Carine Azzopardi is the author of the shocking book “These little sacrifices that kill”

At least two traumas are at the origin of the book These little sacrifices that kill (Plon), signed “Carine Azzopardi and the witness”. The first is the terrorist attack of the Bataclan on November 13, 2015, during which France Télévisions journalist Carine Azzopardi, father of her two daughters, was killed. The second is the murder, including terrorist, of Samuel Paty, which took place on October 16, 2020, which shocked, among many others, the literature professor Laurent Valogne (presumed name).

Together, the journalist, collaborator of Franceinfo Culture, and the professor wanted to tell, from the latter’s direct testimony, the daily life of a teacher in an institution where, according to them, Islamist ideology has made its foray. Why this book? How was it designed? We talked about it with our colleague, who tells us everything.

After following the trial of the November 13 attacks for ten months, you publish a book that is not, as might be expected, a logbook of this trial, but something else: the testimony of a professor about his profession, which considers threatened by Islam. Why this choice?
We had the idea for this book before the trial: I didn’t think at the beginning, to appear, but to make sure that this professor’s story was told, because it sheds light on many things and I found his point of very interesting view. And then, during the process of the November 13 attacks, I realized that there was little talk of Islamism, that the very notion of Islam was still contested and that many quotes were used to talk about radicalization and moving into action. Finally, the ideology that led to these attacks was not clearly visible. And so I first published an article to say why it was necessary for specialists in Islam to intervene in this process.

Then, around that time, I met people who work in the districts of Brussels, Molenbeek, Schaerbeek and on Islam in Belgium. They told me: we are in front of you. What is about to happen in France has already happened in Belgium: communitarianism, separatism, radicalization of part of the population. And so if you have something, you have to publish it, go ahead. And that’s when I said to myself: yes, this text must be published and I have the right to put my name on the cover.

And so, to talk about Islamism, we leave the rigid political framework to return to the fundamentals, to education …
People have a view of attacks that is tied to what might be described as “the top of the spectrum” and they don’t see the link to the “low of the spectrum”, “soft power”. This book is there for that. To show that it is an ideology that insinuates itself into the minds of these young students who are in training and against whom obviously no stones are thrown. It is an ideology which obviously will not necessarily lead to the spectacular passage to the act of attacks, but without which there is no such passage to the act.

Why did you choose to talk about education and school?
Because I told myself that high school – my best man is a high school teacher – was the capital place where, for the last time, an age group is together. We talk a lot about coexistence and it is the last place where everyone meets and where there is still a bit of social mixing. Subsequently, France is divided into an “archipelago” as Jérôme Fourquet (The French archipelago, birth of a multiple and divided nation, 2019), and we are each on our island, we don’t talk to each other anymore, we look at each other from afar and we don’t know what is happening on the next island. So the last place of mixing is education, it’s where people can have access to emancipation and otherness, through teachers who train them and take them out of their home environment, whatever it is.

Your book makes the observation, according to the testimony of your teacher, that the religious have passed through the doors of the school, without the institution being able or willing to really prevent it.
There are probably many teachers who are lost and who are isolated, this is my interpretation. In what he describes, I notice in my testimony a certain lucidity in his approach to things. He tells – also for this reason he remained anonymous – the clashes in the operating room, the way he is perceived by his colleagues, how he lives it, and not necessarily very well. He also describes how the majority are silent and don’t know how to position themselves somewhere. So it is also to these masters that we turn, so that my co-author’s ideas are, if I may say so, popularized and he can explain himself.

For the rest, yes, it is a return to the religious fact that is described. It is a return that I had not grasped at all since, coming from a Catholic tradition, I had been secularized for a long time. And I have not made the connection, and above all I do not want to make the connection between Islam and the attacks. It is obvious that we do not want to make this connection! But suddenly we throw the baby out with the bathwater and we don’t see him, we don’t see him! But it is the return of a certain religion, of a certain Islam, however, an Islam that can be defined as rigorous, even political.

