March 20, 2014
The organization Anâ-Muslim (“I am Muslim”) is calling for a boycott of France’s local elections via its website, social network and brochures.
Anâ-Muslim is a nonprofit organization recognized by the French state. Its members share their vision of Islam on the organization’s website, on its Facebook and Twitter pages, and on YouTube. A few days ago, Anâ-Muslim called on Muslims to boycott French municipal elections, which will take place on March 23 and 30. They explain this decision by using various religious arguments and by saying that for a Muslim person, “voting is an act of submission … while abstaining is an act of resistance.”
On its website, the organization explains that this campaign is aimed at Muslim people between 18 and 40 years old. They argue that refusing to participate in French politics is a way to “preserve their faith”: “Voting means recognizing the power of men on earth and giving them absolutely sovereignty to create their own laws that have nothing to do with Islam.” The organization’s goal, as described in their mission statement, is to “teach Islam to Muslims … because Muslims are the only ones who can control their destiny … and contribute to Islam’s resurgence so that humanity may be saved”.
“This is the first time that a Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons”
There have been similar calls for boycotts in the past, but these came from informal Islamist groups. This is the first time that a state-recognized Muslim organization calls for boycotting elections for religious reasons.
The Anâ-Muslim group and their website have existed for about three years. It became a state-recognized organization a little over a year ago. There are about 100 members and sympathizers who have signed up online. The organization is mainly targeted towards Muslim intellectuals and students.
The founders can be divided into two categories: some of them are close to jihadist movements but who believe Muslims living in France don’t have to wage jihad. Others are former jihadists who, today, believe that promoting their vision through legal means is the best solution. People from these two categories created Anâ-Muslim with the idea that they would work out in the open, and follow the law.
Anâ-Muslim is mostly active in the Paris region, but also in some other cities like Marseille and Lyon. Their main activities are preaching and distributing pamphlets in the street. They don’t want anyone to associate them with groups like Forsane-Alizza [an organization that the French authorities shut down in 2012 after members called for armed combat.]
To put it simply, the organization’s members are people who are close to the jihadist Salafist ideology, but without the war aspect. This involves, among other things, refusing the “Taghout”, meaning any leaders who do not respect the precepts of Islam.
Contacted by FRANCE 24, Dalil Boubaker, the rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, shared his thoughts on the organization:
“Anâ-Muslim is an epiphenomenon. It has no real weight. Most Muslims in France – the vast majority of whom are involved in public and political life – won’t pay any attention to their call for a boycott. We live in a democracy, and it’s obvious that not participating in elections would be counterproductive for the Muslim community. In fact, the call for a boycott goes against the precepts of Islam. When the Prophet Mohammad died, his companions gathered and voted for his successor Abu Bakr, the first caliph. The Great Mosque of Paris and the French Council of Muslim Faith encourages all Muslims in France to take part in the local elections, and all elections.”