Why Withdraw from the IAFT?

David Rand

2018-11-20: a link corrected

In my opinion, the Fédération nationale de la libre pensée (FNLP or National Federation of Free Thought, in France) which dominates the International Association of Free Thought (IAFT) is an Islamoleftist organisation. Despite its left-wing political orientation, it displays an obvious prejudice in favour of Islam and refuses to criticize it fully, as all religions should be criticized, especially monotheisms. On what is this allegation based?

All that is required is to read the document To debate about Islam rationally by Christian Eyschen, vice-president of the FNLP and spokesperson for the IAFT. (For those who read French, the original version Pour débattre rationnellement de l’Islam is preferable, because the English translation is of dubious quality.) The document is part of the brochure Débattre rationnellement de l’Islam published by the FNLP and available on its website. It begins with the observation that monotheism represents a “regression” with respect to polytheism, an assertion with which we are in complete agreement. However, when the subject turns to Islam in particular, we learn a number of very surprising things. The author, Christian Eyschen:

  • praises the Islamic Empire, its greatness, it splendor, its “message of equality,” its expansion through the vector of trade and commerce—but does mention the sword.
  • declares that Islam was a font of knowledge, a crucible of scientific research, but fails to mention the fact that progress was concentrated in periods of relative freedom, when Islamic dogma was less dominant, and that each of these periods come to an abrupt end when stricter religious elements regained political power.
  • affirms that Islam “is not an adulator of slavery” and that slavery is incompatible with Islam’s scriptures, quoting a passage which recommends that a slave be freed as a charitable gesture. Eyschen affirms that “In numerous places, it is the Muslims who free the slaves,” giving no example of this, but does not mention, for example, the research done by Tidiane N’Diaye on the devastating effects of the Arab-Muslim slave trade in Africa.
  • declares that the texts of Islam are in no way more violent that the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity, basing this conclusion on a computer analysis which is purely quantitative. But he ignores the major qualitative differences between, for example, the bible whose authors are numerous and whose violent passages mostly take the form of (allegedly) historical narrative, and the quran which, according to Islamic dogma, is the work of a single author, Allah himself, and constitutes a sort of civil code and criminal code for Muslims, in which the violent passages often have a prescriptive value, enjoining the faithful to act as Allah commands them.
  • calls into question the very validity of expressions such as “fundamentalist Islam” and “terrorism” and denies that so-called “holy” scriptures could possibly have any responsibility for the violent behaviour of some believers.
  • conflates two distinct schools of criticism of Islam: (1) Judeo-Christian criticism which asserts that Judaism and Christianity are frankly superior and asserts that only Islam is incompatible with secularism and democracy; and (2) criticism of Islam by atheists and freethinkers, which recognizes that all three monotheisms are harmful, anti-secular and anti-democratic, but may very well manifest significant mutual differences, just as the various monotheisms differ significantly from polytheisms. Eyschen assimilates the second type of criticism to the first, thus dismissing both as biased.
  • assigns all responsibility for any radicalisation among Muslims entirely to Western imperialism and neocolonialism and thus rejects any possibility that Islamic dogma itself might have some role to play. This quotation says it all: “Present the “terrorism” as being of religious origin leads to the most absolute nonsense.”
  • asserts that those who oppose the banalisation of the Islamic veil are “reactionaries” and “xenophobes.” Eyschen considers the Islamic veil to be on a par with long hair and mini-skirts, a simple question of clothing choice, thus discounting the major political significance of this accoutrement.
  • considers that the manipulations of the Vatican and critics of Islamism represent the only danger of fascism in Europe—thus recognizing no such danger coming from Islam. Eyschen categorically rejects “the big campaign of denunciation of the danger of Islam” as being just “an operation of mix-up” (in French, “enfumage”). He refuses to consider that there could be two threats—both Christianity and Islam— which must be confronted simultaneously.

In summary, the document by Christian Eyschen is a shameless apology of Islam and, given that its author claims to be a freethinker, utterly inexcusable. What the author refuses to recognize is that his complacency with respect to Islam fuels the Catholic far-right. Given that many leftists who claim to be pro-secular, such as the FNLP, neglect to criticise Islam as it should be criticised, this necessary task is abandoned to the political right which thus attracts much support from a population disgusted by the inaction of the left.

