Islamophobia in France: Islamism has always been a source of contention for the French elite. With a 5.3 million Muslim population, France is home to most Muslim people in Europe, yet the country stays in the news for its islamophobic laws & hatred against Muslims.
Islamophobia in France on the Rise
Prejudice against Muslims in France has increased explicitly since the country held presidential and legislative elections. Muslim populous are banned from wearing burqas and headscarves in public places, stating it violates the secular republic’s principles.
The contention of Islam and the French government holds conservative views on religion and diversity in the past. The ideology of the French government and citizens of France have shown xenophobia and hatred toward Muslims.
The discrimination laws, such as the 2004 law that banned the burka and niqab in all public places, including schools, are fueling Islamist separatism in France. At the same time, the government asserts that this legislation aims to support France’s secular system.
Consequently, the variance between Islam and France is significant for the world. Why? Because it showcases the problem that arises due to globalization.
Muslims living in France are immigrants from various Islamic-leaning nations, including Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. All Muslim countries, regardless of their affiliation, are affected by laws like the one outlawing burqas and the Muslim headscarf.
Along with that, this issue raises an essential question on free speech and blasphemy.
The Root Causes that Escalate Dispute
Freedom of speech and blasphemy in France is legal. Blasphemy translates to making fun of, abusing, or defaming any religion. It also includes abusing the gods of any religion or any other sacred thing related to religion.
In 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron drafted the law stating Islamist separatism, an ideology that describes Islam as the “Enemy of the Republic.” The largest Muslim population in Europe with 5.3 million members, critics claim that France’s so-called “separatism law” is discriminatory and highlights the rising Islamophobia in France.
However, the law drafted by the president talks about the freedom of speech, blasphemy, and freedom of expression, which was under threat due to terrorism in France.
Since 2015, more than 129 people were killed in France, mostly the attackers recruited by or inspired by ISIS or Al-Qaida. The Charlie Hebdo attack, in which 12 satirical magazine employees were killed. It released a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, whose portrayal is firmly against Islamic law.
The Bataclan attack killed 90 people in the Bataclan theater; a truck driving through crowds; a Christmas market shooting; and everything that happened in 2020. Charlie Hebdo republished the Prophet Muhammad caricature that killed two people outside the magazine’s old building.
That’s when President Emmanuel Macron announced that he was drafting the “separatism law” bill. In his most high-profile speech on Islam and secularism, he stated that Islam religion is in crisis today, not only in France but worldwide.
In October 2021, a French teacher exhibited the Prophet Muhammad caricature to his class as part of a lesson on free expression. He was the target of a social media campaign, found, and beheaded. And then, a week ahead later, several people were killed inside a church.
So President Macron went ahead and proposed his bill. He gave the problem a name — Islamist Separatism.
What was in Macron’s proposed law?
The law explains stricter penalties for people who threaten or attack public workers in the name of religion. More power to go after hate speech online, freedom of speech, blasphemy, and limits on significant foreign donations to religious institutions.
Additionally, the will includes more power to stop forced marriages, polygamy, and anyone issuing “virginity certificates” for women about marriage. There are even restrictions on religious private schools like Madressa and homeschooling.
Muslim Hatred in France
Three people were killed, and three others were hurt when a 69-year-old shooter opened fire. The assassination was at a Kurdish cultural center and hair salon in the heart of Paris on Friday, December 23, 2022.
Three Kurdish community members were shot and killed in Paris, which brought back memories of a previous tragedy. It happened over ten years ago. On January 9, 2013, three members of the Kurdish PKK movement—Sabine Cansiz, 54, co-founder of the organization; Fidan Dogan, 30, and Leyla Saylemez, 25, who oversaw the group’s youth program—were fatally shot inside an apartment in Paris’ 10th arrondissement.
Police reports described the shooter who killed three people in a Kurdish cultural center as “Caucasian,” of French nationality, and known for two prior attempted killings in 2016 and 2021.
His motivations are still unknown, but given who he was and who he was shooting at, there was an instant concern that the shooting might have been racially motivated.
The hard-left France Unbowed political party’s parliamentary leader, Mathilde Pinot, instantly blamed the extreme right and referred to it as a “racist attack.”
The members of the Kurdish center are scared; they feel unprotected and unsafe – Crying to nearby police, they stated it started again, and we are being killed. REcently the Kurdish protestors stormed French street protesting in the memories of the murdered community members.
Islamophobia in France: How do Muslims in France feel about all this?
Well, religious leaders are split. One Muslim association said, “separatism is a reality that must be faced.” At the same time, many people feel this bill reinforces a feeling that French Muslims are never French enough.
“Separatism is a reality that must be faced.”
Many French Muslims believe Macron’s separatism bill is more likely to adopt Islam in a French way, which is impossible for any Muslim community.
It is difficult enough for Muslims to escape France’s constitution, which includes blasphemy law and practice. In contrast, the prohibition on burqas and headscarves appears to be a tyranny.
In this situation, the government and French Muslim leaders must sit together and have open discussions to protect French nationals and maintain national harmony.