France: Covid and the communitarian virus!



atmane tazaghart (*)

It represents a very small card in the jungle of administrative recommendations issued in France on the occasion of deconfinement, but it is a huge step in the fight against communitarianism. This three-page document issued by the Ministry of National Education, under the title of “Coronavirus and the risk of communitarian withdrawal”, is at once unprecedentedly clear-sighted on the complexity of the “spectrum of radical ideas of communitarianism”, on the “techniques and ways of proceeding” of the various “radical groups” carrying out “anti-democratic and anti-republican” projects and on the “conduct to be adopted” to thwart the “separatist” aims of such groups, whether they are “communitarian, authoritarian or unequal”.

 

At first glance, the link between Covid and communitarian withdrawal may not seem obvious. However, the document notes that “various radical groups are exploiting this dramatic situation in order to gain new members and to disrupt public order”. To do so, these groups attempt to “exploit the pandemic as an apocalyptic omen” and to “stir the fears up”, describing the emergence of Covid-19 as a “punishment sent by God on whomever He wills”. In so doing, they want to promote a “vengeful satisfaction”, by exploiting the effects of this health disaster “on the customary mode of revenge”, which is part of a “Manichaean vision of the world,” opposing “the believers and the non-believers”.

To counter such intentions, the document recommends, first of all, to foil the trap of “semantic shifts” between “community” and “communitarianism”. While recalling that “communities in France are ancient and express social ties” and that “belonging to a community, or even several communities, is a positive, even essential link for the construction of a person’s identity and the development of the individual’s values”. It defines communitarianism as “a drift opposed to the republican ideal, which gives primacy to group rules over the universalist and integrating French republican law” and which therefore constitutes “a threat to social cohesion”.

Of course, the “speeches and signs of communitarian withdrawal”, which the document calls for identifying and combating at school, are not limited to the Islamist dimension alone. The document recommends “taking into account the whole spectrum of radical ideas of communitarianism”, stressing that the communitarian drift can be “ethnic, religious, cultural, social, political, mystical…”.

However, Islamism – which is a drift of Islam, just as communitarianism stems from community belonging – takes the lion’s share in the picture where the document describes the “techniques and ways of proceeding” of communitarian radicality: Deliberately generating confusions and antagonisms (Islam/Islamism, community/communitarianism, identity/nationality, religion/secularity, etc.); Exploiting the pandemic as an apocalyptic omen; Participating in a Manichaean vision of the world (good and bad scientists, believers and the non-believers, etc.); Criticising all discourses of authority, especially scientific ones, and at the same time using them to discredit discourses that are hostile to their theses. And, mother of all communitarian battles, to advocate, “the primacy of the rules of the group [community] over the republican law”.

Yet the “extremist groups” guilty of such practices are not only the Salafi-jihadists who advocate violence and the clash of civilisations, but also – and above all – the so-called moderate Islamists, of which the Muslim Brotherhood is the head office. For, while claiming pacifism and the “happy medium”, the latter nourish communitarian withdrawal and use victimising subterfuges to disseminate a “cultural relativism”, synonymous with the primacy of the community (of believers) over the Republic, of the law of Allah over that of mankind.

 


Read the original document from the French Ministry of National Education


 

As bizarre as it may seem, this is indeed the first time that an official French document considers Islamist radicalism other than through the spectrum of violence. For the first time, through this document from the Ministry of National Education, the government discourse seems to have integrated the idea that extremism cannot be defined by the sole and reductive notion of violence/non-violence. That currents claiming to be pacifist must be perceived and treated as “extremist groups” when they carry “anti-democratic and anti-republican political projects” or “counter-projects of society that undermine the values of the republican pact”.

It’s a small card for national education, a big step for secularism!