Benoît Hamon: ‘Stop framing Islam as a problem for the Republic’

Benoît Hamon, rising favorite within the Left, spoke against certain actions taken in the fight against communitarianism: “What I do not accept, is that behind this word, communitarianism, there is a willingness to say that Islam is incompatible with the Republic. It’s not true. It’s unacceptable that we continue to make the faith of millions of our fellow citizens a problem in French society,” he said following his victory in the first round.

Speaking about “a revolutionary and political Islam,” the former education minister nevertheless agreed that it was an “enemy of the Republic.” He said he would “fight for deradicalization among young people,” and would take measures to “prevent radicalization” before adding, “But stop framing Islam as a problem for the Republic.”

“It’s us or them” Sarkozy speaks out against Islamists

Speaking to thousands of cheering supporters in Nice on Tuesday night, the candidate lashed out at François Hollande’s Socialist government, and presented himself as the saviour of France before promising to “re-establish authority”.

He said: “On May 7, 2017, playtime will be over. France is in such a critical position right now because it has been led by a weak and arrogant leader whose government has lost all authority and has no control over its people.”

 Sarkozy likened himself to ‘populist’ Republican Donald Trump and said that he, as the “people’s president,” would put French interests above all else.

“Mr Trump wants to protect American interests, which is great news, because I want to protect French interests. Listening to people is the president’s duty. How many more Brexits and Trumps do we need before government officials realise that people are angry?”

The right-winger’s war on radical Islam and immigration also intensified ahead of this weekend’s election.

He said: “We live in France. Here, the state comes first, religion comes second. People should be discreet about their religious beliefs. We live in a country where women are equal to men and I will not tolerate medieval behaviour.”

The presidential hopeful added that political Islam was incompatible with French values: “France faces a very high threat from terrorism and I, as president, will wage an unrelenting war against provocative jihadists. Against inhumane extremists who promote mass violence. Against Islamic barbarians who hate us, hate what we love and what we stand for. It’s us or them.”

Sarkozy also promised to crackdown on illegal immigration by re-establishing border controls within the Schengen area, and said that France was no longer in the position to welcome migrants and could no longer help them integrate into French society.

“We need a powerful head of state, a commander-in-chief, a man of experience, and that man is Nicolas Sarkozy,” Eric Ciotti, a right-wing lawmaker for the department of Alpes-Maritimes, said.

One-in-four French Muslims follow ‘hardline’ Islam

A study showing that more than a quarter of French Muslims follow hardline Islam is causing discomfort for the political class, which is united in ignoring its conclusions.

Among the survey’s findings are that 28 percent of Muslims questioned follow an “authoritarian” interpretation of texts advocating a break with French society; or that more than 40 percent of young Muslims (aged 15-25) consider Islamic Sharia law more important than the secular law of France.

“They (young French Muslims) feel rejected,” Hakim El Karoui, who co-authored the report for the Institut Montaigne think tank said. “French society is sending them the message: you are not French. In a way they are getting revenge by hanging on to the identity they have.”

The embrace of hardline Islam was strongest among young Muslims who lacked jobs or strong qualifications, added El Karoui. Overall, a plurality of French Muslims — 46 percent — considered the practice of their religion totally compatible with local rules and customs.

The study should be causing waves. It’s the first major snapshot of how French Muslims view their own beliefs to be published in France, and it comes after a wave of Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks.

And yet, public reaction to the study is partial, and strained.

Robert Ménard, a far-right mayor known for his provocative positions, tweeted a link to the report, followed by the question: “Is a confrontation [with Islam] inevitable?”

Left-wing magazine Télérama took a sarcastic stance, calling the findings “unsurprising” and criticizing the study’s methodology.

“For the time being it’s total silence from the administration,” Fanny Anor, one of the study’s co-authors, said. “What we are trying to do is create data that allows us to analyze these questions based on solid evidence, so we can avoid debating purely on impressions.”

“But that’s a very uncomfortable position for the government,” she added.

