Tuesday, January 31, 2023
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Is this where Europe is headed? France’s new radicalism law exposes Macron’s centrism

France’s Left and Right wing agree on one thing when it comes to the new ‘anti-separatism’ law targeted at Muslims — it is too vague.

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The French National Assembly approval for a new law called ‘Strengthening Respect for Republican Principles’ also dubbed as an anti-separatism bill, has reignited the debate about not only Emmanuel Macron’s centrist, liberal claim but also where European politics is perhaps headed.

The law is said to battle Islamist separatism and strengthen the French secularism ideology commonly known as Laïcité, which outlines a strict separation of State and religion. The legislation will tighten controls on home-schooling, online hate and foreign religious funding. It also plans to counter discrimination against women and girls on the basis of religious values.

The National Assembly lower house voted on the legislation after a total of 135 hours of debate that saw over 300 amendments get adopted. The law has divided the French Left and the Right over its intended purpose and utility, but one thing both sides seem to agree on is that the law is too vague to address many of the issues France is facing today, as it grapples to deal with its growing Muslim minority population, the largest across Europe.

Also read: How Macron’s French secularism is at odds with ‘Anglo-American’ liberalism

What led to the law

The law has come in the wake of several Islamist attacks in France and in Europe in the last many years, including the shocking killing of a French teacher named Samuel Paty in October 2020. Investigations revealed that the teacher’s discussion about free speech in the context of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoons in his class led to some of the Muslim students’ parents calling for action against him on social media, following which he was murdered.

The trial into the 2015 attack on the Charlie Hebdo office that killed 11 people concluded in December 2020 and found 14 accomplices guilty.

Even as the trial was underway, French President Emmanuel Macron gave a speech saying, “Islam is a religion which is experiencing a crisis today, all over the world”, adding that there was a need to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”. A few weeks later, his government proposed the anti-separatism bill.

Also read: Not just Macron’s politics, it’s France’s brand of secularism that always clashed with Islam

France’s mis-step?

In recent years, Europe and especially France have become central in the debate on upholding secularist values amidst a steady influx of migrants, especially from the Muslim world that these Western countries colonised in the past. Such a troubled shared past has already led to what many call a clash of civilisations. Amid such sentiments, many also argue that the 20th-century French secularism needs to be revisited in the 21st century, as multicultural societies populate the continent and most of the Western world.

From Hungary to Austria to Germany, rising Right-wing populism is trying to refashion the old liberal order. Macron’s new law can normalise this push.

Some observers in France also feel that the timing of the new law is questionable and it seems to be an attempt by the French President to pander to the Right-wing conservatives in the country, as he prepares for elections next year. He is expected to face strong competition from Right-wing political parties, who view him too soft on Muslims.

However, critics from progressive, Left and liberal backgrounds feel the law breaches religious freedoms and may target Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies. Critics argue that any Islamist ideology that may lead a Muslim French national towards terrorism cannot be defeated by legal measures like this law alone. Instead, the solution lies in creating favourable socio-economic conditions for Muslims by the French State. The government needs to uplift the economic and social status of French Muslims, who feel marginalised and are discriminated against when trying to find jobs and housing in the country. French surveys have also shown how local Muslims feel more targeted by the French police, leading to further tensions between the minority community and the State.

Nearly 200 people protested in Paris recently and accused the bill of “reinforcing discrimination against Muslims”. A collective, which included 100 imams, 50 teachers in Islamic sciences and 50 presidents of associations in France, also reportedly called the bill ‘unacceptable’. A US envoy on religious freedom criticised the bill as “heavy-handed” and the Western media too was unusually critical of Macron’s bill.

Also read: Macron doesn’t need to insult Islam to defend free speech

Taking a hard Right

The Right-wing in France has complained that the law will not prove to be enough to control Islamist behaviours and has not even addressed Islamist extremism directly by specifying it. It is expected that the Right, which has the majority in the Senate, may try to toughen the law further when it enters the upper house for approval next.

