An eye for an eye will make the whole world go blind – Gandhi
This adage is more true than ever in case of what is happening in France. Islamophobia has set in the society which is taking the whole country in a downward spiral
The French Revolution gave us the word for freedom – liberete or liberty. It meant that the people enjoy maximum possible freedom. Nothing remains a taboo and everything can be commented upon and everyone is entitled to their opinion and enjoy the freedom to express it as well.
Similarly the French word for secularism is laicite. It effectively throws religion out of the politics, society, effectively making it extremely personal. So one may have his religious views, but they are strictly personal and not to be mixed with the way of living in general.
Holding the two dearest to the heart along with the French language, do we have the origin of the “French way” where one has the freedom to comment, at times, not in such good taste, upon someone else’s beliefs and practices.
On the other hand, we have the other world order – that of Islam where religion and politics is intertwined and can be best seen in the erstwhile rule of the Caliphate. And not just politics, in the Islamic belief system, religious practices form the blueprint of how to lead one’s life.
Third aspect is the French colonial history and its acquisitions in the Northern Africa and the Middle East. Because of this, there has been an inward migration into France from these regions. Case in point being of Algeria which has a chequered past with France. Thus the Islamic belief system and ideology of the ‘French way’ try to find a common ground in France.
A major catalyst in all of this is globalisation and IT which has made it a border less world. An event which happens in one corner of the world, is presented in seconds to a completely different society in a totally different part of the world. Many a times, issues originate and travel to systems where they are considered a taboo, thus exposing the minority in that area to the dominant views of the majority. In a new liberal world order, because of globalisation, there is a rising inequality amongst the masses. Add to it the issue of being a foreigner and a certain kind of xenophobia creeps in. We start abhorring the principles of brotherhood and equality. A bitterness towards those enjoying the fruits of prestige and power is clearly there in those who are not able to.
In France, a mixture of all of the above has happened. The Muslim minority clearly feels that it is not considered as equals by the white, Christian majority. Though we have the ‘rule of law’, yet the differences and the dissociation at the level of society is always there. To make the minority follow the dictum is considered the fair call, almost making “my way or the highway” sound so familiar! When the minority gets stressed it reacts, many a times, violently.
Violence is the expression of utmost helplessness. When all the routes of expressions have been closed do we resort to violence. This is in no way to suggest that the violence taking place in France is justified or violence in the name of religion is correct. Violence in any form, either by the oppressor or the oppressed is a form of helplessness, rather as Gandhiji had projected it, a form of weakness.
In France, it is this weakness that has seeped in the people. Gandhi always asked the majority to be magnanimous in its attitude and the minority to be respectful and thankful. What is to be gained by hurting the belief sentiment of a certain sect of one’s own people ? Is this the republic of liberete, egalite and fraternite, that was dreamt ? Why has the idea not evolved in this ever changing, border less world? Why is the violence of a few being interpreted to be ‘religion’ of the masses? How can a religion of God lead to phobia ?
These are certain questions which not just France but the whole of humanity needs to answer. It’s time for another French Revolution. Vive la revolution !