Islam and Manuel Valls’ cultural battle for the heart and soul of France

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL January 28, 2017

burkini2France’s Socialist Party presidential primary is tomorrow (Sunday, January 22) and it’s worth considering the effect of Europe’s perceived Islamification on one of its formerly leading contenders. I suppose Manuel Valls doesn’t matter much anymore, but still, this is fascinating.

Back in the summer, the former French Prime Minister expressed an uncompromising view of Islam and vowed to shut down mosques in order to fight fundamentalism.

In August, Mr Valls described the burqini as a “provocation” and said that it is “not compatible with the values of France and the republic. It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women.”

What a difference a presidential election bid makes. Now, Mr Valls sees the society vs counter-society fight as a prolonged cultural battle. The arts and French culture are essential to making France more powerful, he has said. Earlier this month, he revealed his political platform thus: “I want to support everything that makes our country more powerful, stronger, and fraternal, everything that helps people feel like they are part of a shared adventure. That means constantly favouring cultural policies: cinema, theatre, music, dance, visual arts, digital arts, street art, works destined for young audiences. Culture is above all a spirit of openness and coming together, of facing the unknown, to know oneself, to understand others.”

Artists, Mr Valls went on to say, are the “watchful observers of our society’s errors” and “culture is what gives us strength, optimism, depth, and therefore, a vision for our country.”

Is culture going to be a President Valls’ chief weapon to fight the perceived Islamification of Europe?