A young, American-born man of Latino and Arab heritage decided to throw his hat in the political ring after working as a community activist and in the Obama administration.
Ammar Campa-Najjar, 28, announced his candidacy Thursday in the hopes of unseating a long-term Republican representative in California’s District 50 in 2018.
Campa-Najjar, whose mother is Mexican American and whose father is Palestinian American, says he spent a lot of time speaking to Hispanic voters in his district to get them to the polls. Arab Americans have faced stereotyping and discrimination after the 9/11 attacks. But Campa-Najjar believes he can use his experience in Gaza and California to bridge divides and listen to voters’ anxieties about terrorism.
When asked if she would vote for the centrist Emmanuel Macron over the far-right Marine Le Pen in a possible runoff for the French presidency, Nadia Henni-Moulai could only muster an unenthusiastic “I’ll see”.
“Macron might convince me by then … but I won’t vote for him by default,” she said before vexing at the “anti-Islam continuum from the far-right to the far-left”.
Henni-Moulai, a French Muslim of Algerian origin, was one of several Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to who expressed reservations about backing Macron.
Their positions varied from cautious support to promises to avoid voting in the election altogether.
The upcoming contest could have serious consequences for the country’s Muslims, with polls putting the Front National’s Le Pen in front in the first round of voting.
Restrictions on halal meat, religious clothing, and “burkinis” have formed part of the far-right leader’s strategy to fight for the “soul of France”.
Macron, her centrist rival, trails behind her in the first round, but polls show he has a healthy lead should the pair face off in the deciding second round.
At 39, the former minister for economy has pulled in energetic crowds for his campaign rallies, drawn by his promise of “democratic revolution” in the face of a global turn to far-right populism of the kind represented by Le Pen.
On Islam, Macron has been cordial, insisting “no religion is a problem in France today”and even drawing ire from the right by condemning French “crimes and acts of barbarism” during its colonial rule in Algeria.
Henni-Moulai, the founder of the website Melting Book, which aims to amplify minority voices in the media, cast doubt on whether Macron could deliver on his energetic campaign, given his “establishment” background.
“He presents himself as against the system, but like the others he graduated from the ENA,” she said, using the acronym for the National School of Administration, where France’s top civil servants are trained.
“He worked as an investment banker afterwards …. Despite his claims, he is a part of the system,” she added.
The temptations of indulging in anti-Muslim rhetoric were too strong and Macron would eventually succumb, Henni-Moulai claimed.
“Muslim bashing is inescapable, especially if you want to reach the Elysée palace.
“I’m quite skeptical about his ability to get elected with his current arguments … as the French adage goes: Campaign from the right, govern from the centre.”
Not everyone Al Jazeera spoke to carried their skepticism of Macron as strongly as Henni-Moulai, but a thread of doubt surrounding whether he would follow through on his promises featured in most of the conversations.
Yousef Barbouch, a sales professional from the southern city of Toulouse, praised Macron’s stance on Islam but pointed out that past successful candidates had reneged on their earlier goodwill.
“There is a certain optimism you feel when you see his position on Islam within society and on hijabis, for example,” Barbouch said.
“[Macron] has this British and American mindset where he doesn’t care what you believe as long as you bring a value to the country, and that’s really refreshing to hear in today’s context of fear [surrounding Islam].”
However, Barbouch recalled the example of former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who he said had started his tenure with similar statements before turning his back on them later.
“I won’t forget that in 2009, Sarkozy had similar opinions; he defended hijabis, for example, but seven years later he’s fiercely opposed to the headscarf.”
Karim Brequin, a Parisian business consultant, also noted receptiveness among Muslims for Macron’s amiable comments on Islam but said his association with controversial establishment figures could count against him.
“Many are looking towards Macron as he seems to be more culturally aware than the other candidates,” Brequin told Al Jazeera.
“The fact that he is young and represents some kind of new momentum is relevant to many … however, his relationship with Dominique Strauss-Kahn raises questions,” he said, referring to the former finance minister once touted as a future president until he became embroiled in a rape scandal.
