For those still interested, an update on the situation in France two days after the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty.

Tens of thousands of people joined rallies in the major cities of France this afternoon. The Prime Minister, the Education Minister and others addressed the rally in Paris, at the Place de la République, which, as far as I could see from the TV, was full to overflowing. I haven’t seen any reliable figures for Paris yet, but 15,000 people attended the rally in Lyon, the country’s second city. Politicians across the spectrum have expressed solidarity: both Yanick Jadot of the Greens, and Olivier Faure of the Socialist Party, whose parties have flirted with IdPol extremism in the past, came out solidly and emphatically for republican values. Jean-Claude Mélenchon, the Clown Prince of the Left, turned up in Paris and muttered a few banalities before scuttling away. He looked a bit apprehensive, as well he might, since he was demonstrating next to islamic fundamentalists only a few months ago. Meanwhile, the French media has been discovering, to its astonishment, that for twenty years now teachers have been threatened, harassed and even physically assaulted in certain areas for teaching the Theory of Evolution, the emancipation of women or the sufferings of the Jews in the Second World War. And amazingly, it appears, the Education hierarchy did nothing to support teachers, but told them, in the classic phrase not to “make waves.” Gosh, said the French media and establishment as one person: why did nobody tell us? To which the answer quickly arrived: we’ve been telling you for twenty years and you didn’t (familyblog)ing listen. And it’s true: there are any number of books, articles, even official reports, setting out the gradual installation of Salifism in Muslim communities in France, and its effects. For at least as long people have been warning about the abandonment of poor areas of high immigration by the State, and the denigration of the importance of the teaching profession. But nobody listened.

So why are they listening now? Because, for the first time, French elites feel concerned and even threatened. The first victims of the Salafists, of course, were Muslims themselves: women not allowed out of the home without a male escort, children prevented from having a proper education and soaked in religious indoctrination. The first victims of the real violence in 2015 were journalists at a small circulation satirical magazine, and young people attending a rock concert. And later, a few working-class policemen were attacked. But now, the victim is someone the elites can identify with: a middle-class professional who was doing his job. It sends a cold feeling down the spine. So, present at today’s rally was Dominique Sopo, President of SOS Racisme, a tiresome IdPol organisation that usually warbles about “Islamophobia.” But Sopo talked aggressively of the defence of republican values. Why? Well, it turns out he’s a teacher, and he realises that, for all the rallies he’s been on and petitions he’s signed, he could be next.

One reason why this is traumatic is the long, bitter struggle throughout modern French history to secure the domination of the State over organised religion. In 1905, the law separating Church and State was published against bitter resistance from the Vatican and the Church hierarchy, and the government was forced to send the Army into schools to evict nuns who had been teaching there and refused to leave. It was not until after the First World War that the Vatican finally accepted that the State, and not the Church, should be in charge of education, and the Church was among the warmest supporters of the authoritarian Vichy regime. And the Church continued to interfere in politics in an attempt to overthrow the Republic: until well into the twentieth century, country parishioners could expect to be told that to vote in elections was a mortal sin which was punishable by damnation. The choice of the Place de la République for the Paris rally was not an accident: it’s the secular values of the Republic that are under threat. The thought that the country might be about to go through a second such episode is almost more than some people can contemplate.

But it may be too late. A generation of neglect of the poor suburbs, of endless cuts in education and social services, of “don’t make waves” and tolerance of radical salafist preachers from the Gulf, has produced a situation which has no obvious remedy. A report produced a few months ago (then ignored but now suddenly taken notice of) showed that perhaps a quarter to a third of young French Muslims accept the basic salafist premise that religious doctrine has priority over the laws of the country, and a worryingly high percentage of those do not condemn, and even approve of, violence against unbelievers. Get out of that one.

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