The Macron-led government appears to be anticipating such Right-wing reactions, and has already turned up the rhetoric. In a debate last week, the French interior minister Gérald Darmanin even called far-Right leader Marine Le Pen, the National Rally leader of being “soft” on Islam, when debating this law.

The leading French daily Le Monde described the exchange between Darmanin and Le Pen as “unprecedented”, and called it an “unexpected gift” for Pen “to have been portrayed as moderate by a minister without having to change her policies”.

Such public exchanges have further strengthened the perceptions in France that the law has more to do with politics and winning the Right-wing vote than to deal with Islamism.

A recent poll done in January 2021 showed that the far-Right leader Le Pen, who faced President Macron head-to-head in the final round and lost, is now almost as popular as the French president, ringing alarm bells about the rising popularity of the far-Right ideology. Given this survey, it seems likely that the coming year, an election campaigning year, will see more Right-wing posturing from the French government, which could lead to further marginalisation of the Muslim minority.

Taha Siddiqui is an award-winning Pakistani journalist living in exile in France. He teaches journalism and runs an intellectual space in Paris called The Dissident Club. He tweets @TahaSSiddiqui. Views are personal.

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  1. Whoever is a minority and immigrant in overseas country should respect the sentiments of the people of that country then thier (immigrants) life will be more comfortable. It is common sense and natural law.

  2. I think Muslims should be allowed to have Sharia laws for them in non-Muslim country, provided in criminal justice Sharia law is applicable if accused is Muslim.

  3. In countries with Muslim migrant population there is both the clash of civilizations and a clash of faiths.
    In countries where people of different faiths co-exist, the situation is different because the population comes from the same stock and culture all it needs to tackle is the instigated external influence.
    More over, in countries where the migrants Muslims come from old colonies the clash of faith and civilization is further compounded by the element of racism that comes with the baggage of ill treatment given out during the colonial era.
    The migrants were encouraged as cheaper labor but the price has to be paid somewhere.
    So the situations are very different.

  4. If the author of this article is so unhappy in France, why does he not simply end his exile and relocate back to Pakistan, with whatever awards that he has got? A stint back home will certainly change his perspective.

  5. Never mentioned what is against the muslims in the law, just saying its against muslims does not make any sense.

    And I wonder why can’t they see biased laws in Islamic countries which are more crude

  6. Mr. Taha your article ended the way it is expected. Muslim victimisation. The world had enough of it, the french is no exception. In france if the muslims feel suffocated with french liberal progressive laws the least they could do is pack the bags and allow the french to live in peace.

  7. For every action there is a reaction. People first poked the government and now they responded.
    No need to play victim card

  8. 7th century ideology needs a change in the 21st century rather than 20th century French secularism. Islam is not a religion. It’s a cult.

  9. Of course, there is nothing wrong with radical Islamists, nothing wrong with buildings getting bombed and heads being severed over a cartoon. Of course all fallacy is in steps which are taken to curb this menace, any voice which addresses this concern is a far right proposition aimed at political appeasement of majority. Kudos, there’s indeed a crisis journalism is facing, it’s evident. (Couldn’t expect anything better from an ‘award winning pakistani journalist’ though). Periodt.

  10. This muslim author is using typical misinformation jihad tactic of islamic apologists who try to justify everything that is wrong with islam, do not accept things that are wrong with islam, always try to play FAKE victim and “muslims are persecuted” card, why not look at islamic radicalisation, misogyny in quran, savagery of sharia, scantioned pedophilia and marital rape and wife beating, etc. muslims need to start looking within, do not want to belaughed at then do not have a laughable belief in pedophilia misogyny and debauchery, it is that simple.

  11. Muslims have equal rights as French citizens, but when a large number of them go on a killing spree, normal muslims will have to face some repercussions. There cannot be any law which can make people stop shunning a particular community, which is what this article suggests. The problem of finding jobs and housing, feeling afraid of police is something wahabbism has brought on them. In order to change this scenario, they must reform their society. Imagine if like the Pope of Rome, muslim imams proclaim equal rights for homosexuals-acts like this can change the people’s attitude. A large number of foreigners live in France as well as other countries, the only people who feel discriminated are muslims. And that is simply because of their violent religion. The Chechnian murderer did not kill Samuel Paty because he was out of job, but because of violent ideology of islam.