Rim-Sarah Alouane, a researcher in Public Law at the University Toulouse Capitole, said Macron deserved praise for not using fear of Islam as an electoral device.
“Credit has to be given to Macron for being one of the very few candidates who do not abuse laïcité [French secularism] and Muslims to power their campaign,” she said, adding: “His American-style empowerment discourse makes it possible to restore sorely needed hope to French Muslims who have been targeted both by the right and the left during the presidential campaign debates.”
That praise, however, was tempered by the fear that Macron’s promises seemed “to good to be true …
“This new hope of the French political landscape [Macron] has a very elusive programme that does not address the roots of the economic and social issues faced by the most disenfranchised populations in this country.
“Going to visit the banlieues [suburbs] or declaring loudly that multiculturalism is great is laudable, and of course very much needed, but unless he moves beyond words, people will not be fooled.”
Such economic concerns were also a factor for Yasser Louati, a leading French activist against Islamophobia.
Although statistics based on religion are hard to come by in France owing to state prohibition on their collection, immigrants, many of whom are Muslim, have almost double the unemployment rate of French-born residents.
“Macron will bring no positive changes to the working class and minorities whatsoever,” Louati said.
“His positions are known to be highly in favour of neoliberalism, with a complete disregard for its catastrophic social consequences, such as unequal concentration of power and wealth, repression, or environmental crisis.”
Louati conceded that Macron had made “brave declarations” on the role of the state in discriminating against minority youths and had avoided exploiting anti-Islamic rhetoric, but said his key platform policies remain unknown.
“Nobody knows what his programme is about … Macron has never expressed how to effectively tackle the root causes of racism or whether he intends to repeal Islamophobic laws.”
Taking a harder line than any of the other French Muslims Al Jazeera spoke to, Louati said he would avoid voting in the upcoming elections.
“I would not vote for Emmanuel Macron nor any other candidate because that would be giving more credit to a morally bankrupt and institutionally failed political system.”
The race to become the next president of France is becoming a referendum on what it means to be French.
As voters prepare to head to the polls Sunday for the Républicains’ primary—which could ultimately determine the next president—the rhetoric at rallies and debates has increasingly focused on whether France’s secular values are compatible with its Muslim population—one of Europe’s biggest.
The election of Donald Trump has emboldened far-right presidential contender Marine Le Pen, who is campaigning against France’s socialists and conservatives on an anti-immigrant, antitrade platform similar to the U.S. president-elect’s. That message has helped keep her near the top of the polls after two years of blistering terror attacks carried out by foreign and French citizens, as well as a huge wave of migrants from the Middle East.
The cascade of events has left France’s political establishment at a crossroads: Reject Ms. Le Pen ’s rhetoric or co-opt it. The divide is especially striking within the conservative Républicains. Polls show the winner would be the strongest contender—and likely win—against Ms. Le Pen in the spring election. Socialist President François Hollande ’s unpopularity, meanwhile, would make him unlikely get past the first round of voting if he runs again. The outgoing president would also face his former Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, who declared Wednesday he will run for president on a pledge to break apart France’s political system.
Bordeaux Mayor Alain Juppé, the front-runner in the race to win the conservatives’ nomination, embodies one path with talk of a “happy identity” for the French, grounded in respect for religious and ethnic diversity. He has responded to Mr. Trump’s victory by pledging to lead a broad coalition against the National Front.
The other route—espoused by his chief party rival, former President Nicolas Sarkozy —creates a litmus test for those French Muslims and other minorities he says are trampling the nation’s identity and security.
“I don’t believe in a happy identity when I see young people—born, raised and educated in France—who are less integrated than their grandparents, who were not French,” Mr. Sarkozy said over the weekend.
Even before Mr. Trump’s victory, Mr. Sarkozy’s rhetoric had taken a turn for the hard-right in an attempt to draw support from Ms. Le Pen’s base.
The former French leader has proposed that France detain thousands of people who are on intelligence watch lists but have never been charged. He has also decried a “latent form of civil war” that he blames on French nationals who descended from immigrants but failed to assimilate. To fix this, Mr. Sarkozy proposes re-centering public-school curricula on French history, geography and law.
