In November 2020, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron established a new initiative titled “Islamist separatism,” which aims to monitor Muslim communities in France under the guise of preventing terrorism. The aftermath of French educator Samuel Paty’s murder by a Muslim refugee after showcasing illustrations of the Prophet Muhammed to his free speech class on October 16, 2020, has put Muslims both in France and on a global scale, under scrutiny for a terrorist act that does not align with their religious beliefs. In the Middle East Eye, Marwan Muhammad reports, “The French government is applying arbitrary measures and is infringing on fundamental freedoms, when Minister of Interior Gerald Darmanin admits that he uses state resources for political motives, conducting raids on mosques, Muslim homes and Islamic organisations that have nothing to do with terrorism, just to ‘send a message.’” The relationship between the French government and its Muslim citizens is a further reflection of Islamophobic rhetoric which plagues French society and the world.
For over a century, France has embraced the concept of laïcité, a policy that promotes a secularist socio-economic structure. However, the author writes that this ideal has developed into a form of neo-laïcité, which is used to discriminate against minorities, particularly Muslims, from practicing their religious and cultural traditions, including growing beards, fasting during the month of Ramadan, and wearing a hijab in public. Muhammad highlights a study conducted by the Observatory for the Defence of Rights, which reports how “[y]oung Arab and Black men are 20 times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police, three times more likely to be insulted verbally, and 2.5 times more likely to be physically attacked.” A recent case also finds that “Muslims face physical assault twice as often as their fellow citizens, like the two women who were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower recently, in a case where the prosecutor eventually identified anti-Muslim bias as part of the investigation.” These acts of violence are a continuation of the racist and Islamophobic rhetoric which the French government normalizes through its treatment of its Muslim citizens.
While some mass media outlets have examined the initiative of “Islamist separatism” under Macron’s administration, the majority disregard the nuanced nature of Islamophobia in France. A recent article by the BBC presents how the French government plans to regulate Muslim traditions and organizations, but it does not showcase how such controls are inherently discriminatory and may facilitate a more hostile environment for French Muslims. In doing so, it implies the damaging notion that the Islamic conflicts with western societal beliefs.
Source: Marwan Muhammad, “France is Weaponising Its ‘Republican Values’ as a Means of Exclusion,” Middle East Eye, https://www.middleeasteye.net/opinion/how-france-weaponising-its-ideals-and-values-means-exclusion.
Student Researcher: Farida Mohamed (Diablo Valley College)
Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)