“Paris is no longer Paris,” US President Donald Trump recently said. A few days later, the New York Times ran a story entitled “As France’s Towns Wither, Fears of a Decline in ‘Frenchness.’” But the liberal newspaper refused to testify about the real metamorphosis of the French landscape. That is perfectly summarized by a book entitled Will the Church Bells Ring Tomorrow?, in which Philippe de Villiers writes that France, the “eldest daughter” of the Catholic Church, is turning into the “eldest daughter of Islam.”
Trump was right. A 2,200-page report, entitled “Suburbs of the Republic,” commissioned by the French think tank Institut Montaigne, explained that suburbs are becoming “separate Islamic societies,” where sharia has overcome French secular rule. The French Interior Ministry called these “Priority Security Zones,” and they include heavily Muslim parts of Amiens, Aubervilliers, Avignon, Béziers, Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Marseilles, Montpellier, Mulhouse, Nantes, Nice, Paris, Perpignan, Strasbourg, Toulouse and many other towns. French mayor Robert Menard has been dragged into court for saying that Muslim classrooms are “a problem.” The more the problems get bigger in France, the more the system punishes those who point out what is happening.
France has ceased to be “la lumiere du monde,” a light unto the world, as it was called a long time ago. And it is indeed also no longer the eldest daughter of the Church; it is caught between two fires: a phony secularism and Islam.
Avignon is no longer “the city of Popes,” but “the republic of the Salafis,” as it has been called in a recent Paris Match article. In many parts of the city, women who do not wear the veil cannot leave the house, alcohol is forbidden, men go around in djellabas, and some imams support the Islamic State. “The farther I walked between the buildings, the more I was stunned,” a Paris Match reporter wrote. “A courtyard of Islamist miracles, a Salafist pocket, an enclave that wants to live as people did during the times of Muhammad. A bakery, a hairdresser, building managers, teenagers. All (or almost all) overcome with the Koran. Well, their Koran. It is a mini Islamic Republic.” That is the real change that the New York Times should have denounced.
In Creteil, in the heart of a middle-class neighborhood of Paris, there is the “mosque of convertì.” Every year, 150 ceremonies of Muslim conversion are performed under an 81-meter-high minaret, a symbol of the strong presence of Islam in France. Vesoul, in the Midi, is nicknamed the “French Raqqa,” since a group of high school friends left to fight in Syria, and during the day, in some neighborhoods, one can hear the Islamic muezzin instead of Christian bells.
In the Breton village of Hédé-Bazouges, you hear what de Villiers calls “the clergy in the djellaba,” the muezzin’s call to prayer. Roubaix is not only famous for the Paris-Roubaix cycling race, but also as one of the Salafists’ centers, as denounced by Gilles Kepel. In Trappes, Muslims make up around 60% of the population; this is the electoral bastion of Benoît Hamon, the Socialist candidate in the French presidential elections. Catholics and Jews are hiding their identities for fear of reprisals from Islamic supremacists. “In Trappes, the French Republic no longer exists; this is a town ruled by Islamists, jihadists, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists,” said Alain Marsaud, a former anti-terrorist investigating magistrate. 50 Muslims left Trappes for Syria.
Saint-Denis, the cradle of French Catholicism, where the kings of France rest, has been called “Molenbeek-sur-Seine,” after the name of Brussels’ terror hub. Le Figaro Magazine published a story by the journalist Rachida Samouri, who infiltrated in Saint-Denis to talk with the French Muslims who support ISIS. “In Raqqa, the French are at home: the second most spoken language after Arabic is French. In the streets, ISIS spreads terror, and the French are the worst, they threaten and beat women if their face is not hidden by the niqab, or if they make any noise with their shoes. The noise of the heels of a woman is considered a sin.” In Châteauneuf-sur-Cher, a town of 1,500 inhabitants in the heart of the Loire, a group of Muslims live in accord with the sermons of an imam who invited all the faithful to abandon the cities to move to the French countryside and create pure “Muslim villages.” It is happening everywhere. In Saint-Uze, a town of 2,000 inhabitants in the south of France, the parents of a Muslim family of six children refuse to send their children to the “infidels’ schools.”
But there are not only the Salafists. Tariq Ramadan and other Islamic preachers daily appeal to the French Muslim masses through mosques and schools, conquering minds and hearts through televisions, books and rallies. The magazine Valeurs Actuelles called it “the quiet conquest”: “Its ambition is clear: changing French society. Slowly but surely.”
Comparing the weekly frequency of attending a mosque on Friday and a church on Sunday, the scenario is clear: 65% of practicing Catholics are over the age of 50. By contrast, 73% of practicing Muslims are under 50. The trend indicates that in France, there are three young practicing Muslims for every young practicing Catholic. There are nearly 2,400 mosques today in France, compared to 1,500 in 2003: “This is the most visible sign of the rapid growth of Islam in France,” according to Valeurs Actuelles. In the last 30 years, more mosques and centers for Muslims have been built in France than all the churches built in the last century. Observant Catholics, the famous “Catholiques pratiquants,” have become an eccentricity.
After Father Jacques Hamel was murdered inside his church in Normandy, Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke about the need to build new mosques to train imams, while Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve suggested a new pact between the state and Islam. The French authorities have up to now refused to wake up.
French philosopher Pierre Manent, not Donald Trump, wrote in his book La situation de France that “we are witnessing the extension and the consolidation of the domain of Muslim practices, rather than its shrinking or relaxation.” This will be the central issue of the next French presidential campaign. Islam looms not only in the French elections, but also in Europe’s future.
Giulio Meotti, cultural editor for Il Foglio, is an Italian journalist and author. He is the author of three books: A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism (Encounter Books); J’Accuse: the Vatican Against Israel (Mantua Books), and La fine dell’Europa, about the Christian and demographic decline in Europe. He is a columnist at Arutz Sheva and his writings have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, FrontPage, Commentary, and The Geller Report.