While Prime Minister Manuel Valls has repeatedly voiced alarm over the spread of “political Islam” in France, the Montaigne study shows where it’s coming from: young Muslims who lack jobs and professional skills, and feel as though the French state has turned its back on them.

To rekindle faith in the French system, the study’s authors argue, France should bring the alienated population into the workforce by overriding hiring discrimination through the use of ethnic and religious statistics.

“They [politicians] feel trapped,” added Anor. “After the terrorist attacks, it’s an awkward camp to be in, arguing for measures to fight discrimination.”

 

French Muslim intellectuals critique current organization of Islam in France

“Following the killings of cartoonists, after the murders of young people listening to music, after the assassination of a police couple, after the murders of children, women, and men assisting at the celebration of the fete nationale, and today the murder of a priest conducting mass…There is horror, still more horror and a clear commitment to pit Frenchmen against one another. To destroy the national harmony which still stands. We Muslims were silent because we learned that in France religion is a private affair. We must now speak out because Islam has become a public affair and the current situation can no longer be tolerated.

As Muslims, of faith or culture, we are concerned by the powerlessness of the current Muslim organization of France, which has no control over events. Despite the efforts of those engaged, French Islam is badly managed by the representatives of countries where many French Muslims originate. This organization likely made sense when Muslims were immigrants. Today, the Muslims of France are 75% French. The majority is young, very young. Many among them are the prey not only of ideologues of radical Islam but also of political Islam. The traditional representatives no longer understand simply because they no longer know them.

So, it is necessary to change generations, with a clearly organized project: provide sustainable sources of financing and ensure transparent and open mosques, train and employ imams, engage in historical, anthropological, and theological endeavors which allow and will allow more people to be French and Muslim in the secular Republic. And finally, to lead the cultural battle against radical Islamism which concerns younger and younger youths, with the most modern means and techniques drawing on the most effective ideas and information. We must act as Muslims.

But also as Frenchmen. We must respond to French society’s questions, which ask us: ‘But who are you? What are you doing?’

Certainly this question is paradoxical: we have learned to make religion a private affair. Then why speak as Muslims? Because the risk of fracture becomes more pressing every day. So, before it is too late, before violence pits one against the other—this is Daech’s objective—we must act and assume responsibility. And we must move beyond the paradox: ‘Rid yourselves of difference; condemn because you are different.’ Through hard work and self-denial but also because the Republic has done its work, we have, as other citizens have as well, taken our place in French society. And today, this generation is ready to assume its responsibilities, notably the organization of French Islam.

A Foundation for French Islam was created more than ten years ago. It never functioned. It is time to reactivate it, to give it the ability to collect resources. The French of Muslim faith are ready to re-launch it, to give it life, to contribute to its financing. This foundation, at the national level as well as the regional level, could be the institution that will allow for the organization of French Islam. Beyond that, it is a pursuit of perspective, of social and cultural action, which we are ready to harness.

As Frenchmen, as well as Muslims. Because France needs it.”

