Emmanuel Macron, the newly elected president of France and the youngest leader since Napoleon, assured voters in his victory speech that it is “a new page in our history.” Not so fast, M. Macron, advises William McGurn in the WSJ.
The more prosaic explanation is that, given the choice before them, French voters reasonably opted for the certainty of a status quo with some tinkering around the edges over the uncertainty of radical disruptions promised by Marine Le Pen and her National Front party.
In France, there are the two orthodoxies, writes Mr. McGurn, both pertaining to state. Each is a problem. Problem #1 is the state’s role in France’s economy. Problem #2 is the state as enforcer of France’s official nonreligion–better known as laïcité. (Laïcité, secularism in state affairs, goes back to the French Revolution. Its original purpose was to keep the Catholic Church in check.)
Stating the obvious, France’s lack of economic freedom is no secret. Writes McGurn:
Whether it is the exalted role the French government plays in private enterprises or the state itch to intervene in any economic arrangement between consenting French adults, the assumption is that government knows best. One price of this arrangement is unemployment that hovers at around 10% overall, and at more than 20% for people under 25.
As for problem #2, France’s bigger problem is Laïcité, explains Elizabeth Winkler in the New Republic.
(Laïcité) goes further than the separation of church and state in other nations, however, by prohibiting religious expression in the public sphere. In early 20th-century France—a fairly homogenous, Christian nation—this was a straightforward attempt to protect government from the sway of the Catholic Church. But in modern France—a decidedly more heterogeneous and multi-religious society—this insistence on secularism is thorny. As a critic argued in Le Figaro, laïcité is unintelligible and even shocking to many Muslims, who view it as “an injunction to abandon their religion.” Instead of enhancing social harmony, it may actually be exacerbating religious and racial tensions.
“Apparently,” Mr. McGurn continues, “it occurs to no one in France that a fair part of their two chief crises—a stagnant economy and a Muslim minority that has not assimilated—are fueled by the same source: a lack of liberty.”
In talking with French business owners and workers–rather than the ruling elite in France’s over-departmentalized government –Dick and I have heard time and again distress over France’s lack of liberty on the economic front. Oftentimes accompanied by a Gallic shrug of the shoulders.
But unlike the economy, French citizens are not shrugging off the more serious problem of Muslim emigrants. Not all emigrants are seeking asylum in France just to escape their war-torn countries, we hear. Clearly, many emigrants are not looking to assimilate into modern society, European or American. The French we’ve talked with believe this is a clear and present danger to France’s future. There is a sinking feeling that time is growing late–almost too late for volte-face.
What Mr. McGurn and Ms. Winkler are not addressing in their articles is the threat of Islamic supremacism, an ideology that allows no other doctrine. Basically it is “them against us” (the West). As Andrew McCarthy writes in NRO, “Influential sharia supremacists encourage Muslims of the Middle East and North Africa to integrate into Western societies without assimilating Western culture.”
Mr. McCarthy regards Islam as less a religion than “a political radicalization with a religious veneer” and cites the Muslim Brotherhood jurist Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as someone to fear. The Sheikh vows, “Islam will conquer Europe, conquer America” and urges Muslim migrants to demand the right to live in accordance with sharia.
The paramount challenge to France, as it is to Europe and America? How does a country embrace Islamic friends yet protect itself from sharia-supremacist enemies?
From Andrew McCarthy:
The migrant waves have been spurred by European Union leaders, particularly Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (who insists) the West has a duty to embrace those fleeing Islamic war zones. It apparently makes no difference to the ruling class that there is no way to vet these “refugees,” that they include a prodigious number of fighting-age Muslim men, and that the migrant swarms have undeniably been infiltrated by the Islamic State and other jihadist groups, anxious to move their war onto Western enemy territory.
Read more here.