Is Macron fueling Islamophobia?
When an 18-year-old Muslim boy in France beheaded a middle school history teacher who'd shown his student's caricatures of our beloved Prophet Muhammad, he was transformed from an educator into a national emblem. Days after the teacher's killing, two female attackers stabbed two Muslim women in headscarves and called them "dirty Arabs" and told them "this is not your home," as they walked near the Eiffel Tower. However, the French media remained silent about the assault.
The publication of offensive caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad by the French magazine Charlie Hebdo on the walls of buildings in France provoked Muslims around the world. Still, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that he would not prohibit anything and adding that France is a country that guarantees freedom of speech.
The French republic is secular, which they term as "laicite." Enacted by a 1905 law, this notion impels the state to remain entirely impartial--to neither support nor defame any religion.
At the turn of the century, France was predominantly Catholic, with a small Protestant minority and an even smaller Jewish people. After World War II, the French empire collapsed. Just after that, urban France became a shelter to many former colonial subordinates and their offspring from North Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, and South Asia. Islam had officially entered into France.
After France's disgraceful defeat in Algeria and withdrawing from North Africa in 1962,
French citizens started to get frightened of Muslims and considered public signs of Islam as an assault against the country's secular essence.
In France, Islam is the second most widely acknowledged religion, just behind Christianity. There are more than 5 million Muslim dwellers in France that make up at least 9 per cent of the French population; But the French government always demonizes the religious belief of Islam.
A law enacted in 2004 forbade wearing the veil in high schools and in 2010 France banned the face-covering Burqa. A year later, street prayer on Friday was forbidden. When Muslim women wear the headscarf in public, they are often being condemned, even when they do so legally, even when they attempt to be part of French society.
Although France claims to be a secular country, its action portrays different reality in the case of Muslims. Macron is now playing politics by pandering to the growing influence of The French far-right, which views Muslims and African as a more significant threat than rapists, for instance.
Macron recently described Islam as a religion "in crisis" worldwide and said that the government would formally present a bill in December to expand the 1905 law that officially separated religion from the state. It would, among other things, combat "radical Islamism" by liberating French Islam from foreign influence and allow the state to regulate the funding that French mosques receive from abroad limit homeschooling for younger children in order to prevent the creation of Islamic schools, and establish a special certificate program for French imams.
"Our challenge is to fight against those who go off the rails in the name of religion while protecting those who believe in Islam," Macron said. But the strategy he is applying looks like planned to unravel a different problem than terrorist violence. Instead of addressing the terrorist issue, he is instigating Muslim people by supporting offensive activities against Islam. Macron intends to incite the practice of a 1,400-year-old faith Islam, one with almost 2 billion peaceful followers around the world, including tens of millions in the West.
Macron came to power in 2017 vowing for reconciliation, in contrast, he's broadening divisions by fuelling Muslims. Islamophobia attacks in France rose by 54% in 2019. Between, 2018 and 19, attacks on Muslims increased by more than 50%, according to some analyses.
France is maintaining a double standard in applying freedom of speech right. In France, telling jokes about LGBTQ right is punishable but hurting Muslims by making caricatures of the messenger of Allah labeled as freedom of expression.
Freedom of speech doesn't allow anyone to blaspheme one's belief and sentiment, and it's totally unacceptable in a secular country like France. French people are taunting religion to protect secularism in their country. But fundamental elements of secularism contrast with their action. They're not solving the problem of secularism but they are trying to revise Islam. But at first, they have to change their perspective of secularism.
If we speculate from political points of view, we can realize that it's been a trend for unpopular political figures in the past few years to spread hatred against Islam and win back supporters. Macro is worthless in France. He's being slammed over failure to bring France together more disunited than ever. So he is using Muslims as a scapegoat to distract people from his failure.
According to Turkish President Erdogan, "There is no such thing as moderate or radical Islam, there is Only Islam". And every Muslim across the world believes that. So disgrace of our Prophet Muhammad in France is considered disgraced to all the Muslim people around the world. Already, Several Arab trade associations and numerous middle-east countries have announced the boycott of French products and in response, France urged Middle Eastern countries to stop boycott of French products. Also, Islamist cyber attacks from several countries hit France.
Instead of reforming Islam, Macron should reform secularism in his country so that it doesn't hurt any religious belief in France and all around the world.
The writer is a student
Department of International
Relations, University of Dhaka.