In an interview with the leftist French newspaper Libération, French Prime Minister Manual Valls admitted that the people who doubted Islam's compatibility with democracy were not marginal extremists, but in fact the majority. We should never forget that the true "tiny minority of extremists" are the ones who run our government, newspapers, academia. They monopolise the public sphere and ruthlessly repress any voice that seeks to represent majority sentiment. By controlling the public conversation, they are able to create the illusion that their extremism is somehow mainstream and normal.
Do we need to go further with secularism?
Secularism, it's our DNA. It's normal that we have a debate about it. The Republic was built on opposition to the power of the Catholic church. Today, secularism is confronted by the rise of radical Islam, but also the place of Islam in our societies. I believe in my country, in its message and its universal values. I would like us to be capable of demonstrating that Islam, a great world religion and the second religion of France, is fundamentally compatible with the Republic, democracy, our values, equality between men and women.
So this has not been demonstrated?
Some people don't want to believe it, a majority of our fellow citizens doubt it, but me, I am convinced it is possible. It's for that reason that we must protect - protect - our compatriots of Muslim faith or culture from stigmatisation, anti-Muslim acts. They also need to be protected from Salafist ideology. I have led the combat in the "quartiers populaires" [tn: working class districts, code for Muslim ghettoes] against antisemitism. Protecting our Muslim compatriots is fundamental too.
... Are you in favour of a law banning the veil at university?
It needs to be done, but there are constitutional rules that make banning it difficult. So we need to be inflexible on applying the rules of secularism in higher education.
Is this why you now say that the "identitarian" question is uppermost?
Economic and social questions, the question of unemployment, are crucial. But indeed, the cultural question is fundamental. There is a deeper questioning in our country on opening up to the world or the place of Islam...There are those who want to close the country and dream of going back to a France that never existed. On the contrary, we need to take account of society as it is. There is a métissage [tn: literally race-mixing, one of the words favoured by the French ruling class to describe the supposedly beneficial effects of diversity], a diversity of origins, cultures, colours of skin. And then there are the great words we have used so much: "assimilation", "integration", "acculturation"… They exist, but they are often reductive. At bottom, what we need to make a success, it's this beautiful blend that consists of remaining ourselves, with our republican values, our language, our way of life, the equality between men and women, and also welcoming the richness of diversity, without ever asking it to renounce what it is!
You have said that the Salafists, who represent 1% of Muslims, had "won the cultural battle". This is abandoning the other 99% a bit quick...
No. Not at all. Exactly the opposite. What counts for me is that the immense majority of our Muslim compatriots live out a serene Islam that is respectful of the values of the Republic. Now, this 1% of Salafists are setting the tone, particularly on the social networks. We need to help the Muslims of France to win this cultural battle, to have this collective force against this Islamist ideology that wants to govern social and political life.Source