France’s weapon of tolerance
Many expected that tolerance will end in France due to the latest terrorist attacks that ripped apart the heart of France. The argument was first made after the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo in January. Even Michel Onfray, a self-professed “left of the left” philosopher who opposed the bombing of Syria since 2013, said the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack was the French people’s Sept. 11. But the country has now suffered even more devastating attacks, and how can it not talk about the end of tolerance?
The argument appeared to include some cynicism. It appeared to say French people are no different. French President Francois Hollande, who was caught using a chauffeur-driven scooter to be driven to his affair, is far from an alpha male, but he has to become a warrior to root out terrorism, and many said it is an example of France abandoning tolerance.
But that is wrong. If a leader of a country that suffered ugly and dirty terrorist attacks does not show such resolution, then he must be a coward. There can be no other reason. Tolerance is not accepting evil.
Any argument can be made in a situation of fear and rage. In such a situation, there are always people who say all Muslims must be killed. But they leave no mark on history. We are already seeing Parisians who are regaining composure. Some posted the slogan “Porte Ouverte,” or “open door,” on social networking sites, and the message soon changed to “Je suis en terrasse!” or “I’m on the terrace!” They were fearful and provided shelter for the victims, but now they are actively responding to the terrorist actions to show that attempts to intimidate Parisians have failed.
A dialogue between a father and son, videotaped in front of the Bataclan concert hall, one of the sites of the deadly attacks, showed how the French people educate their children about tolerance. The 5-year-old boy, who showed serious concerns, regained his smile at the end after listening to his father’s explanations. The world witnessed the power of French tolerance from the boy’s face. More surprisingly, the father and son were Vietnamese immigrants to France. They had no doubts they were French. This emboldens power.
During the Algerian War, aides of President Charles de Gaulle recommended legal action against Jean-Paul Sartre, who supported Algeria, but de Gaulle rejected it and told them to “leave him alone. He is also French.”
Emile Zola, risking political exile, wrote an open letter, “J’accuse ...!” (“I accuse…!”), in a newspaper to President Felix Faure, and the government acquitted and released Alfred Dreyfus in one of the most tense political dramas in modern French history. “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it,” Voltaire said.
Those are the French values that have been passed on through generations. To them, being a Muslim is not a problem.
The problem is opportunistic politicians, such as former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who shamelessly say that electronic bracelets should be put on Islamic extremists. They always resort to a radical measure to resolve a situation because it is the most sensational way to appeal to the public.
Although it may seem like the easiest way, it always requires the biggest price in the end, but politicians do not tell the people this. When anti-Muslim sentiment spreads, discrimination will make them far more extreme, but the politicians don’t say this.
Tolerance seeks a more fundamental resolution. It contemplates why youngsters sympathize with the Islamic State or similar groups and tries to find a way to stop them. Tolerance is the greatest weapon against terrorism.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 21, Page 30
By Lee Hoon-beom
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.