The signatories: Kaci Ait Yala, chef d’entreprise ; Najoua El Atfani, cadre entreprise BTP, administratice club XXIe siècle ; Rahmene Azzouzi, chef du service urologie, CHU d’Angers ; Linda Belaidi, dirigeante EASI (European Agency for Strategic Intelligence) ; Tayeb Belmihoub, auteur, comédien ; Sadek Beloucif, chef du service anesthésie réanimation, hôpital Avicenne, ex-membre du Comité national d’éthique ; Amine Benyamina, professeur de psychiatrie et d’addictologie ; Nadia Bey, journaliste ; Abdennour Bidar, philosophe, inspecteur général de l’éducation nationale ; Antar Boudiaf ; Hamou Bouakkaz, conseiller d’arrondissement, ancien adjoint au maire de Paris ; Marc Chebsun, auteur, éditorialiste ; Abdelnor Chehlaoui, banquier d’affaires ; Fatiha Gas, directrice d’un établissement d’enseignement supérieur ; Mohamed Ghannem, chef du service cardiologie, Fondation Léopold-Bellan ; M’jid El Guerrab, ancien conseiller du président du Sénat ; Kamel Haddar, entrepreneur (éducation et média) ; Abderrahim Hafidi, universitaire, islamologue ; Sofiène Haj Taieb, DG Finances, fonds d’investissement ; Khalid Hamdani, chef d’entreprise, membre du Cese ; Majid Si Hocine, médecin ; Mehdi Houas, président Talan (conseil informatique), ancien ministre ; Elyès Jouini, professeur d’université, vice-président d’université, ancien ministre ; Hakim El Karoui, ancien conseiller du Premier ministre, chef d’entreprise ; Bariza Khiari, sénatrice de Paris ; Saadallah Khiari, cinéaste, auteur ; Shiraz Latiri, cadre, société d’assurance ; Kamel Maouche, avocat au barreau de Paris ; Kaouthar Mehrez, ingénieur ; Malika Menner, directeur des Relations externes d’un grand groupe télécom ; Louisa Mezreb, PDG Facem management ; Naima M’Faddel, adjointe au maire de Dreux, chargée de l’action sociale ; Pap’Amadou Ngom, PDG Des systèmes et des hommes ; Bouchra Rejani, directrice générale d’une société de production audiovisuelle ; Mahamadou Lamine Sagna, sociologue, chercheur à Paris-VII ; Nadir Saïfi, juriste ; Yasmine Seghirate, responsable de la communication pour une organisation internationale ; Mohsen Souissi, ingénieur ; François-Aïssa Touazi, fondateur CAPmena, ancien conseiller du ministère des Affaires étrangères ; Farid Yaker, président forum France Algérie ; Faiez Zannad, professeur de thérapeutique-­cardiologie, CHU Nancy, université de Lorraine.

Valls: France needs ‘new relationship with Islam’

Prime Minister Valls said France, which is home to around five million Muslims, needs to forge a new rapport with Islam.

“We need to reset and invent a new relationship with Islam in France,” Valls said.

The PM has long wanted to help nurture a more French version of Islam, without extremists elements and said in Friday he was in favor of a ban on foreign funding of mosques.

He also wants imams to be trained in France rather than abroad.

The PM has warned in the past that Salafists were “winning the ideological and cultural battle” in France, home of Europe’s biggest Muslim population.

And he has pledged to “massively” increase France’s security and defense budgets in the coming years, as the country grapples with a growing jihadist threat after two deadly attacks last year.

“The Salafists must represent one percent of the Muslims in our country today, but their message — their messages on social networks — is the only one we end up hearing,” he said.

France has long had an uneasy relationship with Islam, even before recent jihadist killings in Paris, Nice and Rouen. While the French public and politicians broadly supported the two laws opponents argued it would only work to stigmatize and alienate the country’s Muslim community even further.

It is not clear what the PM is thinking of when it comes to this “new relationship” but in the past he has expressed extending the ban on religious signs to universities.

“The veil does not represent a fashion fad, no, it’s not a colour one wears, no: it is enslavement of women,” he said, warning of the “ideological message that can spread behind religious symbols”.

“We have to make a distinction between wearing the veil as a scarf for older women, and it as a political gesture confronting French society.”

However members of his own government including the education minister and university bodies do not believe there is a need to extend the law.

French Sociologist and director of the Religious Observatory in France doubted Valls had any clear idea of what he meant by “new relationship” but that it was a mistake to suggest this was the source of terrorism.

“I doubt he has a clear idea in his head, but he needs to separate the issues,” said Liogier who has criticized Valls in the past for “showing a complete ignorance of all the multiple dynamics that play a role in Muslim communities today.”

“Let’s stop talking about Muslim “communitarianism” being the source of terrorism. A man with a beard or a woman wearing the veil are other issues, they are not the problem of terrorism.”

 

Hollande’s hesitation on Muslim integration

On Jan. 17, 2015, roughly 10 days after the attacks by homegrown Islamic terrorists against Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher market, François Hollande went to Tulle, a town in central France, to talk to the folks. He told them, “Life goes on. The sales are on now, so go and buy. Nothing has to change.”

