by Waseem Shehzad (News & Analysis, Crescent International Vol. 51, No. 2, Sha'ban, 1443)
French President Emmanuel Macron has disappointed many people, not least the Muslim citizens of France, since his surprising election victory in May 2017. Before the election, Macron had promised to be president ‘for all the people in France'. As soon as he entered the Élysée Palace, he exposed his true self. He no longer wanted to be president for all the people, especially not the Muslim citizens of France.
Facing a challenge from the French right whose policies border on fascism, in the forthcoming presidential elections due on April 10, Macron has abandoned his earlier pledge and adopted the racists’ platform.
His opponents include Marine Le Pen, an extremist right-winger, and an even bigger bigot and racist, Eric Zemmour who is also a hardcore Zionist. The pair have been spouting venom against Muslims but Macron is not far behind. This youthful prince charming had promised political renewal, and an end to corruption and sleaze but he is mired in even bigger scandals.
He suffered the most forced resignations by disgraced cabinet ministers after just two years of taking office. The pandemic erupted just in time to divert public attention from his scandal-plagued cabinet. Like US pharmaceutical companies, Macron too welcomed the pandemic. And that ever-present punching bag—the hapless Muslim citizens of France are always there—to be blamed for all of his regime’s failures. A state of emergency has been in place for most of Macron’s tenure. Abdel Fattah el Sisi of Egypt would approve!
French military involvement in Mali, without UN mandate one must add, has been an unmitigated disaster. The Malians demanded the withdrawal of all French troops from the country ‘without delay’. They were deployed ostensibly to fight extremist groups in Mali and the Sahel region but were actually aiding and abetting the terrorist groups.
This has been the case with all extremist groups like ISIS/Daesh and others. They are a western creation to be used as a pretext for military intervention in other countries’ affairs.
France has a long history of anti-Muslim bigotry. It predates Macron’s assumption of power but his tenure has been marked by targeting Muslims even more viciously. The French regime was the first to ban Muslim girls from wearing the hijab in state schools in 2004. In 2011, the niqab (full-face veil) was banned. Macron went further; he passed legislation forbidding the wearing of hijab in certain public settings, all under the guise of defending secularism.
Realizing that his anti-Muslim bigotry was finding traction with French citizens, he launched a full-scale crusade against Islam in 2020. He announced that he would crack down on what he called "Islamist separatism". Macron blamed foreign imams for causing such separation and vowed to ban them from teaching Islamic classes in the country.
This came on the heels of the even more incendiary remarks by both Le Pen and Zemmour. Le Pen who is both Islamophobic and anti-Semitic, proposed to ban the hijab in all public settings. She alleged that the hijab was a piece of clothing with “Islamist ideologies" and was “totalitarian and murderous”.
Zemmour, leader of the Raconquete Party, who was born in Algeria and runs a TV show, has been even more aggressive in his attacks on Muslims. He has called for their 'assimilation' and insists that French Muslims must ‘renounce their faith’.
What does “assimilation”, that both the French right and left are demanding of Muslims, mean? They want the Muslims to abandon their faith, stop building mosques to worship in, and not teach their children about Islam. Further, they want Muslim girls, like other girls in France, to start having sex at the age of 15. This is specified in Article 227-25 of the French Penal Code.
There is often much hue and cry in the west if a girl is married off in some Muslim country before she is 18. Muslims are accused of being pedophiles. Yet in France, girls as young as 15 (or even younger) can indulge in sex and this is all considered as enlightened behaviour and freedom.
Macron thunders that “Political Islam has no place in France,” without explaining what “political Islam” means. He has even gone so far as to claim that “Islam is facing a crisis”. Macron is no scholar of Islam. He is a scholar of nothing but his rants expose his deeply Islamophobic views borne of bigotry and political opportunism.
His broad assault on Islam has left the five million Muslims in France deeply traumatized.
A new report by the British advocacy group Cage documents how Macron has used executive powers to systematically target Muslim groups and institutions in France over the last four years. Mosques, Islamic charities and other institutions have been targeted and shut down under the new law allegedly aimed at combatting “Islamism” and “community withdrawal”.
Among the organisations closed for allegedly promoting ‘Islamist’ propaganda were the French Muslim charity Barakacity and the non-profit Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), which monitored Islamophobic attacks across France.
Both organisations deny the charges, but remain banned, according to a report in the Middle East Eye (MEE). Idriss Sihamedi, president of Barakacity, said Macron’s policies were designed to make French Muslims compliant with the state.
“France has decided to target community leaders and has put every kind of pressure imaginable on people who want to defend Muslims,” Sihamedi said in a statement. “The message to French Muslims is: we are going to colonise your religion and Islam in France will be controlled by the interior ministry.”
Rayan Freschi, a Cage researcher and French legal jurist who worked on the report for Cage, said it exposes how Islamophobia has been “institutionalised through an infrastructure of enforcement and mass surveillance.”
“This report documents how the French state has swiftly dismantled the foundations of the Muslim community’s autonomy through a calculated persecution, spreading terror among an entire religious community: 718 closures, 24,884 inspections and 46 million euros extorted by the state later, it is time to stop this witch hunt against Muslims.”