Perpetrators or suspects: French Muslims at an impasse

August 6, 2014

August 8, Less than a week apart, two public figures have characterized French Muslims as being “too discreet in their denunciation of extremists that claim to be a part of Islam.” On July 28, Figaro journalist Natacha Polony published her article “Letter to a young Muslim compatriot” in which she says that she’s “hurting for her France.” On August 2, Jean d’Ormesson, also a journalist for the Figaro, called on French Muslims to explicitly denounce the Muslim state in Iraq.

Nils Sinkiewicz states that, “On the one hand, the difference between the good and bad Muslims is considered evidence in itself. On the other, the good Muslims are urged to say loudly and clearly that they disapprove of the bad ones. This is hardly consistent, but ‘There are things that are better when said,’ according to Polony.”

French Muslims are required to be both patriotic members of society and to assimilate, “leaving them no choice between the role of the terrorist…or the groveling alien eager to prove his loyalty.”

In the wake of an attack on a church in Alexandria, UMP member Bernard Carayon declared that “the Muslim organizations of France [must] declare a moderate Islam, they must prove that they are not satisfied with press statements that are moving and courteous, that they advocate as a whole against the violence of their fundamentalist coreligionists.”

Sinkiewicz asks, “And what if the advocates for peaceful coexistence have fed misconceptions instead of stopping them? The media attention focuses more on the corruption of the real Islam that it is held to be a religion ‘of love, of peace, and of tolerance.’ From this perspective, terrorist acts are a godsend for the cunning wrongdoers who otherwise couldn’t ask Muslims to ‘prove’ their loyalty without being reminded of the principles of this secularism that is so dear to them.”

In a 2013 IPSOS survey, 74% of Frenchmen found Islam to be “intolerant and incompatible with the ‘values of the French society.’” Beyond the convenient opposition between the good Muslim and brutal Islamist it is “time to admit that far from closing the debate about Muslims in France, the idealization of Islam has instead trapped Muslims and non-Muslims in a never-ending polemic on the moral obligation to condemn everything that moves away from the brochure. One small step for peaceful coexistence–a giant leap for the dialogue of the deaf.”

Letter to Natacha Polony: the “Muslim youth” of her fantasies doesn’t exist

On July 28, 2014, journalist Natacha Polony wrote a letter in the Figaro addressed to a “young Muslim compatriot.” The letter was “vague and abstract, and feeds without doubt a traditional fantasy, that of a homogenous and reified Muslim community, stuck between ‘the balance of rights and responsibilities for the old country.””

The article’s writers-Nadia Hemmi-Moulai, Hanane Karimi, and Fatima Khemilat- argue that the figure that Natacha addresses does not exist. “To invent a person is not to have dialogue, to exchange or to interact, it’s to fantasize, to speculate and to make remarks to which the figure can neither respond to nor refute.” There are over five million people in France with Muslim origins, “that would be a lot of people to talk to!”

The writers contend that Polony’s article implies that the Muslim youth should be responsible, under the pretext of a communal Islam, for every atrocity committed by those “on the other side of the planet.” The remarks Polony makes on the Christians persecuted in Iraq, Tariq Ramadan or the Syrian “jihadists,” demonstrates a growing tendency to express “a negative solidarity and a collective responsibility of ‘Arab-Muslims.’”

The three authors point to the similarities between Polony’s description of an “Arab-Muslim” society that is “full of freedom, intelligence and sensuality” and Edward Said’s chronicles, of the East’s “romanticism.” The three authors argue that within this context, French Muslims will then be asked to choose between two beliefs that are presented as contradictory: that of a citizen in the public sphere and a religious believer in the private sphere.

Natacha Polony refers to the “young Muslim compatriot” in the less formal verbal address, “tu” rather than “vous.” “This skewed relaxation is reminiscent of the ‘little negro’ of paternalistic language” the article argues. The authors state that Polony speaks from a position of privilege: college professor and essayist, which promotes the problematic figure of the “Muslim youth.”

