The attacks in Paris were not France’s 9/11, but its Dreyfus Affair. They are not attacks from outside, but attacks that come from within France and are directed at its heart. Like the Dreyfus Affair that engulfed France and split its people in two, the January attacks are like auto-immune diseases – a body that attacks itself. This is why France faces a challenge far greater than that faced by the United States after 9/11 – it must separate the attacker from the victim from within the same body.
The danger to France is not from “foreigners” or “immigrants”. The danger to France emerges from French people who seek to attack the French body and its values. The danger to France is also not from French Muslims. The danger is from French people animated by Islamist ideology. The source of the threat is not the Muslim religion, but the ideology of Islamism, Jihadism, Radicalism, or whatever other name it is given. This ideology stands against all that France is and wants to be.
France wishes to represent equality between all citizens under the secular Republic. Islamism seeks the current establishment of an Islamic Caliphate under Sharia law. France wishes to represent the fraternity of believers and seculars, Jews, Catholics, Protestants and Muslims. Islamism seeks to have a separation between the world of Islam and the world of infidels and views terrorism as a legitimate means to turn infidels into Muslims. France wishes to represent the liberty of thought and speech, including the liberty to offend and be offended. Islamism demands to avenge the honor of the prophet Mohammed by death and recognizes one truth only. France was born of The Enlightenment. Islamism seeks the return to the Dark Ages.
The history of France is a history of progress through revolutions and crisis. The identity of France has been shaped by difficult, violent, and often bloody struggles between the parts of its essence: between Catholicism and Protestantism, between Crown and Republics, between Church and Enlightenment, between surrender and resistance, and between Metropolis and Colonies. In each such clash, France further clarified its essence and its values and gave a renewed answer to the question of what is France.
This is the question that lies ahead – what is France? Are the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity common to all French or shared just by some? Is France ready to do battle to protect these values? Is it willing to face off an ideology that seeks to destroy the essence of France or will it settle for a few more years of a comfortable life?
France is not lost. Even in times of crisis it ultimately found the strength to fight for progress and enlightenment. Those values are the immune system of France and defending them from within is the battle that lies at its door.