by Boaz Bismuth
It will be interesting to see if any French leader tries to explain to Obama how best to integrate the African American population the next time riots erupt in Ferguson.
In Paris, too, U.S. President Barack Obama is having a hard time understanding. A week ago, he made the mistake of not taking part in the solidarity march against the jihadist terrorism that had struck France. Now he's the one explaining to the French where they went wrong and giving them a lesson on how to better integrate the Muslim population. Obama's remarks sound more like the things that Muslim kids in the French periphery say than declarations by the leader of the free world. It seems that Obama doesn't understand that the ideology of the Islamic State group and al-Qaida has no borders, and the threat to the West is the same threat, regardless of immigration policy.
Obama, who will go down in history as a marked absence in the "march of the millions," explained on Friday that the U.S.'s "biggest advantage … is that our Muslim populations feel themselves to be Americans." He did not utter one simple phrase: "Islamist terrorism."
Has Obama forgotten the attacks in Boston and Fort Hood? Wasn't it Muslims who "felt themselves to be Americans" who were behind them? In the Texas attack, the perpetrator even had officer's insignia. So was the U.S. immigration policy the reason for that?
Obama is right about one thing: America is a wonderful nation of immigrants that knows how to integrate them. The minute one lands at John F. Kennedy International Airport, an immigrant from Poland will announce that he is proud to be an American. But France is also a nation of immigrants, and everyone remembers the large influx from Italy and Spain at the start of the 20th century. Right away, they were proud to be French. People are constantly arriving from China, from Vietnam, and from Cambodia. But what can we do -- despite political correctness, which prevents us from calling a spade a spade -- it is the children of the Muslim immigrants who boo the "Marseilles" and who refused to stand for the moment of silence in honor of the terror victims. It's the children of the Muslim immigrants who are involved in terrorist attacks. So maybe the problem is radical Islam, and not the welfare benefits that France grants immigrants from Tunisia, Algeria, or Cambodia.
The American president also explained that in the end, "there also has to be a recognition that the stronger the ties of a North African or a Frenchman of North African descent to French liberties, that's going to be important over time." Will it? When was the last time Obama visited the outskirts of any large European cities? When was the last time he saw the radicalization of the young people who see Jews, not the Kouachi brothers, as the enemy? Is he unaware of the large-scale demonstrations throughout the Muslim world that feels no connection to the slogan "Je suis Charlie"? So maybe the integration of immigrants isn't the problem -- maybe religion is. Doesn't Obama see that the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo also upset the Muslim community?
Obama needs to understand that France has a tough problem: how to reconcile Charlie Hebdo and its drawings, and everything it stands for, with the Muslim population -- or the opposite: How to incorporate the Muslim population into the secular French public. How can a society for whom Islam is sacred -- a legitimate belief -- be integrated with a French society for whom secularism is a religion, which is no less legitimate?
It seems like Obama, even after six years as president, is having difficulty understanding the processes taking place in the world. Or maybe it is difficult for him to detach from the idyllic reality he has constructed. It will be interesting to see if any French leader tries to explain to Obama how best to integrate the African American population the next time riots erupt in Ferguson.
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