The one-month countdown begins, to the 20-year anniversary of 9-11. While much could be said about that searing event and what it meant, that discussion is best saved. The main point today is that, beyond the anniversary, beyond Biden’s ill-advised withdrawal from Afghanistan, beyond sprawling Islamic repression across the Middle East, American society still confronts threats to our civil order.
Ironically, France – of all places – is offering an example of anti-terror, anti-crime vigilance, and a sobering reminder of what terrorism is, where it dwells, and how to deter those who commit it.
In short, as Americans grow absent-minded about the Islamic terror threat, sure that they should be more concerned about pushing biologically male athletes into girls’ sports and locker rooms, obsessing over how to disgrace our flag and the sacrifice behind it, racial anthems, and shutting down the economy again with COVID fear, something else is happening in France.
In France, woke-ism and COVID are not distracting from the recall of history – and the importance of keeping civil order. France knows what it means to be unprepared, to put faith in weak defenses like the Maginot Line, which fell to a different sort of terror – the Nazi blitzkrieg – 81 years ago this summer.
No, the French are – in a rather surprising turn of events – teaching the world how to be prepared to meet and beat radical ideologies. Late last month, the French Parliament passed a bill strengthening oversight of Islamic extremism, specifically preempting radical terror and radical street violence.
As many will recall, this is not a phantom threat, not to France and not to the United States.
Radicalism, whether Islamic, Communist, Socialist, Anarchist, or Fascist – violence in a civilized nation, terrorizing people in one-off events, riots, or spiking homicide – undermines civil society.
It has in France and has in the United States.
So, what did the French do in a society historically preoccupied with privacy, civil government, and civil rights? The legislation, entitled “Law Reinforcing Respect of the Principles of the Republic,” seems to be a direct response to Islamic radicalism, separatism, and violence – including Sharia Law’s attack on women, free speech, religious freedom, and secular education.
In France, leaders are saying enough to a “parallel society,” one fomenting separate understandings of what France is – no Islamic radicalism, no reteaching of whether French institutions are legitimate, no false assumptions of legitimacy for those who aim to undermine their representative democracy.
What’s the urgency?
France seems especially concerned about foreign influences disrupting domestic tranquility, rekindling radical Islamic ideas and any justifications for violence, suppression of citizen rights, or rule of law. They are saying – rather plainly – not here, not again, not now.
On the less controversial end, the bill bans forced marriages, separatist violence, and ideological movements pushing street violence while protecting “freedom of conscience” and French values, “liberty, equality and fraternity.” Much could be said about this, French preoccupation with separating religion and state, but the main point is that violent, Islamic, or any other ideological radicalism is out.
While American leaders might object on due process, free exercise, free speech, and free assembly grounds to a law focused on ideology or religion, the bill’s overwhelming passage in the National Assembly suggests the French are rightly concerned.
Specifically, the law is for shutting down “organizations … provoking violence or inciting hatred.” While some would see room for anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, or broad anti-religious persecution, the law’s intent is narrowly focused on preempting, deterring, and persuading violence driven by any “ideology.”
Interestingly, some French conservatives voted against the bill, saying it did not go far enough to blunt future ideological violence, while some on the left (traditionally further left than American Democrats, but in line with new Democrats) also voted against it.
So, why did the bill pass, and what lessons might it hold for Americans – at a time when socialist ideological violence is spiking in US streets, and we approach the 20th anniversary of 9-11?
In short, this French law responds – according to the Wall Street Journal – to “a string of terrorist attacks in France that have torn at the seams of French society, particularly about the role the educational system is supposed to play in molding the children of French Muslims into citizens of a secular republic.”
In other words, the bill aims to reduce violence driven by radical ideologies – especially radical Islamic ideologies – and to preserve respect for the teaching of constitutional underpinnings and the rule of law.
France is not America, and our Constitution is not the French Constitution, but lessons pop.
First, when ideologically-inspired street violence or terror gets out of hand, a national – in America, state, or federal – response is necessary. We must not back away from law enforcement, or excuse ideological violence, as no civil society can indulge unchecked riots, lack of respect for police, or mass homicides.
Second, much of France’s ideologically driven violence – for better or worse – was imported.
The reality is that borders matter; who is admitted to a country affects civil order. Open borders are dangerous, just as proper vetting and protection of borders offers hope against importing criminals and terrorists.
Third, what gets taught in schools – especially if radical ideologies are taught that undermine respect for constitutional and representative government – matters. In France, the radical ideology being taught is radical Islam, while the larger concern here is radical socialism or Marxism, via foils like CRT.
Finally, vigilance against terrorism – against radical ideologies that seek to justify terror or violence on in civil society – must stay high. As the 20th anniversary of 9-11 approaches, we are put back in mind of threats that require advance attention. Today, while radical Islam is one, radical Marxism is another.
France must protect civil society as the French people conceive it; Americans must be no less vigilant. We must protect our liberties, equal opportunities, constitutional legacy, and history – in schools, towns, cities, states, and as a nation. French attention to civil order reminds us – protect what you love.