“The never-ending episode of the three students refusing to read the text of Genesis, the amalgamation and infantilization of the devotees of Islam…is who she claims to educate. How can she reproach adolescents for a lack of understanding of secularism when a large number of journalists and politicians use it as a tool of discrimination?” they ask.

The article concludes: “If ignorance was a threat to secularism, certain members of the journalistic body would unfortunately be the flag bearers.”

The Muslim vote

February 26, 2014

 

The polling firm OpinionWay conducted a poll for the French newspaper Le Figaro and surveyed 10,000 French voters.

According to its findings 93% of French Muslims voted for François Hollande while only 7% voted for the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy. An estimated 2 million Muslims participated in the 2012 election and approximately 1.7 million Muslims voted for Hollande rather than Sarkozy. Hollande defeated Sarkozy by 1.1 million votes, which suggests that Muslims provided critical votes that led to Hollande’s victory. However, it should be noted that voting abstention among the Muslim population is greater than within the average population.

The Muslim vote is believed to be a social vote rather than a religious vote and is very traditional concerning social matters such as family. During Hollande’s 2012 presidential campaign he offered amnesty to 400,000 undocumented immigrants from North African countries, many of who are Muslim. Hollande additionally vowed to extend municipal voting rights to residents without French citizenship by the year 2014. These promises prompted Muslims to support the Socialist party because it favors their integration.

Source: http://opinionlab.opinion-way.com/dokumenty/Sondage_jour_de_vote_T2_SOCIOLOGIE_DU_VOTE_2_1.pdf

 

IFOP (Département Opinion et Stratégies d’Enterprise) tracked the evolution of the Muslim vote using data from surveys collected during the 2002, 2007 and 2012 elections to accumulate a sample of 14, 200 voters.

In the first round of the 2012 elections 57% of Muslims voted for Hollande while 7% voted for Sarkozy. According to IFOP in the second round of voting 86% of the Muslim vote went to Hollande while 14% went to Sarkozy.

There is a similar pattern in the 2007 election, which shows that Muslims overwhelmingly supported Royal with 58%, Bayrou with 15% and the Far-left with 10% of the total possible votes.

The 2002 elections display the same trend with 49% voting for the Socialist Party and 19% for the Far-left.

Source: http://www.ifop.fr/media/pressdocument/482-1-document_file.pdf

 

A comprehensive survey entitled “Français comme les autres” published in 2008 polled French of North African and African descent.

Among those who identified as Muslim, 64% declared they voted for the Left in the 2005 election. However after posing the same question to those who identified as nonreligious the results were roughly identical, with 67% voting for the Left. The publication suggests that ethnic origin, the migration process and discrimination within France have created a cultural identity among the population which was the primary factor that influenced the vote.

Source: http://www.fasopo.org/reasopo/n7/societespolitiquescomparees7_livre.pdf

Hassen Chalghoumi interviewed by Le Figaro: ‘We have not built a French Islam’

February 16, 2014

 

Hassen Chalghoumi, the President of the Conference of Imans of France and President of the Muslim Association of Drancy was the guest speaker on the Talk Orange-Le Figaro show on February 11th.  The main themes were the nature of French Islam and French Muslims going to fight in Syria.

Chalghoumi began by saying he doesn’t like the word ‘Islamophobia’ when discussing discrimination in France, but prefers to say there is ‘racism’ and ‘anti-Muslim sentiment.’ When asked about the challenges facing the creation of a ‘French Islam’, Chalghoumi replied that Muslims have an ‘Islam in France’ and not yet an ‘Islam of France.’ Critical of associations like the CFCM (Conseil Francais de Culte Musulman), Chalghoumi claimed Muslims in France have yet to establish a representative body that is neutral, independent and not under foreign management and influence. As for the CFCM, Chalghoumi concluded they haven’t focused on doing anything effective for the youth and lack the tools for doing so.

Some of the immediate problems facing the community include a suitable training program for French Imams. It would be important to educate Imans nationally instead of letting it be done by Qatar. Other topics that haven’t been sufficiently dealt with include properly managing the halal meat system and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Referring to the government’s Integration Report released in December 2013, Chalghoumi declared he was for the push to teach Arabic in schools, since Arabic is not just a sacred language but an important business language. ‘France needs to open up to the world’ and teaching Arabic as a means to work abroad would be a good thing.

