Photo Jonathan Blair

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Beyond tragedy and invidious chest-beating

Beyond tragedy and invidious chest-beating

How great we Canadians are compared to those pathetic French, who now pay for their long history of "rejecting the other"...
In the Globe and Mail, Erna Paris points to the disproportional presence of Muslims in French prisons and gloats that Canada doesn’t have the same problem.
She should consider the possibility that  poor social integration in some countries may not regard mainly immigrants. In 2013, according to Canada’s correctional investigator, "aboriginal people represented a staggering 23% of federal inmates yet comprise 4.3% of the total Canadian population. And one-in-three women under federal sentence are Aboriginal.” The latter roughly equals the scale of over-representation that she rightfully denounces in the case of France. Add provincial prisons to the picture and there is little reason to boast about our history.
Writing from a country where "no Jewish refugees were too many" (to paraphrase the title of Irving Abela's and Harry Troper's history of Canada's policy towards Jewish refugees during World War II) Ms Paris should also perhaps thread more carefully when assessing the record of France during the Holocaust, which is more ambiguous than she suggests.
Her basic argument is defensible: citizenship matters, equality matters, and denial of either could well feed violence. And France indeed offers cautionary tales... along with Canada, the United States, and so on. Why, in the midst of the tragedy that strikes France, she felt the need to mar that argument with invidious chest-beating is beyond me.
Now, that argument may well be totally wrong too. Perhaps the very real social exclusion which is epitomized by prison statistics but associated with very distinct outcomes here and in France should make us consider the possibility that the heart of the problem, as the terrorist themselves keep saying, is islamic fundamentalism, not social exclusion.
French historian and philosopher Marcel Gauchet, in a recent interview with Le Monde, makes just that point, and in a way that is completely devoid of islamophobia. His explanation, in fact, harks back to the argument he first laid out in The Disenchantment of the World, which focused on Christianity.

Here is the opening summary of the full article:

Le fondamentalisme islamique est le signe paradoxal de la sortie du religieux 
Historien de la démocratie, Marcel Gauchet explique que l'origine de la violence des terroristes n'est pas -sociale ou économique, mais bien religieuse. Comment penser les attaques du 13 novembre et ce déferlement de haine ? Cette violence terroriste nous est impensable parce qu'elle n'entre pas dans nos grilles de lecture habituelles. Nous savons que c'est au nom de l'islamisme que les tueurs agissent, mais notre idée de la religion est tellement éloignée de pareille conduite que nous ne prenons pas cette motivation au sérieux. Nous allons tout de suite chercher des causes économiques et sociales. Or celles-ci jouent tout au plus un rôle de déclencheur. C'est bien à un phénomène religieux que nous avons affaire. Tant que nous ne regarderons pas ce fait en face, nous ne comprendrons pas ce qui nous arrive. Il nous demande de reconsidérer complètement ce que nous mettons sous le mot de religion et ce que représente le fondamentalisme religieux, en l'occurrence le fondamentalisme islamique. Car, si le fondamentalisme touche toutes les traditions religieuses, il y a une forte spécificité et une virulence particulière du fondamentalisme islamique. Si le phénomène nous échappe, à nous Européens d'aujourd'hui, c'est que nous sommes sortis de cette religiosité fondamentale. Il nous faut en retrouver le sens.