Gala Dinner of the ALADDIN Project

Speech by Mr. Nicolas SARKOZY

Gala Dinner of the ALADDIN Project

Monday 29 May 2017 at the City Hall of Paris


Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is an honor for me to be present here tonight. I would like to thank Madam President of the ALADDIN Project, Madam Director-General of UNESCO, Mr. President of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah and [Paris Mayor] Anne Hidalgo, to whom I am sure my acknowledgment will be transmitted, as it is one of friendship.

 This evening, I have not come to discuss politics in the sense in which it is commonly understood, because the era of party politics, which I long cherished, is over for me.

I have come for one reason: to pay tribute to the Aladdin Project, and to commemorate its tenth anniversary with you because I fully adhere to Aladdin’s principles.

During all my years in politics, I have witnessed misinformation, deformation and obstinate denial of the Nazi extermination of the Jews in so many countries in the Middle-East, in Africa and, unfortunately, in my own country, France.

 The denial at first starts out surreptitiously, and then becomes progressively more visible in the press, on television, on the internet of course, on social media, in books and even in universities. At first it’s insidious: they begin with the spread of small doubts, technical doubts, then accountancy doubts. They begin by questioning particular details before casting doubt on the whole event and ending up denying the whole history. These doubts kill with thousands of pinpricks the memory of those who were exterminated in the death camps. The suffering transmitted to all those who remain, those who survived, their children and grandchildren, becomes unbearable.

Aladdin acknowledged this fact, as all honest, rigorous and conscientious human beings had to do. But it was not enough to describe the problem: action was needed, and you decided to act.

You created a fighting team, comprised of men and women of different cultures, religions and political horizons. Tonight, we, gathered in this room, represent a sample of these men and women, united by one objective: eradicate the lie, silence the prejudice and destroy alternative facts.

To all deniers, you will expose the truth of what really happened.

You have embarked on a long and peaceful march, taking alongside you intellectuals, politicians, religious leaders, teachers and journalists, in France, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. You have fought to preserve the integrity of the historical truth. The history of the Holocaust concerns all people, for genocides are the product of ideologies of hate, of fascist and collectivist totalitarianisms alike, and of racism.

You have translated numerous books and films which you have made accessible throughout the entire Arab and Muslim world, including Shoah, the documentary by Claude Lanzmann. You have organized numerous seminars.  You have brought together hundreds of students and professors through your summer university programs and you have defeated what could have been a preposterously absurd academic boycott.

This is perhaps your most beautiful victory, for how can one defend the truth if truth can denied in the temples of knowledge?

Aladdin has given us all a life lesson. You have taken a step further by delving into the shared history of Jews and Muslims in Arab countries. You have engaged renowned historians, both Jewish and Arab, whose incontestable works have further enriched our common world library.

Moreover, you have opened up a new front, which is not an easy one: our schools, here, in France. I was deeply and personally affected by the tragedies of Montauban and Toulouse, by the loss of our young soldiers, of these children and the father at the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse. In too many classes we find anti-Semitism fueled by anti-Zionism. It’s too easy to conceal anti-Semitism behind anti-Zionism.


Aladdin friends, you are part of a vanguard.

Each of us in our own specific way have tried to reconcile Jews and Muslims. After all, Jews and Muslims have a shared history which goes back more than a thousand years. It is absurd to say that Jews and Muslims cannot live together. World history is made up of interconnections between these two cultures. Is it possible to conceive of the Orient without a Jewish presence? We must explain to young immigrants that France is their country, and that they have to fight with the same zeal both anti-Semitism and racism.

The French State has remained neither inactive nor powerless. The first arm in this fight is interdiction. Democracy is not to allow no matter who, say no matter what, no matter when.

Democracy is rules, and proscription is one of the noble deeds of democracy. Democracy is not the license to do anything. Democracy is respect for victims. Democracy is respect for the principles of the Republic. And if these principles are violated, sanction must apply.  Democracy is the right to demand that no one utters offensive, racist, anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim remarks. Such remarks do not participate in the debate of ideas. They are insults. The Republic has the right to prohibit by law and to censure by law. This is what I always did, as Minister of the Interior and then as Head of State. It is what my predecessors did, and it is what my successor did. I have no doubts regarding President Macron’s commitment in this sense, even though - and this is will be my only reference - we do not share the same opinion on certain realities of History, which could be the subject of discussion between us. I am the first to recognize that crime against humanity is not the exclusive property of the Jews. However, I do not believe that a colonial war, as cruel as it sometimes was, could be compared to the planned extermination of a people. In the same way, accusations of racism cannot be used to destroy all remarks which might be opposed to the interests of a community or interest group.

 I have no empathy for arguments to the effect that certain young people in our suburbs have every excuse to make life impossible for others in their neighborhoods, in the name of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or of France’s non-repentance for the Algerian War, or both. I have never accepted such falsely compassionate justifications.

The State has a second essential obligation: to ensure that all religions and beliefs which are present in its territory follow the principles of laicity. I don’t like the word community, for it translates into division. I believe that we are all united in one national community. I prefer the word diversity. In my view, this is a founding political principle of France, in the same way as liberty, equality and fraternity.

