From the great Jacques Brel, this seems a propos today.
Always upsetting to hear of these attacks anywhere, but when it is a place you once called home, more so. I have many friends in Turkey, most of them former students still in Istanbul and the surrounding area, and so many have reached out to me via social media to let me know they are ok. Glad for that, but so sad for what has happened, what is happening and what will continue to happen.
I know Istiklal Caddesi well, for though I lived on the Asian side of Istanbul, I often crossed the Bosphorus to go shopping on the European side.
What I find most creepy is that it looks as though the bomber was eyeing Israeli tourists. So sick.
Years ago, I lived in France on Boulevard Voltaire, not far from the Bataclan. I never went to the Bataclan because I was never groovy. I did go to see Etienne Daho at Bercy Stadium one time. My apartment was near Place Leon Blum, named after the French politician who, prior to World War II had been the Prime Minister of France and then during the war had been deported (he was Jewish) to Buchenwald and Dachau and Tyrol and then after the war became Prime Minister again. Seriously. Only in France. (I believe his brother died in Auschwitz.)
In 2005, on a trip to Israel, I visited a kibbutz named after Blum – Kfar Blum, it was called. I was with a group of journalists and I shocked them all by knowing who Blum was. I also shocked the lady from the kibbutz who was tasked with taking us around the place — she told me that no one other than French visitors ever knew who Leon Blum was. (I shocked her even more the next morning when I took a whole mess of fish from our breakfast buffet and fed it to Kfar Blum’s many stray cats.)
A few doors down from my apartment on Boulevard Voltaire there was a convenience store run by a Moroccan family. The father had come to France from North Africa but his sons were all born and raised Frenchmen. They were terribly nice and used to help us (my roommates and me) with our bags and suitcases and such when we returned home from trips. I remember that they loved wearing muscle shirts and showing off their good looks. (Why should youth not be so?) They were terribly sweet and I was grateful for their store because, at the time, it was very difficult to find a grocery store open after 7 p.m. in Paris (not the case now). So I had somewhere to go to buy bottles of wine and Lindt bars.
I keep thinking about that time in my life and about Mustapha Dupont, a Gilbert Becaud song from 1984. I moved to France in the late ‘80s and stayed there nearly five years; long a Becaud fan, I enjoyed that song and its idealism regarding French Muslims, an idealism which one could be forgiven for now considering rather quaint.
Some of the lyrics:
Il est né entre Constantine
C’est un bon Français
Comme toi et moi
Il a vu le jour entre Fez
Durand Mohamed Français cent pour cent
De A… à Z…
Son père est tombé en ’44
En plein mois d’août
Mamadou Abdou il est bien d’chez nous
Comme toi, comme nous
C’est ça la couleur d’ l’ équipe de France
Entre bleu d’outre-mer et d’ Provence
Tu prends un Lillois, Marseillais
Un Rital un peu polonais
C’est rouge orange, jaune, vert, bleu
If you don’t speak French, those lyrics talk about three French Muslims who are all ‘bon Francais’ (good Frenchmen), one of whose father died in World War II fighting (one presumes, given the date of the action and the point of the song) for France. The repeated lyric, at the end, is about the colours of “Team France.” Every colour, says Becaud. Team France is red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.
I bring this song up because I was at a dinner the other night where someone said that France was basically getting what it deserved – in regards terror attacks — for not having properly integrated Muslims. Um, wtf??? Apart from the victim-blaming of the comment, it simply isn’t true. While there is no question that European countries, in general, are not anywhere as good as we (meaning Canada and the United States) are at integration, the vast majority of French Muslims are just that, integrated and very well so. And while I have no doubt that many French Muslims have had to deal with stupid comments or other forms of ignorance, saying France is getting what it deserves is, well, stupid. As though a natural response to discrimination is to shoot up a restaurant, a magazine, a nightclub, a Kosher supermarket. Further, French Jews experience far more hate-based attacks than any other group (French Jews make up 1% of the population but are the victims of 51% of hate-based attacks in France) and I don’t seem them shooting up innocents.
In short, there is a deeper problem here, a sort of mass pathology, as Paul Berman wrote about so eloquently here.
A couple more useful links here and here, and my own observations when I returned to France in 2014 and 2015, regarding what I viewed as a clear improvement in just how well integrated the French Muslim population had become.
Of course, there are neighbourhoods that are a mess — Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 riots erupted, comes to mind. To some degree this is the result of a “hands-off” approach – a big mistake that comes from cultural relativism, moral equivalency, political correctness…and fear, I imagine. A bad idea by any other name is a bad idea. We in the West have become cowards (I blame Baby Boomers). We are unwilling to protect values that have been centuries in the making, values from which every group could benefit. This is currently playing out in Germany and other parts of Europe. When people won’t integrate or obey the law, there is nothing unreasonable or bigoted about jailing them or deporting them if they are not legal or talking honestly about the problem, rather than trying to hide it for fear of appearing intolerant. Islamism is not Islam and it shouldn’t be difficult to say as much.
I believe such an approach would make life better for those who want to assimilate (and by assimilate, I don’t mean giving up one’s religion or freedom of worship). There is also nothing unreasonable with making sure refugees/immigrants are carefully vetted.