“From the moment you become French, your ancestors are the Gauls,” Mr. Sarkozy told a rally in September, referring to the Celtic tribes that, in the Iron Age, inhabited territory that now is modern France.
Identity has long been a topic of tense debate in France, but it bubbled over after the terror attacks a year ago, when Mr. Hollande proposed stripping dual-nationals of their French citizenship if they were convicted of terrorism. The proposed constitutional amendment, which failed to become law, drove a further wedge in Mr. Hollande’s Socialist Party, which was already split on his handling of the economy. He is polling so low that many of his allies question whether he will seek re-election.
Mr. Hollande’s proposal represented a major shift in French politics, because it was borrowed from Ms. Le Pen, whose policies have long been anathema to the French left. The political lines were further blurred this summer when Mr. Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, supported attempts from right-wing mayors to ban head-to-foot “burkini” swimsuits from beaches.
“Whether on the right, the far-right or the left, there is a more and more authoritarian vision—an idea that norms and values should be imposed,” said Patrick Simon, senior researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies.
Polls predict Ms. Le Pen would easily get through the first round of the 2017 general election. But with the backing of about a third of French voters, Ms. Le Pen appears to lack enough support to win the second round. Given the Socialist Party’s struggles to field a viable candidate, whoever becomes the Republicans’ nominee is likely to face Ms. Le Pen in a runoff and win.
For now, Mr. Juppé has the advantage over Mr. Sarkozy. Polls show François Fillon, a former Prime Minister campaigning on a pro-business platform, has closed in on Mr. Sarkozy in recent days, while the four other primary candidates trail further behind. A poll of 714 people likely to vote in the primaries—taken by KANTAR Sofres OnePoint last week—said Mr. Juppé would win 59% of the vote in a head-to-head runoff with Mr. Sarkozy.
In a bid to make up ground, Mr. Sarkozy has tacked further to the right, seizing on Mr. Juppé’s calls for tolerance.
“We are diverse, we don’t have the same religion, the same skin color, or the same origins. This diversity must be respected,” Mr. Juppé said in the first televised debate in October.
Mr. Sarkozy retorted with a call for assimilation, a term rooted in France’s colonial system of training local elites to absorb French language and culture, and later used to describe how European immigrants melded into French society between the two world wars.
If elected, Mr. Sarkozy has pledged to require anyone seeking French citizenship to sign an “assimilation pact” committing them to adopt French values and culture. He has also proposed cutting welfare benefits to women who ignore bans on face-covering veils. Simple head scarves, Mr. Sarkozy says, should also be banned on university campuses.
Mr. Sarkozy says he plans to hold public referendums to override constitutional rights that allow immigrants to bring family members to France and prevent authorities from detaining people on intelligence watch lists before getting a court order.
Mr. Juppé’s “happy identity” is rooted in the idea of integration, which replaced assimilation as a model for immigrants from former colonies settling in France. Under integration, France is open to diversity as long as immigrants adopt the country’s core values of equality, liberty and fraternity.
Mr. Juppé says France should stop legislating on the issue of religious clothing. Mr. Sarkozy’s plan to suspend the right for legal migrants to bring their families to France, Mr. Juppe says, is “not a humane attitude.”
Asra Q. Nomani is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.
A lot is being said now about the “silent secret Trump supporters.”
This is my confession — and explanation: I — a 51-year-old, a Muslim, an immigrant woman “of color” — am one of those silent voters for Donald Trump. And I’m not a “bigot,” “racist,” “chauvinist” or “white supremacist,” as Trump voters are being called, nor part of some “whitelash.”
In the winter of 2008, as a lifelong liberal and proud daughter of West Virginia, a state born on the correct side of history on slavery, I moved to historically conservative Virginia only because the state had helped elect Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States.
Tuesday evening, just minutes before the polls closed at Forestville Elementary School in mostly Democratic Fairfax County, I slipped between the cardboard partitions in the polling booth, a pen balanced carefully between my fingers, to mark my ballot for president, coloring in the circle beside the names of Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence.
