Marseille: Why Muslim Democrats threw in the towel

With the party president’s and leader’s approval, the Muslim Democrats have decided not to participate in the upcoming local elections. The only four candidates left were Bruno Perez, Houria Medjbar, Mustafa Nechadi, and Fadila Taghouti.

Candidates will not participate because they believe the “conditions for a fair democratic process are not being met, not only at the institutional level but also at the base.” Not wanting to face “the consequences” of the situation, they instead chose not to put their candidates’ name on the voting ballots. To justify their decision, they also denounced a “hostile climate for French citizens of the Muslim religion,” as well as “demagogic and electoral political manipulations.”

Bruno Perez, one of the party’s members, explained that the 6,000 Euros necessary for a campaign had been collected. UDMF contributions and gifts had allowed them to collect the money. According to Perez, Najib Azergui, the party’s founder, believed that the movement could have garnered 8-9% of the vote in Marseille.

The decision not to participate in the elections was taken with fear of stigmatization. Those close to the candidates believed that the movement didn’t come at a good time. “In the current climate, it was a risky mission,” said Perez, noting that in Marseille, where a number of voters claim Algerian roots, people want to avoid “clashes” because they are “weary” from years of violence in Algeria.

Perez, who converted to Islam in 2008, says that he is “open to all religion.” “I do not adhere to any Islamist extremism or any other.” The idea to participate in the local elections was accidental, and he decided to get involved to fight “stigmatization.”

“It’s true that the title of UDMF is a bit provocative, but who advocates for communitarianism in France?” asked Perez, who added that the party is “non-confessional,” and that Salafis “are not welcome.” “One cannot be a Republican and want sharia,” he said. “Read the second sura! It does not say that one must attack the whole world like savages.”

Bruno Perez supports the UDMF’s goals, except for its aim to incorporate Turkey into the European Union. He is “completely opposed” to the idea because he believes that Turkey “is not Europe.” However, he responded to critics of Islamic finance: “It’s not communitarian finance but a method of finance that prohibits interest.” Religious signs at school? “There are still Christians who are veiled in certain churches and that doesn’t shock anyone.” Business in the halal market? “This could contribute to economic development because the market is booming.” Teaching Islamic public schools? “The first victims of stigmatization are Muslims. Financing Islamic schools is not a tragedy. It’s up to the State to exercise control.”

Perez is not sure if the party will run in December’s regional elections. “We are waiting for Sunday’s results,” he said, convinced of “the National Front’s very strong push” and the role of Manuel Valls and Nicolas Sarkozy in the party’s progression. “There will be a wave but maybe not what we imagined. Once again, the real winner will be abstention.”

When asked if the UDMF is immune to possible manipulation, Perez assured that “The UDMF is not a danger. If one day, I realize that someone has tried to manipulate me, it will not take me long to go public”