Western Civilization In Decline? Not So Fast

Editorial: Three events over the past week – a London wedding, a Vatican mass, and a death in Pakistan -- signal that popular sentiment within the West wants its leaders to defend core values.

Ground Zero, New York City, May 2, 2011 (woongjae)
Ground Zero, New York City, May 2, 2011 (woongjae)
Ivan Rioufol

PARIS -The West is in decline. It doesn't make it true the more you keep repeating it. And this week, three major news events in rapid succession -- the British royal wedding in London, the beatification of Pope John Paul II at the Vatican, and the elimination of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan – combine to show a culture invigorated by popular zeal.

The crowds that turned out for each event are connected. In the United States, people spontaneously filled the streets to praise the free world as the victor against terrorism; in Rome, a million faithful stood firm behind the Church, thought to be moribund in Europe; and in London, two million subjects (and two billion television viewers) applauded timeless rituals. At each event, an affection toward the civilization, memory, and the passing on of tradition was unanimously celebrated.

Of all these events, the death of Bin Laden is obviously the most important. It bolstered the democratic impulses carrying the "Arab Spring" that for long had been demoralized by the 9/11 attacks, and fears of more to come. It was up to Barack Obama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, exhibiting until now an indecisive personality, to carry out this victory with guile and force. George W. Bush, his predecessor, who was loathed for his brutality, could not have done it better. The joy of Americans learning of the demise of the Devil was far less shocking than the way some in the Muslim world had welcomed the tragedy in Manhattan, and its 3,000 innocent victims.

As history would have it, the death of Bin Laden, who embodied a hatred for Jews and Christians instilled in him by his exclusivist reading of the Qur'an, would come on the day that John Paul II was beatified in front of a people enchanted by this holy figure who embodied love and the forgiveness of sins. Fanatical Islamists have twice lost their war of civilizations: both when Bin Laden died under American military fire and by the revolting image of a conquering Islam, both sexist and deadly, that they let loose. May the Muslim world, in search for a breath of fresh air, take advantage of its newfound liberation.

The West, in any case, can be blamed no more. That's the message these crowds are giving their leaders so often tempted by capitulation, relativism, and short memories. In view of the amnesia from which many elites in old Europe suffer, the starry-eyed infatuation with the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was also that of Britons proud of their past and traditions. If these disparate elements are put side-by-side, they allow us to see a vitality that contradicts the despondent spirits calling for the West to stand aside and exit from history. The people once again defy the opinion of the elites.

Calling out Islamofascism

For all that, obscurantism did not die with Bin Laden. The Arab youth aspiring for more democracy remain at the mercy of a possible political hijacking. The Islamofascism incarnated in that Antichrist figure is the same totalitarian ideology that recently struck Marrakech, killing eight French citizens, including a 10-year-old girl. This depraved Islam, this Nazi-Islamism that proclaims that the Muslim is a superior being, just as the Aryan was for Hitler, must be called out for what it is. This is not, however, what one hears from the political figures in charge, including French President Nicholas Sarkozy: they all prefer to say that the war is against terrorism, scared to name Islam. But it is an insult to Muslims to believe them incapable of separating the worst from the best in what is found together in the Qur'an. This is not how an objective reading of the Qur'an will be promoted.

To not name the realities of the situation is cowardice. If Islamofascism has forever been shaped by al Qaeda, it still remains aggressive in its political ambitions, represented by Iran and its allies who fear liberty like the plague. Must we still close our eyes? Hamas, which is in control of the Gaza Strip, was one of the few groups to condemn the American raid against Bin Laden. Seeing them on Wednesday join forces with Fatah, which runs the West Bank, under the applause of Western leaders, revealed that recurring and perplexing naïveté of the West. The death of Bin Laden is not the end of history. President Obama has helped the West regain its pride, and its leaders must now be sure not to compromise with the reactionary Islamist forces who wish to squash the Arab spring.

photo - woongjae

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Protests against gasoline price hikes in Lebanon

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Wai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where leaked documents show how some countries are lobbying to change a key report on climate change, Moscow announces new full lockdown and the world's first robot artist is arrested over spying allegations. Meanwhile, German daily Die Welt looks at the rapprochement between two leaders currently at odds with Europe: UK's BoJo and Turkey's Erdogan.

