Convergences between Islam and French secularism

Convergences between Islam and French secularism

It should be noted that during the French colonization of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and a significant number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the political leaders of the time took a certain pride in praising the merits of the Algerian or Senegalese rifleman and their wives recruited veiled maids in droves to perform all the domestic tasks. At that time, the veil posed no problem for the right-thinking European class, since they were cleaning women, often illiterate, subject not to their husbands or brothers but to the will of the French colonizer.

During the first waves of postcolonial migration in the 1960s and 1970s, we all remember those cleaning ladies wearing djellabas and headscarves who cleaned offices, factories, metro corridors, etc. At the time, everyone found this normal for the simple reason that the elites of the time considered that it was only a parenthesis, temporary, and that these people would return to their countries of origin as quickly as they had arrived.

It was not until what the political, cultural and media elites called the “Creil headscarf affair” in 1989 that media and political hysteria began to emerge, which has continued to this day. To the point of dividing the country into two camps: those who support the veil and those who fight it with great hostility. This long-term focus is reminiscent of the Dreyfus affair, a major moment of national controversy at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Since 1989, on the eve of each election, an elected official always appears to stigmatize either a veiled woman who is often a mother accompanying her child on a school trip, or a woman in a burkini on a beach, or an association that has filed a building permit for a mosque, or “pseudo-signs of radicalization” such as the QCM recently established by the University of Cergy-Pontoise, in which it was necessary to tick boxes ranging from a beard without a moustache, to a mark on the forehead or even the fact that men go more frequently to the mosque in their neighborhood in traditional dress!

In other words, deploy a real strategy of suspicion, even suspicion, with regard to people of Muslim faith whose behavior seems “abnormal” to those who are ignorant of the customs and traditions of this religion. Would we dare to make a judgment of this nature towards a priest in a cassock, a Lubavitch rabbi or a nun who wears religious dress?

Furthermore, how can we understand that most French patriotic commemorations begin or end with a Catholic religious service. In the same vein, the mass of the Patron Saint of the gendarmes and that of the firefighters with the participation of local elected officials contravenes the very principle of secularism, and yet those who list the so-called attacks on secularism committed by Muslims are hardly moved when gendarmes and firefighters attend a Catholic mass in uniform in honor of… their Patron Saint!

I could declaim, like Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”: I had a dream: that of achieving a convergence between the constitutive values ​​of the Republic and those intrinsic to religions, among which of course Islam, which I will designate through the metaphor: Marianne and the Prophet Muhammad.

In this regard, as Father Theillard De Chardin already recalled in his time: “EVERYTHING THAT GOES UP CONVERGES”, the sons of Abraham, I could even add of Adam, the first prophet, the common ancestor of all the faithful of the Adamic tradition, share a spiritual, cultural, humanist heritage which for Muslims finds its recapitulation and its completion in the word of God.

I would like, with emphasis, to reaffirm these few thoughts around a word that we use recurrently: secularism and to which some give a hackneyed meaning.

French secularism results philosophically from a necessity placed under the sign of tolerance which contains an intellectual principle and a moral principle.

The intellectual principle founds the free diversity of opinions and beliefs which is, according to Voltaire’s expression, “natural right” and “human right”.
The moral principle is that this diversity must never be an obstacle to the creation of fraternal bonds between men. Jean GUITTON, French philosopher and writer, thus defines the essence of secularism:

“What is the essence of secularism? If I read Rousseau, Robespierre, Jules FERRY, Félix PECAUT, and all the fathers of the secular church, I find that secularism is defined by Reason. Secularism is the religion of Reason taken to its conclusion, and therefore, as a consequence, the demand for loyalty, justice, and respect for all freedom.” Excerpt from Marie-Silve et la spiritualité laïque published in 1978, page 12.

Didn’t Ernest RENAN say in 1884: The light of Reason becomes the superior light, even going so far as to paraphrase the gospel: “Go from all nations and spread the lights of Reason” (which led to the colonial policy of the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.
Professor Francis LAMAND: international lawyer and former lecturer at the Islamic University of Kuwait defines secularism as: “INDIFFERENCE TO DIFFERENCE”. For my part, I would rather retain this last definition.