The president chose the no-news-today approach because he saw no gain in addressing the question of Islam in France, an area where frankness and willingness to act have been virtual taboos for him and others for a decade.

Mr. Hollande did ask parliamentary leaders to look into “forms of engagement and the reinforcement of affiliation with the Republic.” That grotesque convolution was meant to mask an attempt at measuring where the country’s Muslims stood in terms of respect for the supremacy of French law, and the national ethos of liberty, equality and brotherhood.

“Nobody knew what to do,” Françoise Fressoz of Le Monde later wrote in describing the circumstances. “Habits and conformity take over. It’s a historic opportunity, but the country missed it.”

The same situation pertains now.

After the 130 murders committed in Paris last month by jihadists mostly with French backgrounds, Mr. Hollande was able to declare war on Islamic State, send an aircraft carrier to the Middle East to fight it, and order a three-month state of emergency in France, which accounted for 1,233 searches and 266 assignments to house arrest during its first 10 days—while ignoring polling over the past three months that shows a clear majority of voters want to send French ground troops to Syria.

Strikingly, the president has turned away from another kind of determination at home. He is showing no signs of listening to the large segments of French society—60% to 70% at intervals over the past five years—that see French Islam as unwilling to commit to the rule of law and French Muslims as responsible for their own failed integration.

The circumstances are more tortured now than ever. The intelligent notion of a potential trade-off between France and its largely Arab Muslim population of five-plus million died with November’s attacks.

The idea was that France could offer an affirmative-action program of jobs, educational advantages and antidiscrimination measures to the Muslim community in exchange for its acceptance of an official charter for Islamic assimilation. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy had once argued in that direction but abandoned the issue. Mr. Hollande has never touched it.

Challenged as a wrong-minded giveaway, recommending a trade-off would be poison in the coming elections for the democratic right and left, and pure delight for Marine Le Pen’s right-wing extremists of the National Front.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls now says Islam must “stand up” and “cut out all excuses” for jihadism and terror, but the president hasn’t endorsed the statement. Mr. Hollande’s silence also met Mr. Valls’s remark, coming well before the recent terrorist attacks, that France faced “a war of civilization.”

With a considerable slice of Muslim voters having backed him in the past, the president may be trying to avoid accusations of Islamophobia. His approach certainly isn’t one that deals with what Alain Minc, a French intellectual of stature, writes is an “Islam that resembles a subterranean territory within French society.”

How can Mr. Hollande and France deal with the problem at the lowest level of possible confrontation or conflict?

Mr. Minc and others (notably a high-level French civil servant writing under the pen-name of Camille Desmoulins about French Islam’s lack of responsible governance) have talked of the state consulting representative Muslims about granting Islam the unique status of a consistory or religious council. That would give Islam a binding, official role equal to that of French Roman Catholics, Protestants and Jews, while requiring its allegiance to the primacy of French law. For Islam in everyday French life, that signifies the Civil Code superseding the Koran.

En route, in the manner of Napoleon in 1806 when he began a process extending official status to the Jews, the Muslims would likely be asked to affirm an obligation to defend France ahead of any other consideration. Importantly, Islam’s French representatives could be required to take responsibility for those misusing its name. The obstacles are more than vast, but Mr. Minc says “the results of a delicate truth-operation are predictable”: firm adherence among Muslims to the principles of the Republic.

Then there’s reality.

Accused throughout his years in office of coming up short on authority, a newly hang-out-more-flags Mr. Hollande, aiming at re-election in 2017, has recast himself as a war president battling Islamic State in the Middle East.

And as a president of deconfliction at home? On that front, Mr. Hollande has given no indication about when, or how hard, he is willing to fight.

An analysis piece on Islamic Feminism in France by Adriane Choukour Wali titled ‘France and Islamic feminism: intersectionality in the Republic’

February 18, 2014

 

Preview: ‘The fact is that Islamic feminists in western countries, and especially in France, struggle with identity affiliations and fight against multiple forms of oppression that bind them to post-colonial and anti-racist movements.’

Source: http://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/adriane-choukour-wali/france-and-islamic-feminism-intersectionality-in-republic