by Ashish Kumar Sen
"What is at stake is a sense of identity and how, over time, a more diverse France integrates and incorporates its Muslim population into how it has long seen itself as a bastion of secularism, liberal democracy, openness, and tolerance. French intellectuals, politicians, activists, artists are actually several steps ahead of their peers across Europe and the United States in working through these complex issues about society and identity. Getting it right can help defuse a situation that could lead to more violence and actually offer a pathway for Europe in terms of a more common identity against the backdrop of a diverse population.
This is difficult and has profound implications as we have seen with the rise of popularity of the National Front, which has been growing under the leadership of Marine Le Pen—a very credible contender for the French presidency next year.
The challenge that faces French society is the offer of the false sense of security by clamping down and building walls to protect the France of the past. I fear that we will see populist politicians looking to leverage horrific attacks like Nice for their own political purposes.
At the same time, it presents a challenge to leading mainstream politicians in France to articulate a strategy that resonates with the French people who are scared, but also leads them to understand that part of the importance of our response is how to bolster the foundations of our liberal democratic societies."