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French press review 10 September 2018

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The political deadlock likely to emerge from Sweden's parliamentary elections and the challenges posed to French society by a certain vision of Islam are two stories catching the eye in today's papers.


There's a lot about Sweden on this morning's French front pages . . .

The Swedes were, of course, voting for a new parliament yesterday and they appear to have made a bit of a mess of it.

There was no majority for either right or left and the far right did less well than had been predicted. All this according to estimates, exit polls and peering into the entrails of a smoked reindeer. The Swedish political landscape is shattered, according to centrist paper Le Monde.

Crucially, the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee faction looks like holding the whip hand when negotiations about forming some kind of governing alliance get under away.

Right-wing Le Figaro, clearly using the same set of reindeer innards, has the traditional blocs of left and right in a dead heat, with the far right accounting for anything between 16 and 19 per cent of votes, less than the 25 percent promised by some pre-election opinion polls but still enough to weigh heavily on coalition negotiations, which will almost certianly lead to the formation of a minority government.

Left-leaning Libération summarises the Swedish election outcome with a headline reading "Social Democrats finish ahead of far right", a small consolation for the party in power since 2014. The party of Prime Minister Stefan Löfven looks likely to loose about five percent of its 2014 support, mainly because of an immigration policy which saw the arrival of 160,000 asylum-seekers in 2015, a European record per head of population.

Islamism, civilisation and Le Figaro

Le Figaro devotes its main story and its front-page editorial to what the right-wing daily calls "The alarming rise of islamist ideology".

An independent French political analysis organisation, the Montaigne Institute, has just published a report on the way in which certain Islamic fundamentalist groups are using the internet and social media to spread a version of Islam which is completely at odds with the values of the French republic. Some of the most radical Islamic voices call for nothing less than a complete break with republican principles, it finds.

And the right-wing paper says that there is nothing marginal about this phenomenon: according to Le Figaro, the online audiences of those, especially Saudi Arabian, preachers laying down the law on how to be a good Muslim are attracting as many followers as most political figures or pop singers.

Fundamentalist Islam is, again according to Le Figaro, not only a counter-culture. It is also a flourishing business. Schools and sports clubs are frequently the centres in which a spirit of Islamic community is nourished, to the detriment of integration into wider society, sometimes leading to extreme radicalisation.

Le Figaro's editorial on this difficult question is headlined "A challenge to civilisation" which has, at least, the virtue of bluntness.

The writer says a certain section of French youth is being systematically encouraged to distance itself from the republic, intellectually, politically and in terms of religious practice.

Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood are the chief driving forces; internet is the chief vector.

Le Figaro warns that this peril is a threat to the very fabric of French society. It must be fought, says the right-wing paper, in the first place by refusing to accept those immigrants who will not respect the republic's rules and, secondly, by vaunting the glorious history of that republic.

"We [the French] must," says Le Figaro, "promote our way of life, the splendours of our heritage, the wealth of our history. If we don't know who we are, how can we hope to win this challenge to our civilisation?"

Maybe putting an end to them-and-us generalisations in daily newspapers would be a good place to start?