Islamophobia in France

Written by Muhammad Bilal Farooq 11:46 am Articles, Current Affairs, International Relations, Published Content

The Rising Tide of Islamophobia in France

In the last decade, Islamophobia has been on the rise in France. The situation worsened after the French president, Emmanuel Macron, called Islam a “religion in crisis”, defended blasphemous caricatures, and declared that he would make Islam “compatible” with French republican values and liberate it. The author notes that although the French government claims that it introduced policies like the hijab ban and the religious disassociation in schools, offices, and public areas, to curb radicalism, separatism, and Islamism, they marginalized the entire Muslim community in France. The author asserts that France witnessed a 53% increase in religious violence last year, and if the gap between the French Muslims and the rest of France continues to increase, the Muslim population will become easy targets for terrorist organizations.
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Mr. Bilal is an agronomist student at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad. He has been writing blogs on national and international politics and international relations since 2017.

Charter of Republic Values

“Islamophobia defines whether a person is really a thinking and sentient Sapien or an ignorant caveman,” said  Abhijit Naskar, the world’s leading neuroscientist, in “The Islamophobic Civilization: Voyage of Acceptance”. However, in the case of the ever-increasing Islamophobia in France, people are not only ignorant but also easily manipulated.

In January 2021, the New Zealand-based Khadija Leadership Network teamed up with a 36 member global initiative and complained to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) about Islamophobic state policies in France. Together, they requested to initiate infringement proceedings against the current French government.

The 36-member bloc, which includes groups like the UK’s Muslim Association of Britain, the US-based Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Islamophobia Studies Center, and the French-established European Muslim Initiative for Social Cohesion, is targeting the recent legislation—Charter of Republic Values—aimed at dealing with “radical Islam”.

The charter limited foreign funding to mosques to 10,000 euros, encouraged registering mosques as a place of worship, tightening restrictions on polygamy and arranged marriages, and made it a punishable crime for doctors to give early virginity test results. What infuriated the Muslim population was the fact that President Macron called Islam a “religion in crisis”. Furthermore, the president declared that he wants to “liberate” Islam in France and defended blasphemous caricatures which led to international protests against the regime.

While Mr. Macron has introduced the charter to curb “separatism” and “radical Islam” and to make Islam “compatible” with republican values, his policies—including the hijab ban—have negatively impacted the Muslim citizens of France. They are viewed as possible threats to the state. Being associated with Islam itself is seen as being a terrorist. Hence, with the threat of terrorism, Islamophobia is on the rise in France.

Propaganda and Misinterpretation

As Prime Minister Imran Khan had said in his UN General Assembly speech, “There is no such thing as radical Islam…every community has radicals, liberals, extremists, and moderates but Islam itself isn’t radical. Neither is Judaism, nor Christianity.”  Therefore, the term “Islamic radicalism” is misleading. By labeling radicalism as Islamic, Emmanuel Macron has only exacerbated the already existing anti-Islam narrative.

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Tearing down the liberal values of Europe by turning illiberal when treating Muslims may have immeasurable human, legal and ethical costs along with severe implications on global peace and harmony. Islamophobic activists and so-called scholars, who are often found to be experts on anything other than Islam, intentionally or unintentionally misquote and misinterpret the Quranic verses to cultivate and transport their rhetoric over it.

One of the most misinterpreted verses is “Kill Them Wherever You Find Them”  (Qur’an 2:191) which was revealed at a time when Muslims were being tortured and prosecuted for 13 years. The succeeded verses state, “Fight in the cause of God only those who fight you and do not commit aggression,” and, “if they cease fighting, then let there be no hostility except against oppressors.” However, these verses are ignored when they are used by propagandists. They are either unaware or they ignore the context behind the words.

It’s evident that the text is actually forbidding fighting those who are not fighting. Since It is not within the limits of this article to cover all such verses, it should be compulsory for both Muslims and non-Muslims to learn & understand the context of the verses and the linguistics & grammar of the Arabic language before declaring an entire community radical. However, to knowingly manipulate public opinion, the context behind words seldom matters.

While debating in favor of the motion “Islam is a Religion of Peace”, British-American journalist, Mehdi Hassan, said, “The Irony is the opposition (Daniel Johnson and Annie Marie) and the Muslim terrorists, the Al-Qaeda types, actually have one thing in common. They both believe that Islam is a war-like violent religion. Osama bin Laden would be nodding along to everything he has heard from the opposition tonight”

Mehdi gave the example of the crusaders, the Holocaust, and the terrorist acts committed by the Lord Resistance Army (LRA) of Uganda against civilians since 1987, and explained that while these acts were committed in the name of Jesus, he doesn’t believe that Christianity is the religion of violence as no one should, about any religion.

Militarism and Islamophobia

The present state of militarism prevailing in the Middle East and Africa is due to the American imposed militarization of the regions, infused with the mass weapons sales to oil regimes, to preserve the West’s energy interests. Post World War II America aimed at securing dominance over each region that was important geo-strategically or geo-economically.

