Last week, under the headline “A French Town Bridges the Gap Between Muslims and Non-Muslims,” New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin celebrated what she depicted as the multicultural harmony of Roubaix, a heavily Muslim burg in northeastern France. Muslims, she raved, “feel at home here,” largely because Roubaix “has made a point of embracing its Muslim population, proportionately one of the largest in the country.”
This deliberate “embrace” of Muslims, Rubin explained, distinguishes Roubaix from other French municipalities, where, she maintained, Muslims are systematically made to feel like “outsiders” by bigoted natives. (At the Times, of course, the only problem relating to Muslims in Europe is Islamophobia.) In France, Rubin lamented, anti-Muslim crimes have “increased 28 percent this year.” (There was no mention – surprise! – of crimes committed by Muslims, which vastly outnumber those committed against Muslims and have turned more and more French neighborhoods into no-go zones.)
Okay, so how has Roubaix succeeded in not alienating its Muslims? By breaking, Rubin said, “with a rigid interpretation of the country’s state secularism” and promoting “an active Muslim community.” Meaning what, exactly? Well, things like this: the town hospital has a Muslim chaplain; the mayor’s office helps Muslims find places to worship. Then there’s the town’s “consortium” – an official board whose members, representing various religious constituencies, try to figure out how “to respond to the needs of different groups.”
And that was about it. Rubin’s piece was bafflingly short on convincing details illustrative of Roubaix’s Muslim “embrace.” But whatever Rubin was praising, her bottom line was clear: Roubaix should be a role model for other French towns and cities. “Roubaix is a cradle…Roubaix is representative of living in harmony,” a Muslim activist told her. A mayoral spokesman called the town “a laboratory.” And Farid Gacem, the full-bearded, jellaba-wearing president of Roubaix’s Abu Bakr Mosque, pronounced that he was “comfortable in these clothes here in Roubaix.” Rubin concluded by introducing us to Josiane Derenoncourt, a French widow who long ago “converted informally” from Christianity to Islam, her late husband’s faith. “Is she Christian or Muslim?” asked Rubin, who answered her own question: “In this corner of France, she can be both.”
Thus ended Rubin’s piece – with the absurd claim that in a town that “embraces” its Muslim population, a person can somehow be both Christian and Muslim at once. Does Rubin really not know that for a Muslim to call himself a Christian amounts to apostasy, and that Islam regards apostasy as a capital crime? Does she realize that untold numbers of Muslim-born individuals throughout the Islamic world are executed annually for saying that they’re now something other than 100% Muslim? Or can it be that she’s fully aware of this fact, and is simply hoping that her readers will be unaware of it, so that they’ll buy her pretty – but preposterous – picture?
Does Rubin not know – or does she know, but not want us to know? This, as it happens, is the question one keeps asking throughout Rubin’s piece, almost every sentence of which is the product of either wholesale dishonesty or thoroughgoing ignorance. But which? Does Rubin know, for example, that Islamic militants in France call Roubaix “le beau jardin de l’islamo-gauchisme” – “the beautiful garden of Islamo-leftism”? Or did she leave that out on purpose? Does she know that as long ago as 2003, it was an established fact that the town’s Dawa Mosque is run by Salafists? Is she aware that, as I wrote in my 2006 book While Europe Slept, a public official once “met with an imam at the edge of Roubaix’s Muslim district out of respect for his declaration of the neighborhood as Islamic territory to which she had no right of access”?
The list goes on. Does Rubin know that, in partnership with the town government and with a Palestinian “charity,” the Roubaix Association of Encounter and Dialogue (ARD) – which would appear to be the “consortium” Rubin praises as central to the town’s successful multiculturalism – solicited donations in 2006 for “Palestinian orphans” who turned out to be the children of shahid (i.e. suicide bombers)? Does she know that that fundraising campaign was part of a broader venture run by radical cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, and that the donations were channeled to Hamas? Does she know that in 2004, after Le Figaro unearthed a recording of a vile anti-Semitic rant by radical cleric Hassan Iquiossen, the ARD chose not to cancel but just to postpone an event featuring Iquiossen – an ARD leader explaining that he wasn’t put off by Iquiossen’s anti-Semitism but was merely responding pragmatically to “the unleashing of the media machine”?
Then there’s the president of the Abu Bakr Mosque, Farid Gacim, who told Rubin he felt comfortable wearing his jellaba in Roubaix. Does Rubin know that Gacim’s mosque was the subject of a headline-making 2010 documentary directed by Jean-Paul Lepers for France 4? Is she aware that Lepers spoke in the documentary to Gacim himself, who confessed his longing for a more “normal” society than that found in France – by which, he explained, he meant a social order of the sort imposed by the Taliban, including the enforced wearing of burkas and the stoning of transgressors?
Is Rubin even unaware of the French newsweekly Marianne‘s alarming four-page report about Islam in Roubaix? Marianne‘s article, published in 2006, painted a picture very similar to that painted by Lepers’s TV program – and very different from Rubin’s. In Roubaix, according to Marianne, “the Republic is losing ground” because “the proponents of hard-core Islam are rampant and enjoy complete impunity.” A Roubaix resident told Marianne that Roubaix is dominated by something he called “Islamo-Roubaix leftism” and that the town serves as an incubator for “violently anti-Republican” politics. Roubaix’s elected leaders, he complained, had “long given their blessing, and tens of thousands of dollars in annual subsidies, to associations whose objective is to promote political Islam.” Chief among these groups, he said, was the ARD, which had sponsored talks not only by Iquioussen but also by Tariq Ramadan, the dodgy grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Bana. When Marianne‘s reporter phoned Ali Rahni, the head of the ARD, Rahni reacted belligerently, warning: “If you play with fire, you’ll get burned!” Like Lepers’s documentary, Marianne‘s article received widespread attention. It’s available online in its entirety. And yet Rubin is silent about it. Why?
If Rubin wasn’t aware of these and the other sources I’ve cited (despite the fact that a quick Google search of “Roubaix” and of words like “mosque” and “Islam” will turn all of them up in a trice), it means one thing: she did virtually zero research for her piece, relying entirely on the testimony of a few Muslims in Roubaix and their political allies. If this is the case, it’s more than fair to ask: Why? This was, after all, a non-deadline article for the august New York Times. Couldn’t she spare an hour or two to read the materials I’ve cited? If, on the other hand, she has consulted these sources, why isn’t there any trace of that reading in her piece? Doesn’t she think it’s relevant that, for example, the charming imam who told her he was at ease wearing his jellaba on the streets of Roubaix is an advocate of Taliban-style justice?
What the Lepers documentary, the Marianne article, and the other sources I’ve cited make abundantly clear is that Roubaix is indeed a model – a model of rank, shameless official dhimmitude. Roubaix has attained social harmony – if you want to call it that – by selling out completely to the proponents of sharia. This, it would appear, is the achievement that Rubin was celebrating in her article. But the question remains: is she an outright liar who deliberately whitewashed the reality of Roubaix in order to disguise the fact that what she was celebrating was nothing more or less than dhimmitude? Or is she an utter fool, who honestly doesn’t recognize that what she witnessed in Roubaix is not some kind of triumph of multicultural concord but an ignominious capitulation?
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