Like millions of people around the world, Jamel Gharbi marked the end of summer by taking his family to the beach. Gharbi, a French Socialist regional councilor, had taken his wife and 12 year old daughter back to the Tunisian city where he had been born and had lived until the 1970s before moving to France.
The tide of the Arab Spring had washed over Tunisia and left Gharbi's homeland a very different place. Furious Salafi Islamists attacked them for wearing shorts, offending Islamic values. When Gharbi tried to defend his family, he barely escaped with his life.
Bertrand Delanoe, the Socialist mayor of Paris, condemned the attack as the work of an "extremist minority" in contradiction to "Tunisian values." "The Tunisian people I know," he said, "are committed to tolerance, democracy, pluralism and human rights."
Secretary-General Jean-François Cope, of the conservative UMP opposition, agreed that the Tunisian people were not to blame. The perpetrators, he said, only "pretend to be animated by religious convictions," and dubbed them fanatics and extremists who "do not represent the people of Tunisia."
The peculiar phenomenon of Bertrand Delanoe and Jean-François Cope telling the Tunisian people what their values are is not limited to Gallic shores. As the tides follow the moon, Muslim terrorist attacks are followed by Western leaders asserting that the terrorists do not represent Islam and its tolerant values.
When Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square Bomber, appeared for sentencing, he declared, "If I am given a thousand lives, I will sacrifice them all for the sake of Allah, fighting this cause, defending our lands, making the word of Allah supreme over any religion or system."
Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum told Faisal Shahzad that he needed to "spend some of the time in prison thinking carefully about whether the Koran wants you to kill lots of people." The trouble was that Faisal Shahzad had already decided what his religion had to say about killing lots of people. Similarly the Tunisian people had already decided what their values are.
The Arab Spring began in Tunisia when a male vendor shamed at being struck by a female police officer set himself on fire. It ended with the election of an Islamist party and murderous violence at the sight of a 12-year-old girl wearing shorts.
The Islamist Al-Nahda Party won a landslide victory in 2011 with more votes than every major party combined. It was the only party to cross the one-million vote mark and its popularity is undeniable. Tunisian values, which may not be pluralistic or democratic after all, are the secret to its success.
In an Al-Jazeera poll, nearly half of Tunisians identified strongly with Islamism, while less than 20 percent identified with either Arab nationalism or liberalism. Numbers like these have made the outcome of the Arab Spring inevitable, along with the accompanying attacks on 12-year-old girls and expat Socialists.
The Al-Nahda Party, described with the obligatory "moderate" soubriquet in news articles, has proposed blasphemy laws that come with harsh prison sentences, and one of its constitutional articles defines women as inferior to men. Al-Nahda's view of women can be gleaned from Rachid Ghannouchi, the intellectual leader of the movement, who praised the mothers of suicide bombers as "a new model of woman."
Democracy is the truest test of a nation's values. The Secretary-General of the UMP may be convinced of the moderate values of the Tunisian people, but the Secretary-General of Al-Nahda, Hamadi Jebali, was equally convinced that Al-Nahda's victory was a harbinger of the Sixth Caliphate.
The values of the Tunisian people turned Hamadi Jebali from a prisoner into the leader of the dominant Tunisian political party and from there into the Prime Minister of Tunisia. The Arab Spring's democratic elections have been the acid test of whether Tunisian values and Egyptian values are truly those of "Tolerance, democracy, pluralism and human rights." And the verdict is in.
It took official protests from French leaders for the new Tunisian Islamist government to condemn the attack on Jamel Gharbi. The actual attackers are still not in custody, and the inaction of the police is becoming routine in a country where Islamist thugs dispensing vigilante Sharia justice are swiftly becoming the law.
For his part, Gharbi has vowed not to return to his homeland and warned others to stay away. Instead of speaking about the moderate values of the Tunisian people, his message was far starker. "As soon as you leave the gilded prison of hotels and beaches, you are at the mercy of gangs of Salafists who reign with terror. People who see eye-catching adverts for white beaches … should see what goes on behind the scenes. They mustn't fall into these people's claws."
The Tunisian people and the Egyptian people have spoken. It may be time for Bertrand Delanoe, Jean-François Cope and Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum to accept their verdict and to do what is necessary to prevent their own countries from falling into their claws.