fabric would be mended. This is what the media want us to believe. ❞
Sublimating this murder in order to “come out on top”, this virtuous posture full of moral depth — stoical, in a word — effectively provides in the (very) short term the means of avoiding a fracture or clash in French society. The symbolic solidarity of some muslims (and Jews) attending the Sunday Mass has been retailed by the media as an expression of amity built on peace and reason [irénique]. However, if one thinks in the manner of René Girard [philosopher of social science], one notices that this amity is sustained by the “sacrifice” of Father Hamel; a sacrifice both literal, through the ritual death that he was subjected to, and figurative: a sacrifice for the maintenance of the “peace”. By his death, and on his body, the social fabric would be mended. This is what the media want us to believe, in accordance with an anthropological schema that could hardly be more conventional.
This state of affairs is nevertheless marked by an overlap between Christian ethics and political calculation. In the present situation, these ethics turn out to be problematic from the point of view of the urban population. I have heard a cleric address the issue explicitly in the usual “we are all responsible” terms, and learned that a prayer had been said for the two assassins in the very church in which the drama took place. We heard the pope declare that this was not Islam (strange that he felt able to speak in its name), and that Christianity was just as violent as Islam, saying therefore one thing and its contradiction. Who is culpable? Who is innocent? We don’t know.
❝ We believed that this unrequited “morality” came from the dominant ideology of our time, postmodernism, but we now discover that it can also develop in the Church. ❞
Of course, here again is the “politically correct” narrative that exculpates the muslim world instead of urging it to confront the sickness that ravages it and endangers peace; a narrative that also destroys the moral and intellectual capacity to fight it, by accusing the victims of being the source of the violence that is meted out to them.
We believed that this unrequited “morality” came from the dominant ideology of our time, postmodernism, but we now discover that it can also develop in the Church. This state of affairs recalls irresistibly Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s observations on the Catholic religion, made in the context of his work on the foundations of democracy: “[..] far from attaching the hearts of the citizens to the state, it detached them from it, as from all the things of the earth. [..] All that sits awkwardly with the sweetness of the Christian, and after all, what does it matter whether he be freeman or serf in this vale of tears? The essential thing is to enter Paradise, and resignation is just another means for achieving that. And if some foreign war crops up? … They do their duty, but without any thirst for victory. What does it matter whether they be victors or vanquished? Doesn’t Providence know what’s best for them? It can only be imagined, what advantage a proud, impetuous enemy could reap from their stoicism“.
❝ The self-abnegation of the Church holds out the possibility of social “peace-making”, but at the expense of any confrontation with the central problem that the state must face. ❞
One appreciates how the message sent by the Church might find a favourable echo in islamist circles, and I think above all amongst the Muslim Brotherhood, who are islamism’s visible “political” showcase, and the government’s interlocutor in France. An echo whose strength we can hear in the opinion piece published in the Journal du Dimanche of 3/7/2016 by self-appointed “muslim intellectuals”. I refer to the fact that these forty or so personalities have quite simply “forgotten” the Jewish victims of terrorist crimes committed in the name of Islam, which they otherwise condemn. It is as though the “peace-making” coming after the murder of Father Hamel took place at the expense of the islamists’ principal target: the Jews. Too much! And it is still more distressing to see the critics of this omission mention only the massacre perpetrated by [Mohamed] Merah, and that of the Hyper-Casher, while “forgetting” the hundreds of anti-Semitic attacks committed since 2001, on which they have kept their silence. Since 2001, at any rate, we have heard not a single clear condemnation from institutions of the anti-Semitic aggressions committed, other than from certain individuals (like Imam Chalgoumi or the Algerian, Boualem Sansal).
❝ Anti-Semitism is not a marginal aspect of the current crisis. It is its original and structural vector. ❞
Condemnation, when it emerges, often “balances” recognition of the anti-Semitic character of the acts with the accusation that Israel was itself responsible for the state of affairs: an argument invoked, in effect, by Merah, avenger (sic) of “the children of Gaza”. It’s as though condemnation of anti-Semitic acts could only take place at the price of “customs-clearing” de rigueur anti-Zionism. Yet this brand of rhetoric is becoming less and less possible in the face of reality. The manner in which the signatories to the letter in question try to account for their deafening silence right up until today is therefore rather specious. “We muslims were silent because we had understood that in France, religion is a private affair“. One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Assaulting fellow citizens belongs to the private sphere? The burqa in public spaces, a private affair? Anti-Semitism is not a marginal aspect of the current crisis. It is its original and structural vector.
The self-abnegation of the Church holds out the possibility of social “peace-making”, but at the expense of a third party and of any confrontation with the central problem that the state must face, — and it alone can face.