French Islam & Civic Life
At least three people have been killed in the French coastal city of Nice during a knife attack the local mayor described as a “terrorist” incident.
The attack took place in a church, the Notre Dame Basilica, on Thursday. The victims include one woman who was “decapitated” inside the church, Mayor Christian Estrosi said.
Estrosi said the attacker was shot by police, but is still alive and has been taken into custody.
“I am on the scene with the police who arrested the attacker. Everything points to a terrorist attack,” Estrosi said on Twitter Thursday morning.
“At this moment, we have, without any doubt, two dead inside the church, in a horrible way,” Estrosi said shortly afterwards during a press conference.
This is a week or so after a Chechen Muslim decapitated a French schoolteacher for showing an offensive drawing of the Prophet to his class. According to Le Figaro, the French daily:
Selon une source policière au Figaro, une première femme, âgée et venue prier de bon matin, a été retrouvée égorgée et «quasiment décapitée» près du bénitier dans l’édifice religieux. Un homme, le sacristain, a également été retrouvé égorgé dans l’église. Une seconde femme, qui avait réussi à se réfugier dans un café voisin, y a perdu la vie, le corps lardé de plusieurs coups de couteaux. L’attaque a également fait plusieurs blessés.
According to a police source in Le Figaro, the first woman, elderly, who came to pray early in the morning, was found with her throat cut and “almost decapitated” near the holy water font in the religious building. A man, the sacristan, was also found with his throat cut in the church. A second woman, who had managed to take refuge in a nearby café, lost her life there, her body suffering several stab wounds. The attack also left several wounded.
Note well that the French Muslim Council today condemned the attacks and called on the nation’s Muslims to avoid a traditional celebration today out of solidarity with the Nice victims. Follow the latest news on the web in English on the France 24 webcast.
There is a reason why I dedicated the French translation of The Benedict Option to Father Jacques Hamel, 85, martyred in 2016 by a Muslim fanatic while saying mass. Today is a good day to remind ourselves of what Ross Douthat had to say back then about Father Jacques’s murder. Excerpt:
But our today is not actually quite what 1960s-era Catholicism imagined. The come-of-age church is, in the West, literally a dying church: As the French philosopher Pierre Manent noted, the scene of Father Hamel’s murder — “an almost empty church, two parishioners, three nuns, a very old priest” — vividly illustrates the condition of the faith in Western Europe.
The broader liberal order is also showing signs of strain. The European Union, a great dream when Father Hamel was ordained a priest in 1958, is now a creaking and unpopular bureaucracy, threatened by nationalism from within and struggling to assimilate immigrants from cultures that never made the liberal leap.
The Islam of many of these immigrants is likely to be Europe’s most potent religious force across the next generation, bringing with it an “Islamic exceptionalism” (to borrow the title of Shadi Hamid’s fine new book) that may not fit the existing secular-liberal experiment at all.
Meanwhile the French Catholic future seems like it may belong to a combination of African immigrants and Latin-Mass traditionalists — or else to a religious revival that would likely be nationalist, not liberal, with Joan of Arc as its model, not a modern Jesuit.
This future, God willing, will preserve the late-modern peace. But it promises something more complicated and more dangerous than the liberal imagination, secular and Catholic, envisioned 50 years ago.
Some of the nervousness about calling Father Hamel a holy martyr reflects the limits of that imagination. After all, it would have seemed all but impossible, in the bright optimism of the 1960s, that a young priest of the church of Vatican II should, in his old age, die a martyr’s death in the very heart of Europe.
But it wasn’t, and he did.
Meanwhile, last night in the city of Vienne, just south of Lyon:
On the streets of France, a mob hunts for Armenians. It’s like a scene from 1915. But it’s in France, right now. Appalling. https://t.co/txJ9gx7BAs
— Mark Movsesian (@MarkMovsesian) October 29, 2020
Decapitating worshipers at mass. Leading a pogrom for Christian Armenians through the streets. The French state should come against these evil men with maximum force. I thought that what that schoolteacher did, by showing the offensive image of Muhammad in class, was an unkind provocation, but not in a thousand million years did it deserve anything more than a letter of protest or a meeting with the school principal. People who feel at liberty to murder teachers in the street, and old women and sacristans at morning prayers, and chase down Christians in the street, have no right to expect anything but hard justice from any state and social order capable of self-preservation. France must be united in this, and severe with these malefactors and those who support them.
UPDATE: The former Prime Minister of Malaysia (a self-proclaimed proud anti-Semite, by the way), has tweeted this morning, in response to the murders in Nice:
UPDATE.2: Note well that the New York Post is still locked out of its Twitter account because of its Hunter Biden story, but Twitter allows the former PM of Malaysia to use its platform to call for mass murder of French people.
UPDATE.3: This from a Muslim friend:
Today, in #NiceAttack, all humanity was killed.
The three victims were purely innocent worshippers at Church – and that who kills one innocent soul is guilty "as if he had killed all mankind."
As a Muslim I offer my condolences to France & all Catholics.https://t.co/TWJHbPHYS0
— Mustafa Akyol (@AkyolinEnglish) October 29, 2020
I would dispute that, in a slight, friendly way: we should not minimize the particularity of these deaths. Those people died because they were Christians. Still, I understand what Mustafa is saying here, and I’m grateful for his statement of solidarity. No one must think that all Muslims approve of those murders.