Therefore, it is up to us to recognize a convergence between the founding triptych of secularism: science, tolerance and fraternity with the fundamental principles of Islam:

1 – Islam and Science
The Prophet Muhammad, in his teachings, asks his disciples “to seek knowledge as far as China” or even “knowledge from the cradle to the grave”, he even adds that a single man of science has more influence over the devil than a thousand devotees”. He also affirms that “the ink of the student is more sacred than the blood of the martyr. The call to reflection, meditation and reasoning proves permanent.
The philosopher Al-Ghazali states that religion is medicine and science is food, meaning that those who seek the truth are driven by a feeling whose source is in religion.

God appears in Islam as the greatest scholar who encourages man to acquire more and more knowledge as attested by his words in the Holy Quran section 20, verse 114: “Oh my Lord! increase my knowledge”.

2 – Islam and tolerance
“There is no compulsion in religion” Quran (section 2, verse 256)
This verse expresses the tolerance with which God revealed his word to the Prophet Muhammad. No obligation, no pressure should be exerted to enter Islam. Bearing witness to Islam presupposes the free and conscious adherence of the believer who decides to submit to God.
The Prophet Muhammad always and in all circumstances adopted an immense respect for the non-Muslim people of the book: Jews and Christians. From its beginnings, Islam was concerned with the protection of the rights of non-Muslim minorities: security of persons and property, recognition of civil and political rights, freedom of conscience and worship; for example: bishops, rabbis or Orthodox patriarchs had the status of magistrate while remaining religious leaders responsible to the Muslim authorities.

The Prophet Muhammad announced that whoever violates the rights of the protected minority will become his adversary during the Last Judgment.
A formidable spirit of tolerance appears in his words written at the beginning of the 20th century by a former Rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo: Sheikh Muhammad ABDU:
“For me, the Bible, the Gospel and the Quran are three concordant books, three preachings closely united with each other; religious people study all three and venerate them equally, thus the divine teaching is completed and Islam, the ultimate completion of the revelation shines through all religions” Treatise on the Oneness of God p. 47.

3 – Islam and brotherhood
“The believers are brothers. Make peace between your brothers and be faithful to God: “Perhaps you will be shown mercy.” (Quran, section 49, verse 40).
“The Muslim is the brother of the Muslim” (teaching reported by Bukhari). “The Muslim is for the Muslim, like a building whose various parts support each other.” (Quran, section 5, verse 32).

The brotherhood recommended by God applies to all men on Earth, no Muslim can kill a non-Muslim. Every man must benefit, a priori, from the consideration of others. No verse of the Koran asks Muslims to launch offensive wars against a non-Muslim any more than against a Muslim.
Many Quranic verses concern the People of the Book (Jews and Christians). Quran section 3, verse 113: “And among those who have the Book is a righteous nation: they recite the verses of God at night and prostrate themselves, they believe in God and the Last Day, they command good and forbid evil, they hasten to do good, they are among the righteous.”

Love for others is not only essential in Islam, but it becomes the essential condition of the believer’s Faith. Consequently, Islam denounces all situations or temptations that create a rupture with regard to love.

So that love is not broken, God recommends that the believer keep quiet about his vengeance, and forgive the one who has committed a fault.
And finally in Islam, there is Salam: Peace, Islam is the religion of Peace.
Of course, I can already hear some voices denouncing the horrors committed by Muslims in the name of Islam, to them, I answer in the manner of Sheikh Muhammad ABDU that in all religions, in all political movements, there are people who turn away from the original principles to which they claim to adhere. Is this a sufficient reason to banish millions of men and women who aspire to live their faith in complete serenity…

The Indian philosopher Muhammad IQBAL, who died in 1939 in India and became very famous after the creation of the State of Pakistan in 1949, wrote two verses that could serve as a motto, not only for the three monotheistic revelations but also for French secularism.

Who in France should be afraid of the creation of the human spirit?
Anatole France answers this question with a question posed by Madame Nozière in her novel: “La vie en fleur” published in 1948 page 230:
“What was the worst day in history? It was the day of the Battle of Poitiers, when in 732 of the Christian era, Muslim science, art and civilization retreated before Frankish barbarity,” said Monsieur Dubois.
I will end my remarks with this quote borrowed, again, from this great philosopher and poet: Muhammad IQBAL when he writes:
“The East has turned its gaze toward God but has not seen the world. The West has penetrated the material world and fled from God. To open one’s eyes to God, that is faith, to look at oneself without a veil, that is life.”

Luis-Nourredine Pita.