In the latest speech the current French President Emmanuel Macron claims “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country." He vows to help this religion by building an “Islam of Enlightenment” because apparently the current Islam threatens the secularism and its values that are the fabric of the French society. “Enlightenment” is a reference to Enlightenment Period of Europe’s modern history whence began the separation of Church & State. The French President’s speech in which he claims to “reorganize Islam” and fight “radical Islam” is not something new coming out of France. Since Colonial era there has existed a trend among French regimes to target Islam and Muslims.
1. The first question, however would be that, is France’s past and present regimes really secular as they claimed to be, or is it more of a love and hate relationship between Secularism and Religion for political benefits?
2. The second question, is Islam really in crises as stated by a non-Muslim, secular, French President, or is it another anti-Islamic attempt like those from Colonial era for political gains or to hide its own failures?
Secularism In Disguise
To answer the first question, in August 2001, the Taliban government of Afghanistan arrested some “relief workers” and among their “relief supplies” were thousands of CDs, videos, audiotapes, and Bibles in local Dari and Farsi languages. These missionaries broke the law that prohibited exploiting the sufferings of the people and evangelizing in the name of aid work. In addition to that they claimed that the literature was for their personal use, despite none of them spoke Dari or Farsi. The Taliban put them under trial in the court of law. Among the governments that rushed to the aid of these missionaries (“aid workers” as dubbed by the Western media) were Germany, Australia, US & “fiercely & rigidly” secular French government. This despite the fact that none of the missionaries were French!
What's more important to note is that French President’s so called efforts to save secular values and strengthen separatism (i.e. separation of church & state) lie exposed in France’s education system. Virtually all schools in France are not state schools i.e. secular, a misconception that may be found among those reading and those outside of France. Over 80% of school pupils are in state schools, but a substantial (and growing) minority of almost 20% attend private schools - far more, for instance, than in the United Kingdom or the USA. These private schools are essentially (about 90%) catholic schools, in which there is religious instruction in the curriculum, they get to select their own teachers and they are highly subsidized by the French Government. It seems like there is a backdoor French policy towards other religions like Catholicism which is why they are not “in crises” but for some reason Islam is.
The Hijab Ban
This biased attitude towards Islam is because practicing Muslims are not willing to compromise their beliefs as good colonial subjects. For Muslims Allah ﷻ and His Messenger Muhammad ﷺ comes first, and this can be observed by the fact that religious symbols such as Christian crosses & Jewish skull caps were never a threat to the French secular society until Islamic hijab came in to the scene. The French society, heavily influenced by media propaganda, views the hijab and the veil as a symbol of oppression against women. Public opinion polls indicated about 70 percent of the French were in favor of the hijab ban. Hence it was not difficult for French parliament to pass the law, with overwhelming majority (494 votes in favor & 36 opposing) in banning religious symbols such as Christian crosses, Jewish caps and hijab from government and education institutions. Its important to note that prior to this ban, the subject of heated debate in France and broadly throughout Western Europe was mainly hijab and veil as opposed to symbols of other religions. Even after the ban the mainstream European media kept public focus by reporting on the topic as “A law banning Islamic headscarves and other religious symbols”. Everything else was considered as “other religious symbols” because Jewish and Christian reaction to the law was non-existent, crosses are not obligatory in Christianity and there were no protests over Jewish cap ban, but hijab (and veil) obligatory in Islam. Muslims filed cases, protested and expressed concern in whatever way possible against this breach of basic right of religious freedom (violating Article 1 of French constitution that demands respect for al faiths). These protests caused further backlashes and ignited debates from different segments of French society, arguing that somehow a piece of cloth is against French values.
The French Islamophobia
The French Colonial studies expert, Neil MacMaster claims that the roots of Islamophobia in France go back to World War 1 time when Algerians, Moroccans, were allowed to travel to France as subjects because their lands were French colonies. Their presence on French soil was already being used by media propaganda to generate fear in to hearts and minds of French public. The media portrayed these North African Muslims as primitive savages, rapists, criminals, transmitters of venereal disease & tuberculosis.
After occupation of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco for almost hundred years (1830 - 1962) and killing millions, the French were finally defeated in the War of Independence (1954 - 1962). They decided to withdraw from North Arica but sowed the seeds of large scale immigration from Algeria considered necessary at that time because France badly needed manpower for rebuilding the country after World War 2. In 1970s and 1980s these immigrants began to bring their families and as they settled they demanded basic rights to create Islamic spaces for their communities such as masajids, schools, cemeteries, halal food, time and space for prayer, etc. As they did the campaign of demonizing them increased in the French society. For instance in 1981 - 1982 an anonymous forged letter was widely circulated in Dreux where the extremist National Front would score a decisive victory a year later. The forged letter was supposedly written by an Algerian to a friend in Algeria:
“My Dear Mustapha. By the grace of the all-powerful Allah we have become lords and masters of Paris…Come quickly, we expect you in large numbers, since Mitterand has promised that we shall soon get the right to vote. We kicked the French out of Algeria; why shouldn’t we do the same here?”
