Open Society at a crossroads in France

So much of the whataboutery that we’ve seen in the past few days has been ‘context’ about ‘Insult to Islam as a proxy for attacks on a persecuted and marginalised minority‘.

It is half-of-a-point, and no-one can doubt that perfectly admirable secularist propaganda can also give comfort to people who simply hate Arabs and Asians. In the case of Muslims, it’s has also provided a reasonable reminder that some interpretations of their religion has issues that need to be resolved if it is to co-exist with other faiths in an open society.

I’m very glad to live in a country with an active left which, sometimes, steps onto the wrong side of the line in censoring legitimate ‘offence’ in order to promote integration and solidarity with ethnic and religious minorities. Sometimes you have to err on the side of caution. However, I would now also like to see that left remembering its commitment to free speech and open societies, and to understand just how far these values stand between ourselves and barbarism.

While we’re on the subject of ‘context’, here’s some more. In a country that is more accepting of Muslims than any other in Europe, 40% of hate crimes in France have been directed at Jews who make up 1% of the population. Jews are leaving France in their droves and now, quite sensibly, fear for their lives.

Jews, who had their religion and its clerics mocked as mercilessly by Charlie Hebdo are now having their religious services cancelled by the state on safety grounds. Jewish businesses in Paris have stayed closed today on safety grounds.

Spend a few minutes thinking about this from the perspective of a European Jew. Does it ring any bells?

How would you feel today if you were a Parisian Jew, looking at the newspapers and seeing the deliberate targeting and murder of Jews by Islamists – only the latest in a long line over recent years – who have emerged from a significant, sustainable network that promises more of the same?

Ironically, the likely beneficiaries of this weeks events are likely to be the strengthening Front National with its ancient history of anti-semitism and holocaust denial.

France is at a crossroads and its State and its people – in huge numbers – now needs to decide which side it’s on. An over-reaction is needed. It isn’t just the ‘open society’ and liberal democracy that needs defending now. We’ve slept for too long on that particular watch.

Living in London but working all over Britain and Ireland. A left-leaning Labour Party member and blogger. I’m on twitter as @paul0evans1 and I blog mainly at the Local Democracy blog though I’m in lots of other places as well. I’m a massive fan of Google Reader – please follow me and share the better posts from your feed?