The Middle East still accounts for 64% of the output of OPEC, and with the Strait of Hormuz handling 17 million barrels of shipments per day, the region controls almost all the exports coming out of the Persian Gulf. While Washington may have almost doubled its domestic oil production in a decade, from 2004 to 2014, the United States’ economy is far from being tough in the face of price hikes, let alone becoming energy independent.

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All of this coupled with the US-Israel alliance and the dire need to prevent Communism in the Middle East led to Washington’s support of either autocratic and violent regimes, terrorist factions fighting against the state, or its intervention for “sustainable peace”. These strategic policies tossed the region into an eternal state of chaos and violence.

Instead of ensuring peace, the inflicted wars and decade-long invasions have hijacked the political institutions and democratic processes of the suffering countries while fueling sectarianism and terrorist factions. All of this can’t be and shouldn’t be directed towards religious fundamentalism. Although the far-right extremists claim otherwise, Islamophobia across Europe and the United States is a reality.

There has been a lot of ink devoted to the post-9/11 rise of Islamophobia in the West where Islam and Muslims were held responsible for the attacks, each terrorist activity was tied to religion through the media’s sensationalization. Instead of holding Al-Qaeda responsible for the attacks, the Western media turned against Muslims in general.

France: Targeting a Community

France, home to 5.7 million Muslims, always “stood out” in Europe when it comes to Islamophobic laws. It banned headscarves in 2004 and became the first European country to ban full Islamic veils in 2011. The French have been trying to deal with the “crisis” of Islam for the past 200 years now.

France’s efforts to contain Islam can be traced back to the French colonization of African countries. France leveled Algerian towns, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people. In the end, the genocide, along with a deadly famine cost Algeria one million souls further.

In trying to root out radicalism and extremism, France has limited the freedom of Muslims by labeling itself a secular state and by banning headscarves in schools and offices, and religious affiliations in schools and public places. The state is moving in a direction where Muslims will be forced to hide who they are just because headscarves and beards are being associated with terrorism or “Islamic radicalism”.

When four policemen were killed in France in 2019, by a colleague who had converted to Islam, President Macron responded by saying that the nation of France should create a “society of vigilance against the Islamist Hydra.” Moreover, he strengthened Islamophobia in France when he urged the French citizens to rise up against “this underground Islamism that corrupts the children of France”.

According to him, his can be done by identifying “the little nothings that become terrible tragedies at school, at work, in the areas of daily life”. These statements alone fuelled Islamophobia in the state, causing Muslims in France to be humiliated and interrogated by not just the police but also by their fellow French citizens.

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Exploiting Islamophobia

Demonizing a particular community, depriving it of its basic right of living its life based on its faith, can have a calamitic effect, some of which have already surfaced. Terrorist groups, particularly the Islamic State, have exploited the surge in Islamophobia by recruiting in communities with higher anti-Muslim sentiments. Pro-ISIS searches are also reported to be elevated in poorer and ethnically homogeneous areas.

“Your feelings and hatred towards Islam have already been revealed…you are now witnessing your fake victory. Your war against Islam has only made your homeland more vulnerable and your society is cracking into chaos,” voiced an American ISIS fighter, Abu Saleh al-Amriki, in a video released in 2017 to address Donald Trump’s anti-Muslim campaigns which resulted in bans.

The War on Terror has been a war of narratives too. Just as the western media outlets built their chronicles of “radical Islam” over it, the terrorists built their counter-narrative to “expose” and dilute the American social framework by propagating and insisting that the Islamophobic Americans are “real Americans”.

Increasing Hate Crimes Against Muslims

Hate crimes against Muslims in Germany alone were recorded to be as high as 901 with 82 attacks on mosques in 2020. France also witnessed a 53% increase in religious violence and crimes in the same year. In 2019 alone, the Collectif Contre l’islamophobie en France (CCIF) listed 1,043 incidents of Islamophobia in France. Out of these incidents, 68 were physical attacks.

Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 49 Muslims in cold blood in the 2019 New Zealand Christchurch attack, was mainly motivated by the 2017 defeat of French far-right politician Marine Le Pen. The attacker had also made donations worth 2,200€ to the French far-right movement “Generation Identity”, which was strongly vocal against the eviction of European Muslims.

Another risk bonded with the rising Islamophobia in France is the impairing police and community partnership. In the last six years, the French police have stopped 59 terrorist attacks, out of these, 58 terrorist attacks were prevented due to intelligence gathered from human sources.

Therefore, France is not only marginalizing its Muslim population but also compromising its national security. In its efforts to protect the state, the government of France is propagating Islamophobia and ensuring that the millions of Muslims living in the state lose their trust in it. Instead of targeting and condemning the terrorists, France has targeted an entire religion and community. President Macron’s remarks have enticed the anti-Islam and anti-Muslim extremists to act against the Muslim citizens. The regime does not realize that by marginalizing the Muslim population, they are making the affected Muslims easier recruitment targets for terrorist groups.

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