Semantics of Islamophobia in France

20.09.2013

In two separate newspaper articles on Libération and Le Monde, the papers discussed the polemics surrounding the word Islamophobia and the reluctance of certain politicians and organisations in using the term to describe anti-Muslim violence in France. The debate surrounding the roots of the term appears to be crucial to the question of who is comfortable in using the word and who refrains from doing so. For many politicians, including some leading politician in the current government, who reject to use the term, Islamophobia is a concept that misleads by being in allegiance with forces that attempt to undermine democracy and secularism.  Many consider the term to be of coinage by the Iranian government, who are accused of using the word in order to forward its radical agenda.

Marwan Mohammed and Abdellali Hajjat, two sociologists who have written a book on the genealogy of Islamophobia in France, have however revealed a completely different story of the term. According to them, French anthropologists used the term Islamophobia in 1910 to describe a way to administer French colonies in East Africa and reappeared in in the 1980s where in the UK where its politically coinage later took place.

Global Search for Winnipeg, Canada Muslim Students

The Globe and Mail – October 1, 2010
Three young Canadian Muslim men have gone missing. Searches are underway. The first, Ferid Imam was an honours student from East Africa, an aspiring pharmacist and, according to his high-school soccer coach, “a dream player.” The second, Muhannad al-Farekh hopped from Texas to the United Arab Emirates to Jordan to the Prairies. And the third, Miawand Yar, an ethnic Afghani born in Pakistan, was a schoolyard bully who was arrested for selling crack on his 20th birthday.
In early 2007, instead of finishing their degrees at the University of Manitoba, the three friends boarded a plane bound for Pakistan via Europe. Their mysterious departure has sparked one of Canada’s most expensive and elaborate national security investigations since 9/11. Their flight has prompted CSIS agents to fan out around Winnipeg and the RCMP counterterrorism unit to pull in officers from across the country. Sources said they were next spotted in Peshawar – the gateway to the lawless tribal area bordering Afghanistan that is suspected of sheltering senior members of al-Qaeda. None of them has been charged with a terrorism-related offence, but national security officials say the case may be an example of how unpredictable the radicalization process can be – it can take root in any part of the country, and latch on to a variety of personalities.
In Winnipeg, the fallout has not been confined to family members. Six University of Manitoba students, complaining of stress, turned to a Muslim leader for counselling after they received repeated visits from CSIS agents. Shahina Siddiqui, the executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association, said she tried to calm them and inform them of their rights while also reminding them that the authorities need to investigate.