  12. “Instead, the solution lies in creating favourable socio-economic conditions for Muslims by the French State. ” – This will never work. Muslims in European countries are essentially malcontents. They plan attacks on the host country, for having offered them better life than they would have had back home in the Asian or African countries. Most of the grievances about marginalisation is imaginary. If the “French Muslim nationals” feel marginalized in France, they must return to their native countries.

  13. “Creating favourable socio-economic conditions for French Muslims” – seriously?? Are you serious about this?
    Take it in writing from me. No matter how prosperous and well educated the Islamic community of France (or any other nation) may be, Islamic fundamentalism and extremism will continue unabated. Need an example?
    Just look at the Gulf states. They are awash with oil money. Just as rich as Europe, maybe even more. Yet, it is the hub of Islamic fundamentalism. In fact, most Indian Muslims on the radar of security agencies for radical activities/beliefs are those who have returned from the Gulf states.
    Stop trying to project socio-economic backwardness as the underlying reason for radicalization. It never was and it never will be.
    The author rather sounds like an apologist for Islamic extremism.

  14. Even Sri Lanka is taking action against Muslims for a simple reason they are “killing infidels. Please read an report in DAWN of pakistan by Rimmel Mohydin “FORCED CREMATIONS ” .

    Why is the world against Muslims who are against IDOL WORSHIPPERS which actually their religious duty.

  15. Ha!! Ha!! Muslim elite like this author, Mullas, Muslim nations & leftists or so called liberals are responsible for the problem of Islamic terrorism!!

    These Muslims decimate other religions & people in their own nations and expect non Muslim nations & civilizations to accept Muslims as a responsible & civilized community!!

    Nations like France or India should treat Muslims the same way as Christians & Hindus are treated in Islamic holes like Pakistan, Bangladesh or even in ignorant & spineless secularist Hindu India!! Let these Muslims & Islamic nations get civilized before they point fingers at others!! Of course, that won’t happen as Islam & Islamic elites/clerics are the root cause of Islamic terrorism!!

  16. Summary of this artucle: President Macron should do nothing to protect his country. He should roll the red carpet out for verminous mullahs to destroy France.

  17. As soon as I read, “Views are personal.” I realise it immediately that I should ignore the article and it’s author because ThePrint has no confidence in article and its author. So, they try to take a back seat by writing this disclaimer.

    What is even more surprising that ThePrint is demanding donations from people to read such rubbish from any Tom, Kick and Harry.

  18. Muslims should learn tolerance and unquestionable acceptance to criticism.
    Europe is moving in the right direction. If secular Liberal Democracy clashes with any religion, it is the religion that needs to change itself and give away berth to new world order.
    Your comment “20th century secularism should change in 21st century” is utterly regressive and shows your bias and conditioning that you carry from your motherland.

  19. The author has taken refuge in ‘Hard-Right’ France jettisoning the ‘land of pure’ meant for pious Muslims!

    And has the temerity to teach secular countries how they should frame laws so that people of medieval mindset who treat their women as objects can be allowed to continue their bigotry unopposed.

  20. Some groups need to learn to respect law of the land rather than impinging upon their medieval mindset on others. Europe will soon face what India is facing – a 20% population which inflicts crime, hatred on others but jumps to imaginary persecution when they’re told to mend ways, and give importance to education and get de-radicalized.

  21. The cure of fundamental Islam is sharia, arabia style.

    If any jihadi wahabi tribal fundamentalist commits a crime, public flagging dismemberment and execution will set the tone for generations to come.

    Universal and human law for regular citizens and sharia for jihadi wahabi tribal fundamentalists.

    If you don’t want to be politically correct dragon has already found a solution for this gigantic problem facing humankind and civilization.

  22. Muslims should not expect good treatment in non-muslim majority countries because muslims treat non-muslims shabbily in muslim majority countries.

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