I intended to have this diversity recognized in France by creating a structure for Islam of France. A number of our friends [in this endeavor] are here tonight. That’s because I have confidence in progressive Islam, one which is independent of all States and which does not receive any foreign funding, so that it advocates human rights, equality of men and women, respect for and acceptance of other religions, and the supremacy of the laws of the land over religious laws.

I am aware that the line between the laws of the Republic and the laws of religion can be delicate, that the red line is easy to cross. However, I have always acted in accordance with the principles of our secular Republic, in which the freedom of one person ends where the freedom of the other begins, in which public authority is neutral and independent of any religion or creed. This is our rule of life.

What is the France we want? I want a France which accepts the differences, but not the communities, for communities lead to communalism. I do not wish to see France fragmented into multiple communities living side by side, first ignoring each other and then confronting one another. I want a France that is enriched by differences and assimilates those who join it, in the name of its language, culture,  history and way of life. I recognize the difficulty to define this French identity. Yet this identity is in the preamble to our Constitution. It is in the general principles of our law. It is in our hearts. Let me reaffirm: the newly arrived must adapt to the traditions and way of life of those who precede the

In the same spirit, I have no fear to reaffirm that our Republic is secular, yet our society needs not be, and that religious practice and places of worship are an integral part of our social life. Nothing prohibits church bells from ringing, Jews from wearing kippas, Muslims from fasting during Ramadan. Nothing prohibits the public presence of cults as long as these practices follow the laws of public order and of the Republic. Only totalitarian States ban religion and confine them to a strictly domestic practice. As such, to deny the legitimacy of religion in social life on the pretext that the State must be secular is to deny the principles that your organization defends.




I would like to conclude with a final note on terrorism.  You cannot fight fundamentalism or fanaticism by fighting religion. We fight fundamentalism and fanaticism by promoting an open and tolerant view of religion. By accepting difference.

The world’s major religions are not an obstacle to progress, neither do they lead to obscurantism. Those who support the idea that religion is the source of all evil fail to remember what humanity was before Judaism and Christianity, for example, marked the history of our civilization. I would ask them if they regret circus games, the cult of divinized men, or even human sacrifices?

I would like to remind you that the two greatest God-free ideologies, Nazism and Stalinism, which are based on fallacious interpretations of Nietzsche and Marx, as well as their sad successors in Asia, caused the worst massacres of world history.

Our enemies are terrorists who act in the name of a God which they desecrate with their crimes. We must fight them without mercy. Our enemies are the executioners. For hatred rarely emanates from ordinary citizens. It emanates from political and religious leaders who exploit and manipulate people; who channel their fear and their misery into hatred.

We are, like it or not, facing a war on the civilization we incarnate, the civilization we have inherited. Our noble mission is to pass on to our children in terms of civilization what we have received from our parents. Our enemy is the Islamic State and all of those who want to kill in the name of a deviated Islam. We are allowed no weakness. This is a frontal confrontation between barbarity and civilization. Firmness is the only possible strategy.

In our country, Islam of France must assume its responsibility, and I say this with all the friendship I feel for our friends. They must assume their responsibility, not more than others, but not less than them. The fight against terrorism of course concerns the Muslims of France, for the terrorist act in their name. We must fight for an Islam inserted in the Republic: if Muslims don’t do this, no one will do it in their place. They must not tolerate imams who preach sermons which comprise contrary values to those of our Republic. The mosques in which speeches are made against France and her principles must be shut down. All communalist deviations must be banned.

I will never amalgamate Islam and terrorism. It is unacceptable, in the name of our own values, to reduce all Muslims to the status of a hateful minority with barbaric tendencies which are fueled by a desire for vengeance.

On this point, too, I commend the Aladdin Project. And I want to commend the Muslim leaders present tonight: only their voices will truly silence those of extremists.

As we all know, the Holocaust has a unique character in world history, but the spirit of destruction of a people, a race, a community or a social class is not limited to the Holocaust. When Islamists execute Christians of the East, day after day, with the same insane motivations, then the same mad spirit of destruction is at work. Eliminate the Other to allow Terror to reign over everyone, Christians, Muslims or Jews alike.

This is the project that is always coming back. It was the driving force of 20th century totalitarian regimes: socialism, fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, and Pol-Potism. They wanted to create a new man by imposing terror, justified by insane ideological and religious precepts. A man so tortured and annihilated that he would no longer be able to oppose or offer an alternative to the totalitarian project.

That’s why terror always attacks the identity of the other, starting with its origins, whether ethnic, national, or religious. Its language, its culture and especially its past, because it is this past, this history in its immense richness and its great diversity that fanatics always seek to eradicate.

What the fanatics seek to impose is a teleological view of history. Forgive me for using this term but it expresses a simple idea: it wants to convince everyone that the history of humanity is predetermined by God, by people or by whatever idea, and that destiny has to be fulfilled through terror. Please note that I am not saying that humanity responds to no design. That is a question for faith and belief. I'm saying that nobody can claim to fulfill this purpose by violence and terror. Anyone is free to believe that God has a plan for the world or that the meaning of history is determined by the reign of the proletariat.  However no one has the right to claim that one has been destined to implement this Will on earth.

It is for this reason that your initiative is beautiful. You do not fight only to eradicate past terror, you prevent new seeds of terror.

This is why I am happy to be here with you tonight. We are united by our common values of civilization over barbarism. Thus we must never surrender in the face of hatred, violence or ignorance.

Thank you to all.