Islamophobic content published by French intelligentsia also contributes to indoctrinate the French society. For instance, in 1994, the Middle East Forum, an anti-Islam think tank published an article of Michel Gurfinkiel, renown French conservative journalist and public intellectual. Michel argues Islamization will eventually take over the country because of following “threats” from French Muslims: more practicing like fasting & praying, places of worships and attendance is increasing, birth rate is high - 3 to 4 times higher than local women, Muslim voting power, their unity under central Muslim leadership. His myths are demolished by a report from Brookings Institute on “Unrest in France, November 2005”: There are about 5 million Muslims in France. According to 1999 census & survey, 3.7 million Muslims out of total, 66% identify themselves as Muslims and 20% as having no religion at all. The 66% also have a very low attendance at mosques. The fertility rate among French women is 1.94 children born per woman (2005.) Without immigrant women, this figure would drop only by 0.05 children born per woman. Roughly half of the 5 million Muslims living in France today are not citizens. Many are under 18 years of age or recent immigrants, which means they cannot vote. The term “Muslim Community” in France is also misleading because there are huge differences among community members based on country of their origin, social background, political orientation and ideology, and the branch of Islam. The myth of "Muslim leadership" is also incorrect because Muslims in France have no central authority.
Post-industrialization & Discrimination
After 1970s, the post-industrialization period in France brought the low skilled labor jobs for majority of these North African immigrants to an end. Other industries boomed and these immigrants lacked technological and special skills for professional jobs. Settled in low-cost public housing development projects with increased unemployment, they became more marginalized in the society. Their private spaces became the ghettoes. With Islamophobia and the “threat” of Islam in the minds of general French public, the children of these immigrants, the second and third generation French citizens also felt marginalized due to their North African roots and non-European identity, and have continued to do so in 21st century. Discrimination being a major factor of high unemployment rates among them coupled with bad government policies, racial profiling by police, ghettoization, all together, fueled the series of riots in France through 1990s and then a wave of them from 2005 and onwards. Deceptive as always, the French media put the blame on religion for their problems, they reported “Islamic fundamentalism” as primary factor for the isolation and violence in these neighborhoods, which is far from truth. French politicians buy in to this nonsense for obvious political reasons.
Hence the French President’s efforts to reintegrate the French Muslims by declaring “Islam in crises” doesn’t help the situation, it actually takes away the attention from the main issues of the French Muslims. It attempts to hide the failure of the French governments own contradictions in their approach to resolve issues. As Dr. Hamed Benseddik, professor of Decolonial Studies, puts it very accurately: “Modern France and Colonial France haven’t really changed. It continues to struggle with the failed integration and assimilation of Muslims, largely due to its own internal contradictions. How does a country that allegedly stands for liberty, equality and fraternity reconcile itself with internal racist undercurrents that deny the liberty of religion, generate inequality, and regard Arabs and Muslims as second-class citizens?”
 Macron Rolls Out Vision to Reorganize Islam in France, Bloomberg, By Ania Nussbaum, October 2, 2020, Macron Rolls Out Vision to Reorganize Islam in France
 Taliban haul 'exhausted' aid workers before court, The Guardian, Luke Harding, South Asia correspondent Sun 9 Sep 2001 18.32 EDT Taliban haul 'exhausted' aid workers before court - Aid Workers Unharmed but Witnessed Beatings - First Things First: For Inquiring Minds and Yearning Hearts, Secularism In France, Khalid Baig, Open Mind Press (July 14, 2004)
 About-France.com, A Guide To France, Education in France - Primary & Secondary Schools, The French Education system - schools and secondary education. About-France.com.
 France backs school head scarf ban, CNN, From CNN Paris Correspondent Jim Bittermann, Tuesday, February 10, 2004 Posted: 8:32 PM EST, France backs school head scarf ban
 French scarf ban comes into force, BBC News, Thursday, 2 September, 2004, French scarf ban comes into force & European court rules workplace headscarf ban is legal
 MacMaster, “Islamophobia in France and the Algerian Problem”, in The Ne Crusades: Constructing the Muslim Enemy, Emran Qureshi and Michael A Sells, eds. , (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 291. The New Crusades
 Islamophobia in France and the "Algerian Problem". / MacMaster, Neil. The New Crusades. Constructing the Muslim Enemy. ed. / Emran Qureshi; Michael A. Sells, eds. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), p. 288-313. The New Crusades
 Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger by Michel Gurfinkiel, Middle East Forum, Middle East Quarterly, March 1997, pp. 19-29, Islam in France: The French Way of Life Is in Danger
 UNREST IN FRANCE, NOVEMBER 2005: IMMIGRATION, ISLAM AND THE CHALLENGE OF INTEGRATION, The Brookings Institution, Justin Vaisse Presentation to Congressional Staff, January 10 and 12, 2006, Washington, DC https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/vaisse20060112-1.pdf
 France’s ‘Muslim’ problem and the unspoken racism at its heart, TRT World, ADAM BENSAID 19 FEB 2020, France’s ‘Muslim’ problem and the unspoken racism at its heart
6/8/2022 10:03:56 am
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