Omar Mateen – who shot dead 50 people in an Orlando gay club – was both an
Islamist terrorist and a violent homophobe.
These things are not mutually exclusive. They are concomitant. Mateen attacked
the West in general but targeted gay people in particular. Inevitably some people
say Islam is incompatible with Western life because it is incompatible with our
attitudes towards sexuality.
Are they right? Well, it’s complicated. And on a matter as sensitive as this, there
is nothing wrong with admitting that it’s complicated.
Liberals, say the Right, must find themselves in a terrible quandary. As
supporters of both gay liberation and multiculturalism, how do they process the
fact that many Muslims believe homosexuality is a crime?
Conservatives insist that their confident defence of Western history and
philosophy is more gay-friendly than liberal multiculturalism.
Liberals listening to Trump and Spahn might choke on their tofu. When, they
would counter, did Western conservatives suddenly become fans of sexual
freedom? Haven’t they spent decades fighting gay rights?
Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, was one of the first Republicans to say that
Orlando was an attack on gay people – and good for him. But Left-wing critics
argued that his outspoken opposition to gay marriage was part of the cultural
environment in which Mateen’s bigotry grew.
Islam wasn’t the only religious authority that Mateen would have encountered in
Florida telling him that gay people are going to Hell. He could have tuned in to
any evangelical radio show to hear that.
When we ask Muslims to interrogate attitudes towards sexuality in their
community, we do so assuming that our own culture is 100 per cent gay friendly.
It is not.
Polls suggest that around a third of Americans still believe that homosexuality
should be discouraged. Homosexual acts have only been legal in the West since
the 1960s. Gay marriage has only been on the agenda for a decade and is still
bitterly resented by social conservatives.
The conservatives are right: Islam does have a problem with homosexuality. Yet
so do many conservatives. And it would be an inversion of Western values to
insist that any individual suddenly rethink their religious beliefs if they want to
be accepted into society.
But Muslims, I’m sure, would welcome a social contract requiring everyone to
obey the law and respect the distinction between church and state. And, most of
all, live and let live.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/islam-does- have-a- problem-
with-homosexuality- but-so- do-western- c/
David Cameron has launched a number of measures aimed at improving integration among Muslims – in particular, Muslim women – in the UK. Polls show that around 70% of people don’t think Muslims are well integrated into British society and concern that Muslim people living in Britain do not feel British has long been part of broader discussions around extremism.
So, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at how British Muslims actually feel about their place in society and to explore the link between segregation and extremism in greater depth. Along with Professor James Nazroo, I conducted research into these issues using nationally representative data, collected in 2008/09 from almost 5,000 people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds, as a part of the Home Office Citizenship Survey. We found that these ideas about British Muslims are not backed up by evidence.
In this survey, respondents from a range of religious and ethnic backgrounds were asked about whether they felt they belong in Britain. The questions capture three different senses of belonging. Participants were asked about the extent to which they agreed with the following statement: “I personally feel a part of Britain.
It’s clear that almost everyone in the religious and ethnic groups examined feels a sense of personal belonging to Britain. And those who didn’t were as likely to be Christian as Muslim.
Most recently, Cameron’s campaign has been criticised as taking a “lazy and misguided” approach to Muslim women. Conservative peer Baroness Warsi commented that linking English proficiency with the continuation of spousal visas was “a very unusual way of empowering and emboldening women”.
This research suggests that concerns about Muslim loyalty to Britain are misplaced. It also suggests that, as a society, we should think more carefully about how we engage with our fellow Britons. A proportion of the ethnic and religious minority population in Britain does run the risk of experiencing a sense of alienation, but this is unlikely to be addressed by improving language skills. Instead, it requires a more concerted effort to reduce the processes which isolate these members of our society. Questioning the loyalty of already loyal citizens runs a direct risk of making the “Muslim problem” much worse than it actually is.
