A local housing authority in Colombes, on the outskirts of Paris, has warned a mini-market owner to begin selling alcohol and non-halal meat, or face closure.

Locals were angered when the shop’s owner, Soulemane Yalcin, ceased stocking traditional French wines and meats when he took up the lease on the store, which states that it must remain a ‘general food store’. But is more at stake here than mere convenience for the local residents of Colombes?

As an Englishman, any admiration I have of the French is almost instinctively subdued by an enduring feeling of suspicion. A long history of invasion, competition and general mistrust between our two great nations has been enough to make the little English Channel often feel like the Atlantic Ocean – and vice versa owing to the near opposite being true of the United States. Yet, in the light of recent events such as this in France, I find my English haughtiness somewhat curtailed by a new found admiration for a revival in French resistance to the occupying ideology of intolerantly militant Islam. 

What the French did in this instance was to bravely conserve a relatively insignificant part of their life and identity – the cold beer after work, the bacon sandwich on a Sunday morning – as a means of conserving traditional values and liberty for a few ordinary French citizens. Had the shop owner been left to his own devices, he would have continued to cater exclusively for a religious minority and inflame the kind of attitudes that have caused ghettoisation in every major city in Western and Central Europe.

This move was, predictably, met with the most tremendous uproar on social media and in the press. Anything this bold and decisive usually is. But what I found nauseating as I scrolled through the endless pages of whining is the number of so called conservatives (often hiding beneath the banner of ‘libertarian’) who are against the French on this issue. It seems that many conservatives have forgotten that our primary responsibility is to ‘conserve’ and that the pursuit of liberty and freedom of the markets is virtuous only after we have conserved the things that make them possible.

Conservatives, particularly libertarians, must begin to be more pragmatic and far-sighted if their way of life is to be protected and the values they hold dear are to remain secure. Particularly since libertarianism itself is at the most risk from invading ideologies, owing to its principles comprising the cornerstone of every Western culture.

I have few qualms with Islam as it is practiced in the majority of Europe, and ideological freedom, within reason, is a valuable characteristic of any free society and we should see that it is protected. The difference here, though, is that total ideological freedom is not and has never been desirable in a free country. And where an anti-libertarian religion spills into the bounds of ideological or political influence, we should see that it is curtailed.

We here in Britain already have a history of pragmatism when it comes to issues of liberty. The 1936 Public Order Act prevented liberty from being usurped by Nazism/Fascism in the 1930’s, violent Irish Nationalism in the 1970’s and Revolutionary Socialism in the 1980’s. Had we not intervened to prevent these anti-libertarian movements from spreading, then the very conservatives pouring scorn on the French this week may not have been at liberty to have even spoken about it.

I therefore not only applaud the local French authorities for their courage this week, but I urge British libertarians to take this as yet another example of how their dogmatism might render them extinct in the decades to come.


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