UOIF, Ignored by presidential candidates, hardens its position

In an unprecedented event, this year’s meeting of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France was ignored by the five primary French Presidential candidates. The meeting is strategically scheduled the week before elections. Attendance is seen as a liability for the candidates; the UOIF is seen by many non-Muslim French as responsible for discomforting protest and antagonism. The absence in particular of UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, is seen as the final assault in an unravelling relationship between him and French Muslims. Initially admired for his leadership in 2003 as Minister of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, French Muslims’ esteem for Sarkozy has declined since he abandoned the post and spoke in support of cartoon publication. A rare statement by UDF candidate Francois Bayrou, that it is “legitimate to give a place to a new family – Islam – when she arrives in the village,” deviated from the laicist left’s general antipathy or disinterest in religion. Muslims in France, the UOIF claims, are under incessant attack and in a state of anxiety. The UOIF’s consistent protests against the association of Islam with terrorism have been largely unproductive. The failure of politicians to respond to this situation will only lead to more protest and unrest. Layoffs and laws against the hijab in schools only worsen the situation for French Muslims, who have seen little progress in the movement to integrate Muslim immigrants into French society.