What does or should it mean to be a “true Frenchman”? It isn’t any one thing, but it’s a constellation of things, beliefs, and attitudes, certainties and uncertainties, born of knowledge of and intelligent affection for a particular place called France, and a particular people called French. There are no bright lines to define the “True Frenchman.” One needs to know a certain amount of French history. How much? That’s not possible to say. But if someone lives in France, but knows nothing of, and takes no interest in, and may even be irremediably hostile to, that country’s political and intellectual history, knows nothing or very little about Catholicism and the Gallican Church, about the Huguenots and the Wars of Religion, about the Divine Right of Kings, about the Court of Louis XIV, about the 18th century Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, Louis Philippe, the Paris Commune, about France in the two World Wars, the German Occupation, the Resistance, about French Colonialism and de-colonialism, about France as a member of the E.U. — then can that person be considered “a true Frenchman”? Probably not, even though we have not and can not specify any particular amount of knowledge that would qualify someone to be considered a “Frenchman.”
But what would one think of someone who, though he had spent his life in France, spoke and read only Arabic, knew nothing of French history and had no desire to learn about it, despised and dismissed French culture as “decadent,” rejected the French political system as elevating man-made laws over the Sharia, and believed, as the Qur’an teaches, that the French people among whom he lived were “the most vile of creatures,” while Muslims like himself were “the best of peoples”? Such a person is “French” only in a formal sense: he lives in France, and may even have obtained a French passport. But is he “French” in any larger and more meaningful sense?