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To Call This Threat by Its Name

By Marine Le Pen     •     The New York Times

Syria Muslim Brotherhood Al-Qaeda“To misname things is to add to the world’s unhappiness.” Whether or not Albert Camus really did utter these words, they are an astonishingly apt description of the situation in which the French government now finds itself. Indeed, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius no longer even dares pronounce the real name of things.

Mr. Fabius will not describe as “Islamists” the terrorists who on Wednesday, Jan. 7, walked into the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, right in the heart of Paris. Nor will he use “Islamic State” to describe the radical Sunni group that now controls territory in Syria and Iraq. No reference can be made to “Islamic fundamentalism,” for fear that Islam and Islamism might get conflated. The terms “Daesh” and “Daesh cutthroats” are to be favored instead, even though in Arabic “Daesh” means the very thing to be hidden: “Islamic State.” By Marine Le Pen     •     The New York Times

Syria Muslim Brotherhood Al-Qaeda“To misname things is to add to the world’s unhappiness.” Whether or not Albert Camus really did utter these words, they are an astonishingly apt description of the situation in which the French government now finds itself. Indeed, the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius no longer even dares pronounce the real name of things.

Mr. Fabius will not describe as “Islamists” the terrorists who on Wednesday, Jan. 7, walked into the offices of the newspaper Charlie Hebdo, right in the heart of Paris. Nor will he use “Islamic State” to describe the radical Sunni group that now controls territory in Syria and Iraq. No reference can be made to “Islamic fundamentalism,” for fear that Islam and Islamism might get conflated. The terms “Daesh” and “Daesh cutthroats” are to be favored instead, even though in Arabic “Daesh” means the very thing to be hidden: “Islamic State.”

Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism. It is only by refusing to be in denial, by looking the enemy in the eye, that one can avoid conflating issues. Muslims themselves need to hear this message. They need the distinction between Islamist terrorism and their faith to be made clearly.

Yet this distinction can only be made if one is willing to identify the threat. It does our Muslim compatriots no favors to fuel suspicions and leave things unspoken. Islamist terrorism is a cancer on Islam, and Muslims themselves must fight it at our side.

Once things are called what they are, the real work begins. Nothing has been done yet. Whether from the right or the left, one French administration after another has failed to size up the problem or the task to be accomplished. Everything must be reviewed, from the intelligence services to the police force, from the prison system to the surveillance of jihadist networks. Not that the French security services have let us down: They proved their courage and determination again during the Jan. 9 hostage crisis in a kosher grocery near the Porte de Vincennes in Paris. However their actions have been hobbled by a series of mistakes committed by the powers that be.

These mistakes must also be called by their names. I will mention only three, but they are of crucial importance.

First, the dogma of the free movement of peoples and goods is so firmly entrenched among the leaders of the European Union that the very idea of border checks is deemed to be heretical. And yet, every year tons of weapons from the Balkans enter French territory unhindered and hundreds of jihadists move freely around Europe. Small surprise then that Amedy Coulibaly’s machine gun came through Belgium, as the Walloon media have reported, or that his partner Hayat Boumeddiene fled to Syria under the nose of law enforcement.

Second, the massive waves of immigration, both legal and clandestine, our country has experienced for decades have prevented the implementation of a proper assimilation policy. As Hugues Lagrange, a sociologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (C.N.R.S.), has argued, culture has a major influence on the way immigrants relate to French society and its values, on issues such as the status of women and the separation of state and religious authority.

Without a policy restricting immigration, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to fight against communalism and the rise of ways of life at odds with laïcité, France’s distinctive form of secularism, and other laws and values of the French Republic. An additional burden is mass unemployment, which is itself exacerbated by immigration.

Third, French foreign policy has wandered between Scylla and Charybdis in the last few years. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intervention in Libya, President François Hollande’s support for some Syrian fundamentalists, alliances formed with rentier states that finance jihadist fighters, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia — all are mistakes that have plunged France into serious geopolitical incoherence from which it is struggling to extricate itself. Incidentally, Gerd Müller, Germany’s federal minister of economic cooperation and development, deserves praise for having the clear-sightedness, like the Front National, of accusing Qatar of supporting jihadists in Iraq.

These mistakes are not inevitable. But to rectify them, we must act quickly. The Union Pour Un Mouvement Populaire and the Parti Socialiste have called for a committee to investigate the recent terrorist attacks. That will hardly solve matters. “If you want to bury a problem, set up a committee,” the French statesman Georges Clémenceau once said.

For now, one emergency measure can readily be put into action: Stripping jihadists of their French citizenship is an absolute necessity. In the longer run, most important, national border checks must be reinstated, and there should be zero tolerance for any behavior that undermines laïcité and French law. Without such measures, no serious policy for combating fundamentalism is possible.

