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December 14, 2020 7:03 am

France’s Macron Confronts Radical Islam; Why Won’t the US Media Join Him?

avatar by Olivier Guitta


French President Emmanuel Macron meets members of the military mobilized for the reconstruction of the port of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon, Sept. 1, 2020. Photo: Stephane Lemouton / Pool via Reuters.

In a landmark speech in October, French President Emmanuel Macron committed to defend secularism against Islamist separatism, adding that a law would be presented by year’s end. Even though Macron made sure to specifically repeat that he is fighting Islamism and not Islam, what made the headlines was his statement that “Islam is in a crisis all over the world” because of “tensions between fundamentalism and political projects … that lead to very strong radicalization.”

That speech was the starting point of a campaign against France from the usual suspects: the jihadists, the Islamists, Muslim nations — but also some media outlets, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

For example, Karen Attiah, the Post‘s Global Opinions Editor, was spreading lies when she tweeted on November 21 about Macron: “Now, he’s [sic] wants to give Muslim kids ID numbers to go to school.” She was implying that only Muslim children would have to be issued an ID in France.

Attiah deleted the tweet, but insisted that France was very much an Islamophobic country: “To act like Macron isn’t stoking Islamophobia is simply folly.” She added, “But what France needs to do is not continue the cycle of hostility towards Muslims.” After that debacle, the Post issued no apology or indication that Attiah was reprimanded for her outburst.

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Actually, as demonstrated by her latest op-ed, Attiah was emboldened to continue with her obsession to attack France and Macron. Attiah whitewashed the jihadists who carried out the recent attacks in France by calling them “deeply disturbed individuals, lone wolves with no ties to international terrorist networks.” This couldn’t be farther from the truth: no press reports indicate any of the three terrorists were clinically disturbed; they weren’t lone wolves because they all had a support network, possessed Islamic State material, and answered to the Al-Qaeda call to target Charlie Hebdo but also to carry out an “individual jihad” on French soil. Furthermore, the French prosecutors said that the Nice church attack and the beheading of a teacher in Conflans, just outside Paris, were linked. Attiah didn’t mention that the three men were devout Muslims who carried out the attacks in the name of Islam.

Then Attiah yet again wrote a half-truth: “The government proposed to cancel a schooling program with teachers from Turkey, Morocco, and Algeria.” What is actually happening is that Macron wants to stop the import of foreign imams: there are currently 300 of them in France with over 150 from Turkey — most of them do not speak French. What is so bad about training imams in France and not importing possibly extremist imams?

She then goes overboard writing, “Perhaps it makes sense Macron would get some cheap tips on how to make life miserable for innocent Muslims.”

How can Attiah be allowed by the Post to spew her venom time and again, spreading false information to dishonestly advance her cause? Fact-checking anyone?

Elsewhere, The New York Times referred to an Islamic State terrorist who killed three people at the Nice Basilica as merely “a man with a knife” and an “assailant,” even after French authorities labeled it a terrorist attack. The Times‘ slanted coverage continued with news articles such as, “After Terror Attacks, Muslims Wonder About Their Place in France.” Attacking problems in France rather than the jihadists continued in the Times‘ opinion pages, which featured pro-Islamist voices such as this column: “Is France Fueling Terrorism by Trying to Prevent It?”

In it, the author denied that France’s Muslim population is disproportionately self-segregated and argued that “it is the French government’s rhetoric that could end up convincing some Muslims that they are indeed different from other French people.”

It is mind-boggling that the overwhelming majority of the reporting and op-eds from both the Times and the Post describe France as an Islamophobic country and show the presumed suffering of French Muslims. Where are all the articles about the innocents killed by Islamist extremists? What about their stories? What about talking about the terrorists as well?

Adam Nossiter, the Times‘ Paris bureau chief, blamed secularism — the pillar of French society — for offending Muslims. “Secularism,” he wrote, “is being used to beat up a certain community.” In a debate on France Culture Radio, Nossiter claimed that the Qatar-funded, Islamist organization CCIF (Le Collectif Contre L’Islamophobie en France) is just a regular Muslim organization, hinting that France’s decision to ban it is totally unfounded and unfair. However, the CCIF has long been known as a Muslim Brotherhood front. Hence why French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called the group “an enemy of the Republic.”

Macron complained to the Times about its coverage of the terror attacks in France. He criticized the paper for its lack of solidarity with France, notably because of its first title after the assassination of teacher Samuel Paty. The newspaper’s headline was: “French police shoot man after deadly knife attack.” The title was changed quickly enough, but it left its mark. Then Macron told Times media writer Ben Smith that his newspaper suggested that France was an Islamophobic and racist country and that these articles thus “legitimized the violence of which France is a victim.”

Macron gave an interview on December 4 in which he said: “I was shocked by the English-speaking press saying ‘These French people are strange. They insulted the Prophet. They don’t like Islam.'”

Subsequently, the Times editorial board issued a half-baked apology: “The French reaction is understandable. The beheading of a schoolteacher and the murder of three churchgoers in Nice by Islamist terrorists cannot be justified by any grievance, real or perceived. Any attempt to lay the blame for these horrific crimes on their victims, or on national policies, is perverse.”

As writer Ed Husain, a brave British Muslim and former hardcore Islamist himself, said: “Those portraying Macron’s speech as anti-Islamic tend not to report the bit where he promised €10 million for research into Islamic culture, history and science, and the creation of a ‘Scientific Institute of Islamology.'”

In a letter to The Financial Times, describing the Islamist time bomb that faces French society, Macron said there are “hundreds of radicalized individuals” living in France who could strike with a knife at any moment. He added that some French districts are “terrorist breeding grounds” where “small girls wear full veil and are raised to hate our values.”

“This is what France intends to fight against today,” he wrote. “Against plans of hatred and death that threaten his children. Never against Islam. Against obscurantism, fanaticism, violent extremism. Never against a religion.”

The Post and Times‘ aggressive campaign against France coincided with the three successive quick jihadist attacks the country witnessed in over a month. The Times‘ half- apology is already a step in the right direction, but the two main American newspapers need to realize that their words should not be used to side with the enemies of liberty.

Olivier Guitta is the Managing Director of GlobalStrat, a security and geopolitical risk consulting company for companies and governments. Olivier tweets @OlivierGuitta.

A version of this article was originally published by The Investigative Project on Terrorism.

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