With France being the EU's greatest victim of Islamist terrorism, President Macron has established a new law that aims to prevent Islamist separatism in France. But government authority must be restored if they are to succeed, argues Donald Forbes. 

Weary of recurring Islamist terrorism, France's President Emmanuel Macron is putting the country's six million Muslims on notice to reject radicalism disguised as religion and give their full loyalty to their country of adoption.

In doing so, he is taking traditional concepts of nationalism out of the closet where they have languished under years of political correctness and putting them back at the centre of French life.

During decades of mass Muslim immigration, European politicians, fearful of accusations of islamophobia, have treated Muslims including those who reject integration with kid gloves. Macron has taken the gloves off.

His goal is a specifically French Islam under which Muslims will become indistinguishable from other Frenchmen in their allegiance to the republic while remaining free to practice a version of their religion adapted to French values.

A law cracking down on rogue, foreign-funded imams who preach violence in Arabic will be passed early in 2021. The intention is to separate the estimated 20,000 Islamists – whom Macron calls politically-motivated separatists – from the mainstream Muslim population and break the cycle of terrorism. France has been the EU's deadliest victim.

Macron has told Muslim religious leaders that all imams preaching in France must have theological credentials and sign a charter of loyalty. He met the heads of the nine French federations of imams and told them, according to le Figaro: Either you are for the Republic or you are against it.

There will be no place in France for non-signatories and Salafist imams are already being expelled to their countries of origin. The law brings all children from the age of three into the state education system exclusively in an attempt to protect them from Islamist indoctrination received through home-schooling and religious associations controlled by activists.

The president outlined his law in early October. The response the same month, deliberate or not, was horrifying. A young Chechen Muslim beheaded a teacher in a northern French street. A Tunisian, who had only been on French soil overnight, almost beheaded a woman praying in a church in Nice and stabbed two other people to death.

The gruesomeness of these and other terrorist murders appeared to be a message of contempt to disgust and frighten the public.

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Macron wants to create a template for a European Islam reconciled with European values which has been discussed among EU leaders, but hasn't made progress. But the French president goes further. He is reviving loyalty to the nation as the sine qua non of French citizenship. Those who want to live in France must accept 'Frenchness' in its entirety.

What is interesting is that he is, for the first time anywhere in the EU, shrinking the scope of multiculturalism which has been the cornerstone of immigration policy. The idea may seem strange coming from the EU leader who is probably keenest on European integration but stranger still in its open espousal of nationalism which cannot be separated from the patriotism he demands.

Liberalism and nationalism – often treated as a synonym for xenophobia – have been foes in Europe since the Nazis, with their herrenvolk madness, made the latter toxic. We owe the origins of the EU to the evil judged to be inherent in nationalism.

Most of us distinguish between patriotic nationalism and the racial insanity of Mein Kampf. We know very well the difference between good and bad nationalism. Being proud of one's nationality doesn't necessarily entail negativity, still less hatred, towards other nationalities.

The nature of the case against nationalism has been changed by immigration. Macron is saying that nationalism and mass immigration cannot be considered in isolation from each other.

To be part of a population is not the same as to be part of a nation. The heterogenous state is the idea that underlies multiculturalism. Yet it is counter-intuitive that someone can move from one continent to Europe and live there in exactly the same way as he did at home. He is not required to know or care anything about his new country or speak its language. It has duties towards him – legally enforceable if he's claiming political asylum – but he has none to it. This is the stuff of Wonderland.

It's wonderland-ishness is why mass immigration is opposed by so many Europeans including 73 per cent of the French. They realise that at some point, their leaders are going to be forced by physical circumstances to hang a "house full" sign on the door before they are overwhelmed.

The US media, obsessed with race and identity politics, accused Macron of discriminating against Muslims. In response he took the unprecedented step of telephoning the New York Times to explain that American journalists did not understand either France or his law. He has also warned off foreign critics like Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron's aides say he wants fast progress but getting the signatures of rank and file imams on a charter of loyalty will be the easy part. The unanswered question and the real challenge is how deeply Islamism runs among the six million Muslims in France and how many are silent fellow travellers who share Islamist aims.

To succeed, Macron must restore the government's authority over some 800 Muslim suburban no-go areas where the radical's rule and the police do not venture except in force. It's not clear how he does that without confrontation.

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