According to Chalghoumi, integration policy has been disappointing in France since there is no real mixture or diversity. Instead, separate ghettos are created and even elementary schools feel segregated with some schools having only African and Arab students.

If France did have a French Islam, then society wouldn’t have the problem of extremism. According to Chalghoumi’s estimate, there is a minimum of 700 French citizens fighting in Syria, including minors. Their profile is that they’re lost, desperate, ignorant of their religion and drawn into jihad via internet sites. Chalghoumi deplored the state of radicalization in the suburbs and said this has been a longstanding problem that he has already tried to address. When guiding families with a youth at risk, he tells them Syria is not an Islamic nor holy war, but an internal matter. Chalghoumi warns that these young fighters are today the enemies of Syria, and tomorrow the enemies of France.

 

Source (Video): http://video.lefigaro.fr/figaro/video/hassen-chalghoumi-on-n-a-pas-fait-un-islam-de-france/3215081510001/

 

Announcement of a Muslim Legal Defence League

Le Figaro

17.09.2013

Following the official launch of the “Muslim Legal Defence League” (“Ligue de défense judiciare des musulmans”) by the former lawyer Karim Achoulai this summer, their first action was announced to be a complaint to be made against the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo for their publication of caricatures depicting the Quran last week.

The objective of the group is to “legally defend individual victims of discrimination based on their associated or actual appearance linked to Islam and their religious belief”. The group aims to legally challenge Islamophobia and aid individuals who have suffered discrimination because of their belief.

French Ex-Muslim Council founded

Le Figaro

6.7.2013

A group of former Muslims who have rejected Islam have come together in Paris to found the Council of French Ex-Muslims. The group aims to claim the right to publicly announce their disbelief and atheism as well as the right to critique their religion of origin freely. The group has currently members from over 32 nationalities, including 28-year-old Palestinian blogger Waleed Al-Husseini who was jailed in the Westbank in 2010 for  blasphemy and later fled to France.

The group state on their Facebook page that ‘they are a group of atheists and unbelievers who have due to their conviction faced threats and restrictions in their personal lives while many of us have also been arrested for blasphemy’.  They say  to ‘want to represent the voices of ex-Muslims in France who denounce the lies that every Muslim is confronted with’.

Similar groups have been founded in Britain and Germany.

Racist graffiti sprayed on mosque

Le Figaro

15.05.2013

The Regional Council of the Muslim Faith of Alsace announced the discovery of racist inscriptions and a Christian cross on the wall of a mosque under construction. The racist graffiti, which reads ‘French for the French and ‘100% pork’, was discovered by a mosque member in Illzach, Alsace, and is suspected to have been painted upon over night. The Regional Council of Muslim Faith of Alsace has filed a complaint while its national body, the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CRCM), strongly condemned the act.

The act stands in correlation to a general rise of racism, Islamophobia in particular, in France which is reflected in an incline of racist graffiti painted on dozens of mosques since the beginning of the year.

Muslim groups concerned about parliamentary debate upon secularism

12.04.2013

Le Figaro

The representatives of eight large Muslim groups in France have expressed their concerns about the announcement of a new law against religious symbols, specifically the Muslim veil, during a meeting with France’s Secretary of Interior and Religion, Manuel Valls.

Muslim organisations are worried about the renewal of stigmatization of France’s Muslim communities in the wake of a potential legislative debate, which will as previously highlight Islam and Muslims in a negative, problematic way. According to them, statistics have proven that with each announcement upon Islam made in French politics, acts of Islamophobia are statistically proven to have increased in the country.

Feminist activists burn Salafi flag

Le Figaro

03.04.2013

Three feminists of the Ukrain-based Femen movement have burnt the Salafi flag in front of the Great Mosque of Paris. The women, of whom two were white and one of Tunisian origin, burnt the flag as an expression of solidarity with a Tunisian feminist who had previously decried human rights abuses against women in Arab-Muslim societies.