General Charles de Gaulle left a legacy of quotable remarks on many topics, and in recent years commentators have often returned to one on the subject of religion. In 1959, he denounced any suggestion of mass Arab immigration to France on the grounds that immigrant numbers would swamp the old-stock population. His ultimate nightmare was that his be­loved village of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises (“Colom­bey of the Two Churches”) might degenerate into Co­lom­bey of the Two Mosques.

In recent years, the pros­pect of Islamization has become ever more terrifying for many French people. Future Islamist regimes in France have been described in various apocalyptic fantasies. However, the underlying issues have recently been dramatically highlighted in a quite sober news story.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of Paris’s Great Mosque, re­marked that France had many thousands of churches, very few of which are used to any major extent, and many are effectively deserted. The number of French people who claim any Christian belief has declined precipitously, and only a small proportion of those believers actually at­tend services.