Related to Eyschen’s document is an article recently published in Vol. 12, no. 3 (2017) of the on-line magazine Québec humaniste concerning the IAFT. The article contains a commentary on the brochure “To debate about Islam rationally,” calling it a scholarly and thoughtful history of Islam in the world and in France. The article further claims that, instead of emotional vociferations, wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth about terrorist acts, the Eyschen document deals with the subject of Islam in a manner which is “rich, dense, expert, precise, broad, historical, factual, reasoned and militant,” concluding finally that “No one can accuse the FNLP of neglecting either the Muslim question or the issue of political Islam.”

The Québec humaniste article is signed by two individuals recently named (by the FNLP, of course) as spokespersons of the IAFT. Note also that the Association humaniste du Québec (AHQ, Quebec Humanist Association) which publishes the magazine, is also affiliated with the IAFT. So Eyschen’s analysis of Islam is, according to them, “expert, precise, broad, historical, factual, reasoned.” Really?? If this pitiful commentary, which naïvely endorses Eyschen’s apology of Islam, reflects the official position of the AHQ (we hope it does not!) then that fact would constitute yet another reason to withdraw from the IAFT.

If reading that astounding document by Christian Eyschen is insufficient to convince one of the Islamoleftist orientation of the FNLP, consider the following observations:

  • The FNLP opposed France’s law of 15th March 2004 which banned religious symbols in public schools. The FNLP also opposed the law which banned face-coverings in public and came into effect on 11th April 2011.
  • After each of the two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris in 2015 (at the offices of Charlie Hebdo on January 7th and at the Bataclan on November 13th), the FNLP issued a declaration of “solidarity” with the victims, but made no mention of the perpetrators of the attacks, no mention of either Islam or Islamism. See, for example, the FNLP declaration about Charlie Hebdo.
  • At the meeting of the International Council of the IAFT, held in Paris on 24th September 2017, we of LPA-AFT submitted this proposition which recognizes the danger which Islamism currently represents. Under pressure from the FNLP, the wording of the proposition was greatly modified before being adopted. The following elements of the original proposition were deleted:
    1. All mention of the term “Islamofascism.”
    2. The phrase, “Currently, Islamism is the most dangerous and the most misogynistic of all religious ideologies, according subhuman status to half of humanity.”
    3. A statement stressing the importance of the Islamic veil as a propaganda tool of Islamism.

Islamisation is a reality, a phenomenon which exists. Political Islam is advancing, often very slowly, sometimes brutally. Is the threat from political Islam more or less serious, more or less immediate, than the threat of a Catholic reconquest of Europe, or the threat of Evangelical Christianity turning the USA into a theocracy? Reasonable people may come to different conclusions about the relative dangers which these various currents of obscurantism represent. But to say that Islamisation does not even exist, that it is nothing but deception, and, even worse, to rewrite history in order to sweeten or cover up the origins of this threat, that is extremely dishonest and a form of willful blindness. Furthermore, we have no desire to collaborate with irrational persons who consider us to be “xenophobes” for the simple reason that we do not share their blindness.

2 comments on “Why Withdraw from the IAFT?
  1. Herman says:

    “fuels the Catholic far-right.”
    Where did that come from?
    I only see al extreem liberal leftist pope, doing almost the same, as in whitewashing this 7th century barbaric cult, created by a robber, murderer, rapist and paedophile….

    • David Rand says:

      When the left betrays its owns principles — by being complacent towards Islam, when it should be very critical of all religions — it discredits itself and strengthens the Christian right. Here are two examples from Canadian politics: All parties, but especially left-wing ones, should have opposed the niqab in citizenship ceremonies and should have opposed Motion M-103 against so-called “Islamophobia”. But instead, they supported these measures, thus pandering to political Islam. So it is mainly the Conservative Party (which has Christian far-right elements in it) which has expressed opposition, thus allowing it to gain popular support from those who are disgusted (legitimately) by the left’s complacency.

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