Article published the Tuesday 18 September 2012 - Latest update : Tuesday 18 September 2012

French press review 18 September 2012

By Michael Fitzpatrick

Many of the French papers address the violent anti-American protests in parts of the world connected to the film "The Innocence of Islam." 

The main story in communist L'Humanité is headlined "The Muslim world is not ablaze".

The article attempts to put recent protests against the film "The Innocence of Islam" in perspective, suggesting that, although the reaction has frequently been violent, it has been the business of a few thousand people worldwide, with the vast majority of muslims ignoring the appeals of extremists.

This does not mean, says L'Humanité, that a great many muslims are not angry at what they consider to be a blasphemous insult to their most cherished beliefs. But from that understandable anger to physically attacking western embassies and businesses is a step too far for most.

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The communist daily asks middle-east specialist, Dominique Vidal, if the current wave of protest can be seen as a validation of Huntington's sad warning about "the clash of civilisations". Vidal says the Huntington theory is absolute and dangerous nonsense. But, because the reaction to "The Innocence of Islam" is being used as a political tool by extremists, there is a danger of polarisation.

In other words, if a majority of people in the West begin to see Islam as representing only terrorists and the attackers of embassies, while a majority of muslims reduce the West to a solidly anti-islamic bloc, then there is a real danger of tension.

That islamophobic tension was used during the last presidential election here in France, says Dominique Vidal. It is currently being fuelled by Saudia Arabia and its Gulf allies in an effort to reclaim and dominate the energies released by the various Arab revolutions.

Libération looks at the same story, from a slightly different angle. The left-leaning daily's main headline reads "The Return of Hatred", with the small print explaining that the death sentence or fatwa against British author, Salman Rushdie, imposed by the Ayatollah Khomeini back in 1988, has been re-issued, with the price tag on Rushdie's head increased to 2.5 million euros.

Rushdie earned the Ayatollah's undying anger for his novel, "The Satanic Verses", considered blasphemous by the Iranian religious foundation known as the Khordad.

The religious authorities in Teheran have put Rushdie back on their death list in reaction to the release of "The Innocence of Islam", clearly feeling that an unforgiving attitude is the only way to put manners on a western world, which continues to caricature and ridicule the Prophet.

Rushdie has responded on his web site by quoting the immortal words of Popeye: "I am what I am and dat's all dat I am," which will, I imagine, leave the mollahs in Teheran more than slightly perplexed. Which, at the risk of a 2 euro fatwa, has to be seen as a good thing.

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Libé has its own line of analysis of the current convulsions, seeing Iran getting into the game as part of an attempt to reclaim a legitimate voice in the Arab world, Teheran having lost much of its influence as a result of its continued support for the Syrian regime of Baschar al-Assad, whose forces are murdering Sunni muslims as we speak. By aligning itself with Hezbollah, the Iranians hope to surmount the Sunni-Shi'ite gulf and once again speak for all muslims.

The front page of Catholic La Croix looks to another troubled part of the muslim world. The north of Mali has effectively been taken over by various islamist extremist groups, which have imposed sharia law and, according to their critics, have used religion as a means of terrorising local populations.

Neighbouring countries like Algeria, Burkina Faso and Niger are worried about the dangers to their own territorial integrity and political stability. Local people are said to be suffering from malnutrition.

The authorities in Bamako might as well be on another planet for all the influence they exert. And Ecowas, the Economic Community of West African States, is divided on the advisability of sending in regional peace-keepers.

tags: France - French press review - Iran - Islamist - Mali - Muslim - Press review
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