At the center of the book are the students, who are undoubtedly in a stalemate, but show great vivacity in the classroom. Are these citizens in the making that you invoke or sometimes appear to you as “guided from a distance”, particularly with regard to this return of religion?
There is a kind of community atmosphere based on the identity that is created. First linked to a physical place, it is found, in streaming, on social networks and with a certain fashion, among students of immigrant origin or of Muslim culture, but not only! The anecdote told of a certain Gaëtan (presumed name), a teenager of Breton origin, speaks volumes. He tells the same things as his friends of him, probably from fake news, because it is a global atmosphere. And when there are one or two in the class who think a little differently, they are a little ostracized.

This atmosphere is what my testimony proves, which I have transcribed, and which is corroborated in particular by the data published in the report by Jean-Pierre Obin (Training of National Education personnel in secularism and the values ​​of the Republic2021), or in his book (How Islam was allowed to enter the school, 2020), or in the studios of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, for example. And unfortunately it confirms that our testimony is not so isolated. It is also the sign of a larger phenomenon.

The book talks a lot about a frequent ongoing challenge of knowledge …
This contestation of knowledge comes from somewhere! There is what is called Islamism, which is an exploitation of Islam to make it an instrument of power, which wants to seize the right of the Republic. I didn’t believe it when my witness told me. When he told, for example, an anecdote about a teacher who had seen a student’s parent arrive and say, somewhat contemptuously: the law of my religion, sir, is above the laws of your Republic ! It is quite revealing, it means that it is a parallel system that is also taking hold in the minds of the students. And knowledge is contested in school because it does not correspond to knowledge outside of school.

Secularism is at the heart of the Republic, in France, and yet, reading your book, we tell ourselves that this notion is no longer so shared. Whose fault is it ?
There is a certain misunderstanding but also an exploitation of secularism on two opposite fronts. There is that of the defenders of a secularism that would be inclusive, soft, to which we add adjectives to finally make it lean a little more on the Anglo-Saxon side. We should be “cooler” with secularism, which is seen as a fighting tool, used against Muslims. However, for us, it is a diversion from secularism. And on the other side, in the mirror, there is the secularism, actually fighting, of the far right that is there to fight the Muslims. And there is nothing in between.

Book cover

This is why we wanted to bring the cursor back to the history of secularism, to law of course, and to its spirit. And the spirit of secularism is not only the law of separation between Church and State of 1905. It dates back to the French Revolution, to the first secular laws, and then during the second and third Republic. Hence it is intimately linked to the evolution of the French Republic. And the law of 1905 is the culmination of a history and the keystone of secularism.

Montaigne, Rabelais and then the Enlightenment are a sort of sedimentary basis for the professor of the book, because they give the school a leading political role. Does the school still teach people to become citizens?
This is its original goal. The school was founded to train the citizens of a Republic. That everyone is equal, that is, we give everyone the opportunity, through knowledge, to access the same citizenship, regardless of the social and family context of origin. This is the emancipatory goal of the school. Does the school still perform this function? What is described is not very optimistic. We think not.

Can your book play a role, a warning, for example?
Why is France particularly targeted? Because there is secularism and the emblem of this secularism, the place where one practices the most is the school. Secularism is a stone in the shoe of totalitarianism, of this deadly ideology that is Islamism, because it allows us to exercise, to build a critical mind, to bring out students, young citizens in the making, from family and social prejudices: the school has this goal of emancipation. And secularism protects. Why was there the 2004 veil law? Not allowing ostentatious religious signs did not mean acting against a religion, it was protecting from proselytism, exercising a kind of shield. Will this shield fail? We know nothing about it, but it exists. All the tools are there. And that is why France is also particularly targeted, and her school is essential in this system.

What about your book, then?
Our book is there to say that we have a treasure, secularism is a treasure. We need to know it, rediscover it and protect it. And if we understand this secularism, we will not see things the same way with regard to everything else, including terrorist attacks. It’s all a continuum. It’s not just Samuel Paty, there are the daily attacks that aren’t even reported, but that can turn into a drama like what happened.

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