[*Bodo - India, Nepal and Bengal]


• Documents reveal countries lobbying against climate action: Leaked documents have revealed that some of the world's biggest fossil fuel and meat producing countries, including Australia, Japan and Saudi Arabia, are trying to water down a UN scientific report on climate change and pushing back on its recommendations for action, less than one month before the COP26 climate summit.

• COVID update: The city of Moscow plans to reintroduce lockdown measures next week, closing nearly all shops, bars and restaurants, after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a nationwide seven-day workplace shutdown from Oct. 30 to combat the country's record surge in coronavirus cases and deaths. Meanwhile, India has crossed the 1 billion vaccinations milestone.

• India and Nepal floods death toll passes 180: Devastating floods in Nepal and the two Indian states of Uttarakhand and Kerala have killed at least 180 people, following record-breaking rainfall.

• Barbados elects first ever president: Governor general Dame Sandra Mason has been elected as Barbados' first president as the Caribbean island prepares to become a republic after voting to remove Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.

• Trump to launch social media platform: After being banned from several social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter, former U.S. President Donald Trump announced he would launch his own app called TRUTH Social in a bid "to fight back against Big Tech." The app is scheduled for release early next year.

• Human remains found in hunt for Gabby Petito's fiance: Suspected human remains and items belonging to Brian Laundrie were found in a Florida park, more than one month after his disappearance. Laundrie was a person of interest in the murder of his fiancee Gabby Petito, who was found dead by strangulation last month.

• Artist robot detained in Egypt over spying fear: Ai-Da, the world's ultra-realistic robot artist, was detained for 10 days by authorities in Egypt where it was due to present its latest art works, over fears the robot was part of an espionage plot. Ai-Da was eventually cleared through customs, hours before the exhibition was due to start.


"Nine crimes and a tragedy," titles Brazilian daily Extra, after a report from Brazil's Senate concluded that President Jair Bolsonaro and his government had failed to act quickly to stop the deadly coronavirus pandemic, accusing them of crimes against humanity.


Erdogan and Boris Johnson: A new global power duo?

As Turkey fears the EU closing ranks over defense, Turkish President Erdogan is looking to Boris Johnson as a post-Brexit ally, especially as Angela Merkel steps aside. This could undermine the deal where Ankara limits refugee entry into Europe, and other dossiers too, write Carolina Drüten and Gregor Schwung in German daily Die Welt.

🇹🇷🇬🇧 According to the Elysée Palace, the French presidency "can't understand" why Turkey would overreact, since the defense pact that France recently signed in Paris with Greece is not aimed at Ankara. Although Paris denies this, it is difficult to see the agreement as anything other than a message, perhaps even a provocation, targeted at Turkey. The country has long felt left out in the cold, at odds with the European Union over a number of issues. Yet now President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is setting his sights on another country, which also wants to become more independent from Europe: the UK.

⚠️ Outgoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel always argued for closer collaboration with Turkey. She never supported French President Emmanuel Macron's ideas about greater strategic autonomy for countries within the EU. But now that she's leaving office, Macron is keen to make the most of the power vacuum Merkel will leave behind. The prospect of France's growing influence is "not especially good news for Turkey," says Ian Lesser, vice president of the think tank German Marshall Fund.

🤝 At the UN summit in September, Erdogan had a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recently opened Turkish House in New York. Kalin says it was a "very good meeting" and that the two countries are "closely allied strategic partners." He says they plan to work together more closely on trade, but with a particular focus on defense. The groundwork for collaboration was already in place. Britain consistently supported Turkey's ambition to join the EU, and gave an ultimate proof of friendship after the failed coup in 2016.

➡️


"He has fought tirelessly against the corruption of Vladimir Putin's regime. This cost him his liberty and nearly his life."

— David Sassoli, president of the European Parliament, wrote on Twitter, following the announcement that imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was awarded the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, the European Union's highest tribute to human rights defenders. Navalny, who survived a poisoning that he blames on the Kremlin, is praised for his "immense personal bravery" in fighting Putin's regime. The European Parliament called for his immediate release from jail, as Russian authorities opened a new criminal case against the activist that could see him stay in jail for another decade.



Chinese video platform Youku is under fire after announcing it is launching a new variety show called in Mandarin Squid's Victory (Yóuyú de shènglì) on social media, through a poster that also bears striking similarities with the visual identity of Netflix's current South Korean hit series Squid Game. Youku apologized by saying it was just a "draft" poster.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Anyone want to guess Trump's first post on his upcoming social media platform...? Let us know how the news look in your corner of the world — drop us a note at!

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