Two conflicting narratives have been clashing anew in extremely heated debates amid what we may call “a new cartoon crisis”. From one side, there is a sizable portion of orthodox Muslims with a strong aniconism tradition who perceive the representation of sacred characters as an unpardonable blasphemy, and defenders of secularism who consider freedom of expression a human right. The world is witnessing the confrontation of two epistemologically divergent civilizations: A humanist one that killed God and put the human at its center, and a metaphysical one ready to die and kill for its deity and sacrosanct icons.
“Islam is a religion in crisis”, stated Macron, as he unveiled his plan to defend French secularism against Islamic extremism in early October prompting a backlash from Muslim communities. The events escalated further amidst the beheading of a French teacher who shared with his class derogatory caricatures featuring prophet Mohamed. In a defying reaction, the French president insisted that they will make “no concessions and continue drawing caricatures” as Paris displayed gigantic reproductions of the cartoons in question on government buildings.
Post-truth, Word of the Year in 2016 in the midst of the divisions following US elections and Brexit, is a philosophical concept that signals a context where shared rational facts are replaced by subjective and emotional beliefs that shape public opinion
The current situation is a classic case of a Post-Truth era dilemma. Each camp firmly believes that it detains a universal irrefutable sparkling truth, while in reality it lives inside its own ideological bubble and refuses to accept that there are other truths out there and probably a transcendental one that is beyond all opposing paradigms.
Post-truth, coined Word of the Year in 2016 by the Oxford Dictionary in the midst of the divisions following the US elections and Brexit, is a philosophical concept that signals a context where shared rational facts are replaced by subjective and emotional beliefs that shape public opinion. French humanism is rooted in centuries of reforms ending in a rupture between the state and the church, while Muslim societies lived an utterly different historical reality where metaphysics are central and where populations still romanticize the theological concept of Umma.
France never overcame its colonial mindset animated by its good old "civilizing mission". Macron arrogantly insinuates that it is the “white man’s burden” to modernize and secularize a Muslim world "in crisis"
In an ideal world, both “truths” would be able to coexist peacefully. Nevertheless, France never overcame its colonial mindset animated by its good old “civilizing mission”. Macron arrogantly insinuates that it is the “white man’s burden” to modernize and secularize a Muslim world “in crisis”. Certain Muslims’ terrorist actions are indubitably repugnant and humanly unacceptable, but so is radical secularization and the extremist modernization dogma that blindly attempts to assimilate citizens into the fifth republic’s grinding machine.
Defenders of the French perspective would say “why other religions don’t get triggered when we draw Jesus or Moses?”. This is a shallow and simplistic comparison that does not take into consideration the cultural and anthropological particularity of the Islamic community nor the sanguinary colonial encounter it had with France just few decades back. It also characterizes the obstinate myopia with which the country of Marianne continues to deal with its almost eight million Muslims. Maybe the most revealing inconsistency in the French discourse can be summed up in a saying repeated by those who call to boycott French products “insulting a black person is racism, insulting a Jew is antisemitism, insulting a woman is sexism, but insulting a Muslim is freedom of expression”.
In an answer to Macron’s statements, we can regrettably say that "France is a country in crisis" because of its failure to address systemic racism against Muslims and refusal to embrace cultural plurality and hybridity
Of course, not all French people are rigid defenders of the values of the republic. Many philosophers, artists, and journalists came out to condemn the French president’s provocations. However, as in many post-truth dichotomies both antagonists compete to demonize the other which fuels further hate and animosity, and instead of fighting violent extremism it can do just the opposite like in previous Danish cartoon controversy in 2005 and Charlie Hebdo attacks in 2015. Meanwhile, Muslims are flooding the internet with hashtags and memes against Macron, whereas a country like Kuwait removed French products from its shelves, and Erdogan questioned the mental health of the French president.
To answer Macron’s statement, we can regrettably say that “France is a country in crisis” because of its failure to address systemic racism against Muslims and refusal to embrace cultural plurality and hybridity. In the French context, Edward Said’s Clash of Ignorance can no longer be used as an excuse to hide the clash of truths between radical secularism and Muslims refusing to kill God for Marianne.