Western societies have worked out internal compromises over time in an endeavour to build durable political societies. …Their thrust is to call a ceasefire in struggles of great historical significance in the name of civility.
…After the Holocaust, Jews were brought into the Western political fold. It became conventional to speak of a Judeo-Christian heritage in the West, when it had been customary to speak of a longstanding conflict between Judaism and Christianity before. So, today the law in many European countries, including France, criminalises Holocaust denial. But no law criminalises the denial of colonial genocide, including widespread colonial massacres in Algeria, the country of origin of the largest number of French Muslims.
The political and social compact in Europe has been evolving historically. The state stepped in to moderate the conflict between ardent Christians and secular Christians. Jews were included in this compact after the Holocaust. Muslims have never been part of this compact. The Muslim minority in Europe is the largest in France, around 10 per cent. In the Mediterranean city of Marseille, it is roughly 30 per cent. It represents the weakest and the most disenfranchised section of French society.
…Of course, it is possible to include Muslims in the social and political compact in France. But that will take a major political, intellectual and cultural struggle. Centers of power – and people – in France will have to accept that it is possible to be French and Muslim, that it is OK for a pious Muslim woman to wear a ‘hijab’, as it is for a Catholic nun – so long as this act of piety does not banish either from participation in the public sphere. In other words, we are talking of a political struggle for meaningful citizenship.