French experts respond to Al Jazeera Net’s questions: Is Islamophobia the easiest way to the Elysee?

Even those who do not support the theory of “Islamophobia” in France believe that the likely candidate for the French presidency, Eric Zemmour, and in all his media interviews, is engaged in issues of immigration and Islam, and considers that there is a problem of integration facing Muslims in French society.

Paris- Although the phenomenon of “Islamophobia” is not new in Europe, it has exacerbated and intensified in recent years, especially after President Emmanuel Macron declared that the values ​​of the French Republic and secularism are in danger due to the threat of Islam, and that “Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world.”

Observers believe that since Macron’s famous speech in October 2020, manifestations of hostility and discrimination against Muslims have escalated in France in particular, and the crisis has intensified after the murder of teacher Samuel Baty by a Chechen refugee in October 2020 after displaying caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad – Peace be upon him – in front of his students, and this was followed by the French authorities closing a large number of mosques, charities and Islamic educational institutions.

The French General Assembly and Senate also ratified in mid-February the law “Promoting the Principles of the Republic”, which was first introduced by the government of President Emmanuel Macron in the name of “fighting separatist Islam”.

Last October, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin announced his ministry’s intention to close 7 mosques and associations by the end of this year, claiming that they spread “hate” and defend “radical Islam,” as he put it.

Observers and political analysts explain these restrictions by seeking to win over voters from the extreme right with the start of the race to the Elysee and the approaching date of the French presidential elections scheduled for April 2022.

The accumulated crises in France and its political components with Islam and the prevalence of the “Islamophobia” phenomenon raise several questions, especially with its escalation during the electoral campaigns.

Protests against a French law restricting the movement of veiled Muslim women in public places (Getty Images)
  • Has the fight against Islam become an electoral reservoir for politicians and candidates for the French presidential elections?

Human rights activist and legal advisor to the international organization EFDI, Lizal Trounzler, tells Al Jazeera Net that by using the element of fear among citizens, “political parties are manipulating part of the French people and trying to win as many votes as possible.”

As for political analyst Stefan Zomsteig, he says, “I do not think that Islamophobia has become an electoral reservoir for the French political class, but only for the likely candidate Eric Zemmour, who is the only one who is involved in a lot of issues of immigration and Islam, and considers that there is a problem of integration of Muslims into French society.”

Therefore, Zomsteig believes that it is an exaggeration to say that all French parties and candidates for the presidential elections are exploiting the issue of Islam to gain new electoral votes.

  • Is it true that the closure of educational institutions and Islamic associations falls within the framework of President Macron’s early election campaign to win the votes of the extreme right?

Human rights activist Trunzler asserts that the closure campaigns and restrictions on Islamic associations are aimed at obtaining electoral votes, “and Macron’s party does not hide that.”

And she continues, “In addition, the Minister of the Interior Darmanan presented many proposals of laws against Muslims and against many places of worship and Islamic associations that do not include extremists and do not adopt an extremist discourse directed against the republic.”

But in the opinion of the specialist in European political affairs, Somsteig, all educational associations and institutions must respect the principles of secularism and the values ​​on which the French Republic was founded, or else they will be subject to surveillance and closure.

Zomsteeg believes that the monitoring or closing of the French authorities applies to all Christian and Jewish associations and all other religions, and that the restrictions are not limited to Islamic institutions, “the state performs its work within the framework of the law.”

A Muslim woman wears a headscarf near the Eiffel Tower in the capital, Paris (Reuters)
  • How to classify the debate on the issues of veiling, virginity, polygamy, and forced marriage?

The human rights activist Trunzler stresses that these discussions come within the framework of “Islamophobia”, as many provisions in French law frame polygamy and forced marriage, as is the case in the Penal Code.

“We are not inventing anything new, but we are only trying to occupy the media space by talking about Islam and immigration in order to intimidate the French and win votes in the upcoming presidential elections,” she added.

For his part, Somsteig says that candidate Eric Zemmour succeeded in imposing these issues on the media by talking about them in every media meeting, “but it is an exaggeration to say that all candidates talk about these issues, and the French public opinion does not consider these issues as a priority, but rather cares about With the deterioration of purchasing power, security and health, and not with what is related to Islam and Muslims.”

  • What are the deep causes of France’s crisis with Islam? Why is hostility to Muslims concentrated more than other European countries?

European affairs specialist Stefan Zomsteig believes that this idea is “misguided and exaggerated”, because France does not have a special enmity with Islam and Muslims, but rather it is “a strict application by the French authorities of the principle of secularism, and the need to respect the principles on which the Republic was founded on all religions without discrimination, Unlike many European countries that tolerate this matter.”

And he continues, “there is a French strictness more than other European countries on the principle of neutralizing religion from public life and leaving it as a personal affair.”

For her part, human rights advocate Lisa Trounzler attributes this hostility to the fact that many Muslims in France are of North African origin, and “this is one of the reasons why France opposes the free practice of Islam.”

“This is just a continuum of colonialism, and this is what makes it more concentrated in France than in the rest of Europe,” she explains.

  • Does the “Promoting the Principles of the Republic” law threaten the future of public liberties and the freedom to practice religious rites for Muslims? Does it threaten their presence in France?

Trunzler says that this law threatens freedom of worship and religion, and “we all remember the imams charter, where the state wanted to interfere in the practice of religion by choosing representatives of the Muslim community, and in fact it was not Muslims who chose their representatives, and the republic often tries to legitimize violations of the law.” international law by invoking the reality of combating extremism.

On the contrary, political analyst Somsteig believes that this law does not threaten freedom of belief and freedom of religion in France, neither for Muslims nor for other religions, because the principle of freedom of belief and religiosity – according to his opinion – is a fundamental and fundamental principle stipulated in the French Constitution.

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