France has just gone through 12 days it will never forget. After pausing to grieve its dead, it then rose up to defend its rights. Now the French people, as if a single person, must put pressure on their leaders so that these days in January will not have been in vain. From France’s tragedy must spring hope for real change. The petty logic of political parties cannot be allowed to stifle the French people’s legitimate aspirations to safety and liberty.

We, the French, are viscerally attached to our laïcité, our sovereignty, our independence, our values. The world knows that when France is attacked it is liberty that is dealt a blow. I began by saying that we must call things by their names. I will end by saying that some names speak for themselves. The name of our country, France, still rings out like a call to freedom.

Marine Le Pen is president of the National Front party in France. This essay was translated by Edward Gauvin from the French.

Let us call things by their rightful names, since the French government seems reluctant to do so. France, land of human rights and freedoms, was attacked on its own soil by a totalitarian ideology: Islamic fundamentalism. It is only by refusing to be in denial, by looking the enemy in the eye, that one can avoid conflating issues. Muslims themselves need to hear this message. They need the distinction between Islamist terrorism and their faith to be made clearly.

Yet this distinction can only be made if one is willing to identify the threat. It does our Muslim compatriots no favors to fuel suspicions and leave things unspoken. Islamist terrorism is a cancer on Islam, and Muslims themselves must fight it at our side.

Once things are called what they are, the real work begins. Nothing has been done yet. Whether from the right or the left, one French administration after another has failed to size up the problem or the task to be accomplished. Everything must be reviewed, from the intelligence services to the police force, from the prison system to the surveillance of jihadist networks. Not that the French security services have let us down: They proved their courage and determination again during the Jan. 9 hostage crisis in a kosher grocery near the Porte de Vincennes in Paris. However their actions have been hobbled by a series of mistakes committed by the powers that be.

These mistakes must also be called by their names. I will mention only three, but they are of crucial importance.

First, the dogma of the free movement of peoples and goods is so firmly entrenched among the leaders of the European Union that the very idea of border checks is deemed to be heretical. And yet, every year tons of weapons from the Balkans enter French territory unhindered and hundreds of jihadists move freely around Europe. Small surprise then that Amedy Coulibaly’s machine gun came through Belgium, as the Walloon media have reported, or that his partner Hayat Boumeddiene fled to Syria under the nose of law enforcement.

Second, the massive waves of immigration, both legal and clandestine, our country has experienced for decades have prevented the implementation of a proper assimilation policy. As Hugues Lagrange, a sociologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (C.N.R.S.), has argued, culture has a major influence on the way immigrants relate to French society and its values, on issues such as the status of women and the separation of state and religious authority.

Without a policy restricting immigration, it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to fight against communalism and the rise of ways of life at odds with laïcité, France’s distinctive form of secularism, and other laws and values of the French Republic. An additional burden is mass unemployment, which is itself exacerbated by immigration.

Third, French foreign policy has wandered between Scylla and Charybdis in the last few years. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intervention in Libya, President François Hollande’s support for some Syrian fundamentalists, alliances formed with rentier states that finance jihadist fighters, like Qatar and Saudi Arabia — all are mistakes that have plunged France into serious geopolitical incoherence from which it is struggling to extricate itself. Incidentally, Gerd Müller, Germany’s federal minister of economic cooperation and development, deserves praise for having the clear-sightedness, like the Front National, of accusing Qatar of supporting jihadists in Iraq.

These mistakes are not inevitable. But to rectify them, we must act quickly. The Union Pour Un Mouvement Populaire and the Parti Socialiste have called for a committee to investigate the recent terrorist attacks. That will hardly solve matters. “If you want to bury a problem, set up a committee,” the French statesman Georges Clémenceau once said.

For now, one emergency measure can readily be put into action: Stripping jihadists of their French citizenship is an absolute necessity. In the longer run, most important, national border checks must be reinstated, and there should be zero tolerance for any behavior that undermines laïcité and French law. Without such measures, no serious policy for combating fundamentalism is possible.

France has just gone through 12 days it will never forget. After pausing to grieve its dead, it then rose up to defend its rights. Now the French people, as if a single person, must put pressure on their leaders so that these days in January will not have been in vain. From France’s tragedy must spring hope for real change. The petty logic of political parties cannot be allowed to stifle the French people’s legitimate aspirations to safety and liberty.

We, the French, are viscerally attached to our laïcité, our sovereignty, our independence, our values. The world knows that when France is attacked it is liberty that is dealt a blow. I began by saying that we must call things by their names. I will end by saying that some names speak for themselves. The name of our country, France, still rings out like a call to freedom.

Marine Le Pen is president of the National Front party in France. This essay was translated by Edward Gauvin from the French.