The irony of the tremendous outpouring of grief at the destruction wrought by the fire that engulfed the roof of the Notre Dame Cathedral is not lost upon the Muslim world. As a nation which has rabidly opposed the display of religious symbols in all public and state institutions even going as far as hounding women in burkinies at beach resorts, the hysteria surrounding the fire at the Notre Dame, which does in fact constitute a conspicuous religious symbol in the heart of the capital city, seems at best hypocritical.
The secular sensibilities of the French are somehow offended by a square metre of cloth worn on the head, but unaffected by a hundred thousand tons of stone and wood occupying the heart of the city.
But we all understand that the issue isn’t really religion, rather it is Islam, especially the non-secular variety that is an alternative to the decrepit secular capitalist ideology that is responsible for so much of the world’s suffering that we see today.
Another feature of this event is the size and speed of the response by billionaire private donors. Within 24 hours, over a billion euros had been pledged to reconstruct the cathedral, with several of France’s wealthiest families competing with each other to donate the most to this cause. Although there were no fatalities or in fact casualties of any sort in the Notre Dame fire, the response to it and numerous natural disasters in France with significant loss of lives couldn’t be more stark .
The duplicity in the response is something that we have come to expect, as it is not the first or the last time that the interests and superficialities of the wealthy are given priority over the needs of the many. France, especially Paris, suffers a horrendous crisis in housing; the cost of a storage cupboard illegally rented exceeds €400 a month . But conversely we do not find any of France’s ultra-wealthy, to whom donating over a billion euros is simply a gesture of good will, stepping in to alleviate the quite obvious hardship of the populace, rather we see them and their property foundations profiteer from the unfortunate circumstances the population finds itself in.
Some may argue that this is an aberration, to the normally humane working of the secular state and that the basic respect for “human rights and dignity”, generally prevails in secular states, but the reality dictates otherwise.
With very few notable exceptions we generally find that institutionally and personally, secular states and individuals will prioritise the material value over any humanitarian or ethical considerations and the experience of France’s former colonial subjects are testament to this. For example, for the personal profits of the Michelin Tyre company, over 12,000 workers at one of its many rubber plantations in Vietnam died due to the sheer weight of the labour and severity of the conditions between 1917 and 1944 . The horrors inflicted by the Belgians on the people of Congo exceeding even those of France in the pursuit of profit, which by the way was also spent constructing elegant buildings in Brussels and other Belgian towns and cities.
Even at the level of the individual – where we would normally expect the cold capitalism normally associated with corporate and state institutions would give way to the basic humanity of a person – we find that interactions on social media show that the preoccupation with stone and mortar and the superficiality of celebrity culture exceeds the attention given to humanitarian disasters like the southern African floods where over a thousand people have perished.
Unlike secularism, Islam maintains a concern for human life in all circumstances not only when political, economic and strategic objectives dictate. The pursuit of profit, establishing legacies and other material concerns do not override the value of human life and only a divinely ordained command can overrule this concern.
Allah (swt) says in the Quran:
“Take not life, which God hath made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus doth He command you, that ye may learn wisdom” [Al-An’aam : 151].
More poignantly for the Islamic world, although the secular West and its obedient media mouthpiece may ignore and often divert attention away from the plight of Muslims across the world, by example the murder of over 160 Muslims in Mali barely registered a flicker of concern in the Western media, Allah (ﷻ) and his Prophet (ﷺ) have singled out and shown the worth of the believers: no matter how sacred a building is, the life of a single Muslim is worth more than it. The Prophet (ﷺ) states:
“How delightful you are, and how great is your scent! How magnificent you are, and how great is your sanctity! But by the one in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the sanctity of a believer, his wealth and his blood, is greater in the sight of Allah than your sanctity, and we do not think of him except good” [Ibn Majah].
The contradiction between what Allah (swt) defines as the worth of Muslim-blood and its current worth in the world is apparent, and the reason is easy to fathom. It is the worth placed upon the citizens of a nation by their own government that gives any value to its citizens, both domestically and internationally. In other words, you are only as valuable as the value your own state places upon you.
Sadly for Muslims in the absence of the Islamic Khilafah, their lives, honour and property are disposable, because, to the secular authorities in the Muslim world, their foreign bank accounts and the interests of their colonial masters are the only sacrosanct matters, and it is only with the return of the Khilafah that Muslims’ lives, honour and property will have any worth.