On Shariah-Governed Enclaves in France: A Clarifying Note

Over the past week, I have been contacted concerning a comment I made in passing, in a recent lecture I delivered on Islam, concerning so-called no-go zones in France, governed by gang-imposed Sharia law. This was not an area of particular interest to me, and so I had regrettably not researched it with my usual care. It was not the focus of my lecture, and was only raised in response to a questioner in the Q&A concerning the effects of the increase of Islam in Europe. I had mentioned the fact that there are now Shariah courts in the UK, and had also briefly touched on so-called “no-go zones” in France. In what was regrettably a poor choice of wording on my part, I likened these Muslim enclaves in France to a cancer — my meaning of course was that such enclaves are a breeding ground for Islamic radicalism. It was not intended to refer to the individuals who live in these areas. By likening the enclaves to a cancer it was the ‘No Go Zone’ structure itself I was talking about, and not the Muslims living within such areas nor even the ones who were enforcing such a structure.

Unfortunately, my words have since been taken by several angry bloggers and made to sound like I was likening Muslim communities in general to a cancer. These bloggers then proceeded to label me a bigot, an Islamophobe, a hate-preacher and a racist (since when was Islam a race?). I have very strong relationships with Muslims across the UK and further afield, and so you can imagine why I found those comments to be rather offensive. I have never said, and never would say, anything negative about Muslim communities in general. Yes, I criticize Islamic radicalism (as I hope any moderate Muslim would join me in doing), but I always make a distinction between Islamic radicalism and the vast majority of Muslims in the west who are peace-loving. For sure, I do on occasion raise texts from the Quran and Hadith literature that I sincerely find to be troubling, but the appropriate response where such disagreement exists is to engage in reasoned dialogue and debate, not to call each other names.

Regarding the French no-go zones to which I referred, I have since taken the time to look more critically at my sources regarding this. I had previously been aware of Fox News’s apology and retraction of statements concerning these no-go zones, but my understanding is that they had dramatically overstated the case (claiming, ridiculously, for instance, that all of Birmingham in the UK was Muslim-only and implying that there were officially-designated Muslim-only zones). Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch (note: I do not endorse everything Spencer says) commented on Fox News’s retraction here:

No No-Go Zones? Really?

Since I have neither the time nor the interest to summarise and review all of the relevant information here, I will offer the following two additional articles that defend the existence of no-go zones in France and Britain:

European ‘No-Go’ Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 1: France (Soeren Kern)

European ‘No-Go’ Zones: Fact or Fiction? Part 2: Britain (Soeren Kern)

At the time of writing, I have not researched this topic sufficiently thoroughly to come to a firm conclusion. I do, however, have some reason for skepticism. First, it is not entirely clear to me whether these regional problems are permanent or temporary in nature. Second, it is not clear to me to what extent Islamic radicalism has a part to play in what goes on in these poverty-stricken areas, which are reportedly plagued by “high-rise slums, drug-fueled crime, failing schools and poor, largely Muslim immigrants” (New Republic). I suspect that the case has been rather overblown.

To finish, then, it is regrettable to me that my words concerning these ‘no-go’ zones in a talk I delivered recently in England have been misunderstood and misrepresented. I did feel that it was necessary to clarify where I stand, both on my unfortunately worded comment and the existence of European “no-go” zones. I do not at this time intend to comment further on this matter.


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