The French National Headache

The French National Headache

| First published 9th September 2018 in Le Figaro

The Alarming Propagation of Islamist Ideology

As the Institut Montaigne publishes its report entitled The Fabric of Islamism, the fire-power and audience-size of the Internet and social networks are providing major tools for proselytism.

In these times when ideals and political parties are in crisis, one ideology in particular has enjoyed, in France, a nine-fold increase in its number of adherents. In the 1990s, the internal intelligence services [Renseignements généraux, RG] recorded a few hundred “Salafists”, characterised by their peculiar dress and islamist preaching : Algerians straight out of the années noires [Algerian civil war, 1988-2000], or Tablighis [members of the Sunni missionary movement] anxiously seeking “re-islamisation”. In 2004, again according to the RG, the number of adherents had reached 5,000 across the country. By 2015, a former Interior Ministry official was talking about “15,000 to 20,000”. And, according to the most recent estimate, Salafism now brings together between 30,000 and 50,000 people.

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Macron in Athens

Macron in Athens

2018-00-00 widgets.001What can one make of this speech of President Macron’s in Athens, on the 7th September? Clearing the bar of abject banality by no more than a whisker, it threatens to set a criterion for the next five years. One thing at least is clear: Macron is perfectly happy to make enemies of presidents Juncker and Tajani, of the European Commission and Parliament respectively, by threatening their prestige. And what should Mutti think? Had the speech been given on the floor of the Bundestag instead of al fresco in Athens, its Teutonic length would have been called into question even by the Empress of Europe.

Macron and Merkel appear to suffer from different strains of utopian delusion. Although at opposite ends of their political careers, both have had apotheosis cast upon them. We are in for a bruising time, then, as matriarch and upstart negotiate the paths of their respective, improbable, and dissonant agendas. Macron is for the siphoning of power from the member-nations into the super-nation, that is, from Berlin to Brussels. No can do. His proposals, as outlined in the speech, sound academic and corny at best: not the best marks of statesmanship.

The speech from the Pnyx is best taken, if taken at all, at a gallop. It is turgid and repetitive, rambling and at times incoherent, although by no means devoid of content. It has been translated by The Europeans from LREM’s transcript, with a clenched-teeth determination. Why? Because a ‘Macron baseline’ would be useful, if only to judge the development of his rhetoric over the next five years. Continue reading “Macron in Athens”