Following the attacks in Paris that killed seventeen people in three days, Le Monde published an article responding to the “distrust that has spread in public opinion for several weeks.” Using information gathered during an Ipsos study, Le Monde found that the French tended to overestimate the number of Muslims they believed to be living in France, believing the percentage to be 23% when it’s actually 8%.
While France forbids collecting data about religious affiliation, there are differing estimations about the number of Muslims in France. Certain polls say there are around 3 million, not including minors and the elderly. France’s Minister of the Interior recently stated that there are between 4 and 5 million Muslims living in France. In comparison, there are believed to be 11.5 million Catholics. He also stated that there are around 4,500 converts to Islam each year.
According to Minister of the Interior Bernard Cazeneuve and the Observatory Against Islamophobia, anti-Muslim acts have multiplied, with over 50 occurring since the January 7 Charlie Hebdo attacks.
February 4, 2014
A Ukip MEP believes that British Muslims should sign a special code of conduct and warns that it was a big mistake for Europe to allow “an explosion of mosques across their land”. Gerard Batten, who represents London and is member of the party’s executive, told the Guardian on Tuesday that he stood by a “charter of Muslim understanding“, which he commissioned in 2006.
The document asks Muslims to sign a declaration rejecting violence and says parts of the Qur’an that promote “violent physical Jihad” should be regarded as “inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic”.
Asked on Tuesday about the charter, Batten told the Guardian he had written it with a friend, who is an Islamic scholar, and could not see why “any reasonable, normal person” would object to signing it.
Batten also repeated his view that some Muslim texts need updating, claiming some say “kill Jews wherever you find them and various things like that. If that represents the thinking of modern people, there’s something wrong, in which case maybe they need to revise their thinking. If they say they can’t revise their thinking on those issues, then who’s got the problem – us or them?”
Asked why Muslims have been singled out, rather than followers of other faiths, Batten said: “Christians aren’t blowing people up at the moment, are they? Are there any bombs going off round the world claimed by Christian organisations? I don’t think so.”
With Ukip hoping to top the polls in May’s European elections, Batten is top of the party’s MEP candidate list for London, having passed a round of psychometric testing to make sure his views were acceptable. However, Batten – Ukip’s spokesman on immigration and a former candidate for London mayor – appears to have held some controversial positions on Islam for some time. His “proposed charter of Muslim understanding” was written in 2006 by Sam Solomon, a former Muslim who converted to Christianity, with a foreword by the MEP himself.
In a press release from the time, published on Ukip’s website, Batten calls on Muslims to sign a five-point affirmation, in which they would promise to accept equality, reject violence in the name of religion, and accept a need to “re-examine and address the meaning and application of certain Islamic texts and doctrines”.
November 11, 2013
The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), in partnership with the Virginia American Muslim Civic Coalition (VAMCC), today released the results of an exit poll survey indicating that Muslim voters in that state turned out to vote and that the majority of Virginia Muslim voters picked Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe in Tuesday’s state election.
The poll, conducted Thursday by an independent interactive voice response survey provider on behalf of CAIR and VAMCC, indicated that 78 percent of registered Virginia Muslim voters turned out to the polls in the off-year election.
CAIR and VAMCC’s poll of more than 300 Virginia Muslim voters found with a 5.5 percent margin of error that:
• 78 percent of registered Muslim voters said they went to the polls on November 5.
• 68 percent of respondents that voted in the Virginia state election cast their ballots to elect Democrat candidate Terry McAuliffe to Virginia State Governor.
• Of those respondents, only 12 percent said they voted for Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli and 4 percent for Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis.
• 17 percent of respondents declined to say who they voted for Virginia State Governor.
National and state Muslim organizations estimate that Virginia has some 60,000 registered Muslim voters. McAuliffe’s win over Cuccinelli was a narrow victory with 54,870 votes between the two candidates.
“Virginia Muslim voters’ large turnout in an off-year state election and their support for McAuliffe certainly had a part to play in the newly elected governor’s victory,” said CAIR Government Affairs Manager Robert McCaw.
Get-Out-the-Vote Drive at Muslim Association of Virginia, November 3, 2013 : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TncmRZajqJM