I am an idealist. I see no reason that Becaud’s lyrics can’t reflect reality. And in many ways I think they do.
See here two pictures taken last March, when I was in Paris. The first is a plaque from inside the Grand Mosque of Paris, commemorating Muslim soldiers who died for France in World War II. The second is a plaque honouring a ‘spahi’ – regiments of the French army recruited primarily from the Maghred – who died during the liberation of Paris.
Would really love to hear what the two ladies I wrote about here have to say about the events in Cologne and elsewhere on New Year’s Eve, especially the fact that the Mayor of Cologne blamed the victims.
One of the ladies I described in that piece is quite young and goes to slut walks and such. I would be curious to see how she is going to square the circle of her need to portray the wearing of a niqab as something noble, with her (quite justified) belief that rape victims should not be blamed for what happens to them based on their clothing. I’m sure both she and the other woman about which I wrote will find a way to excuse the perpetrators, because leftists, when stuck choosing between Islamism and women’s rights, generally go for the former, oddly enough.
The attacks happened a year ago today, and people said, “oh well, this will change things. The West will wake up now.” And…nothing has really changed and we have yet to awaken.
Here is the piece I wrote about the attacks and all of the morons in denial who tried to mitigate what happened by crying “shades of grey.”
A few years ago, my Better Half invited Martin Amis to Toronto to give a talk at a private venue. There was much that was delightful in that talk, but above all, what was noteworthy was this quote regarding the left and Islamism:
I take my hat off to the left in that they’ve found something to defend in a movement that is racist, misogynist, homophobic, totalitarian, inquisitorial, imperialist and genocidal. Perhaps it is their [Islamist’s] view on usury that is attractive to the left — low interest rates, or non-existent interest rates.
I kept thinking about that quote during the Canadian election campaign this fall, as those about me shrieked and moaned about the niqab. In particular, what struck me were two women I know who call themselves “feminists” (and who would most definitely identify as leftists) and their views on the matter.
For the record, I wish the matter had not become such a focal point, and further, I don’t believe in “banning” niqabs or burqas. But I see a difference when it comes to a solemn oath in which someone is pledging their loyalty to their new and free and (presumably) chosen country. And the reason I feel that way is that I believe in the equality of the sexes, and in the importance of a civil society that protects that equality. So I sort of assumed any “feminist” would, at the very least, not treat wearing a niqab as though it were heroic and not, you know, say anything monstrously stupid on the matter.
Boy, was I disappointed. One of these feminists posted on one of her social media pages that not only should a niqab be accepted at a citizenship ceremony, but that it would be ok with her if someone wore a Nazi uniform at said ceremony. Lovely. (This is the sort of moral bankruptcy with which we are contending.)
The other posted a celebratory “Good for her” when the woman at the centre of the case took her oath with her face covered. Now, this latter person is a young woman who uses words like “patriarchy” unironically, and who took Women’s Studies courses at university unironically. She is always ranting about the “objectification” of women but then — in the heat of the election campaign — praised to the skies the First Nations woman who won Mrs. Universe and trashed Stephen Harper shortly thereafter. So I guess her anti-beauty pageant values were subject to change, if a beauty pageant allows an expression of Harper Derangement Syndrome.
Speaking of which, both of these ladies suffer from HDS, which was likely part of the reason for their pretzel-twisting logic about women’s equality/Nazi uniforms and so forth. But I really think the broader motivation was what Amis was describing — a noxious sort of anti-Western/anti-American worldview that renders all common sense-thinking disabled.
There isn’t much to say about what happened Friday, only ten months after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. When the horrors began unfolding on Friday, I wondered how long it would take for the “but brigade” to start blathering. I knew they’d need a little more time to find a way to blame people who were simply out for dinner or at a concert or soccer match than they needed to blame cartoonists and writers, but I had faith that people that stupid would still find a way. And yes, the bleating about France’s foreign policy and all the usual drivel has begun. I am even related to someone who thinks this might have been a false flag operation — mind you, this is the same person who thinks 9-11 might have been one, and who has the usual attitudes about Jews…er, Israel.
It’s utterly awful. I will leave you with three links — first, the brilliant Niall Ferguson, whose message isn’t exactly full of promise, but whose message should be taken seriously (btw, this link appears to be behind a subscribers’ wall — see if you can find it elsewhere if you can’t get the whole thing here). I wonder if it is too late for the West. We have, in a way, allowed this to happen, as Ferguson points out in the afore-linked article and one does wonder how free societies can defend themselves against nihilism.
Second link is from the also brilliant Mark Steyn. I am not sure I agree with all of his conclusions, but he is spot-on that we need to target ideology and “the self-segregation” that goes on in our own countries. And I definitely agree when he suggests we “screw the candlelight vigil.”
Third link is from the not-brilliant me — my Charlie Hebdo piece from January, which tackles some of these issues.
And finally, I shall leave you, for now, with this very lovely version of L a Marseillaise.
I did not want to let the anniversary of 9/11 go unmarked. Please watch this beautiful commercial — which aired only once — from the people at Budweiser. It is really pitch-perfect and brought tears to my eyes.