The heinous beheading in Paris of Samuel Paty, an eighth-grade educator who taught students about freedom of speech by showing caricatures of Prophet Mohammad, should serve as a wake-up call for all who believe in a robust liberal, pluralistic democracy based on fundamental human rights. This is a watershed event that does not allow for a business as usual approach.
ELNET strongly believes that French President Emmanuel Macron’s framing of the incident as an “Islamist terrorist attack” and his warning against “Islamist separatism” should not be dismissed. Such warnings have nothing to do with claims of Islamophobia, which are often used as a diversionary tool to prevent criticism of radical Islamism. They have everything to do with attempts by extreme Islamist elements to disrupt liberal democracy’s way of life, undermine the collective foundations of society, and violently impose their extreme, distorted mindset. There is a clear connection between the emergence of the Islamic State, the 2015 massacre at the Charlie Hebdo Magazine and the recent beheading.
As Arab societies are increasingly resisting radical Islamic ideologies and opening up to accepting the Jewish state in their midst, it is clear that Islamic extremist elements are as much a challenge to their own religion and Muslim societies as to Western societies.
It is high time for an honest public discussion on the importance of interfaith dialogue, tolerance and freedom of speech. We need to be clear-eyed and firm if we are to preserve the values that have characterized modern, pluralistic, and tolerant societies.