Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister, recently gave a speech referring to the 'social apartheid' experienced by French Muslims. Although his speech avoided singling out Islam specifically, the comments about 'troubles' in 'the suburbs' ("banlieues") is now a well-oiled political code for the Muslim- Maghrebian ghettos which adorn most large French cities. Since his speech, Valls' language has been met with strong responses from all sides of the discussion the wake of the January Charlie Hebdo attacks and subsequent protests.
The simple response to this is that it isn't simple. Many actors in Muslim communities can be blamed for not doing more to report dangerous Islamists but French authorities fan the flames of disputes and incidents which could be resolved with a little more tact.
Valls has now created the very issue he set out to solve by giving French Muslims the rallying cry of 'apartheid' to the messy resentments post-Charlie Hebdo.
The different treatment of Muslims and Jews has been a longstanding grievance. One of the most blatant institutional injustices in the French political landscape is the Loi Gayssot. This section outlines how holocaust denial is punishable with firm prison sentences.
Seront punis des peines prévues par le sixième alinéa de l’article 24 ceux qui auront contesté, par un des moyens énoncés à l’article 23, l’existence d’un ou plusieurs crimes contre l’humanité tels qu’ils sont définis par l’article 6 du statut du tribunal militaire international annexé à l’accord de Londres du 8 août 1945 et qui ont été commis soit par les membres d’une organisation déclarée criminelle en application de l’article 9 dudit statut, soit par une personne reconnue coupable de tels crimes par une juridiction française ou internationale. »
It is plain that protecting the religious and cultural sensibilities of the Jewish community is a major political priority. This law seems to me to be a product of the national guilt of French collaboration with the Shoah during WW2. We got it wrong during the war - the argument goes - so we'll put it right by criminalising holocaust denial.
Not only has this not worked (France never had its Nurenburg trials and so never caught many of the Vichy leaders) but it is causing lasting damage.
By criminalising those morons who deny the holocaust, French authorities have generated more conflicts between Jewish and Muslim communities than they could ever imagined. How to explain to disaffected Muslims that their religion is fair game for satirists but that comedians who dare mock Jewish culture or history can be locked up for the same 'crimes'?
This law is a travesty and should be repealed. Nobody in their right mind could support hocaust denial, but to equate it with stabbing someone is a travesty of justice. Let these questions be answered and put to bed in French universities as they have been elsewhere. And get rid of this stupid law which elevates an unfounded historical argument to the status of a national threat, thus giving a platform to the likes of the shady comedian Dieudonné, who has made a career out of winding up the authorities with this nonsense.
However awful the French collaboration with the Nazis was, this blasphemy law can only cause even more harm. Bin it.