Politics of Islamophobia in France, which chose racism and discrimination instead of tolerance and multiculturalism

According to a study published by the Washington-based Pew Research Center at the end of November 2017 on the demographic situation of Muslim people in European countries, in the middle of 2016, 8.8 percent of the French population (5.7 million people) consisted of Muslims. According to the statistics of the German Statista company, 8 percent of the French population is Muslim. Among European cities, the city of Paris and the Ile-de-France region are on the first place in terms of the number of Muslim population. It is believed that 2.8 million Muslims live here. France, with its population of 67.5 million, ranks first among the countries of the European Union in terms of the number of Muslims. This number is predicted to more than double by 2050.

The French state, declaring its tradition of secularism, does not conduct survey about the religious affiliation of the country's citizens starting from 1872 in the population census campaigns. According to the "Separation of Church and State" law adopted on December 9, 1905, the policy of secularism was officially declared as the policy of the state in the country. According to the law adopted in 1978, the collection of information about the race, ethnicity and religion of individuals living in the country is unequivocally prohibited. Such a model of equality and secularism as the official state policy of France is considered to be the main obstacle for the integration of ethnic, religious and other minorities living in the country into the country's society in modern times and solving their problems. This makes minorities and their problems an "invisible" factor in the eyes of French society, preventing them from applying effective mechanisms to prevent and take countermeasures against systematic and persistent discrimination. Such a prohibition has a number of negative effects in a practical sense. For example, statistics on ethnic and religious discrimination are not collected and analyzed. Based on this law, state institutions and judicial bodies adopt decisions and regulations prohibiting any form of religious and ethnic affiliation, artificially guided by the idea of "absolute equality" of citizens and "absolute neutrality" of the state. Despite the lack of official statistics on hate crimes, cases of discrimination against the country's Muslim population, black French and other ethnic and religious groups have intensified in recent years, especially against the background of the influx of migrants to Europe. In particular, prohibitions against Muslims are increasing, religious schools are being closed, associations are being canceled, mosques are not allowed to be built, imams are being expelled from mosques, the hijab ban is being expanded, the beliefs held by Muslims as sacred are being insulted in the name of freedom of expression, and so on.

For the first time in the history of the country, in January 2020, French Minister of the Interior, Christophe Castaner, spoke about the statistics of hate crimes. He admitted that in 2019, anti-Semitic acts in France increased by 27 percent compared to 2018, while acts targeting Muslims increased by 54 percent, while acts against Christians remained stable, but at the highest level. He also said that racist and xenophobic acts, which are mainly threatening, more than doubled from 496 to 1,142 during 2018-2019.

AZERTAC presents to the readers some aspects of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism that have reached extreme levels in France, which presents itself to the world as "tolerant" and "democratic".

Islamophobia manipulated by the political elite or hatred against Muslims

Islamophobia, which is one of the obvious examples of xenophobia, is widespread in modern French society. Harassment and insulting of Muslims has become a trend in this country. Moreover, these actions are not spontaneous, but pre-planned and based on certain political support.

This fact shows that not only political values are being eroded in France, but at the same time, ideological, moral and religious discrimination is increasing, and the thesis of the clash of civilizations is being promoted. Thus, despite the fact that Muslims make up about 10 percent of the country's population, the anti-Islam sentiment is quite high among the political elite and well-known public figures, as well as the majority of the population.

The Law on Strengthening Respect for the Principles of the Republic, adopted in the country on August 21, 2021, encourages the increase of mistrust and abuse against the Muslim population and targets ordinary Muslims. Within the framework of the implementation of this Law, 101 structures for monitoring Islam and Muslims were created in the government apparatus, 24 thousand 887 Muslim organizations and enterprises were secretly blacklisted and are being checked.

The activities of 718 organizations and enterprises owned by Muslims, including 4 schools, 37 mosques, 210 enterprises, and 2 organizations were suspended. According to the information available at the end of 2021, a total of 46 million euros were confiscated. On the other hand, young Muslims are leaving the country en masse in France. The main reason for this is the discrimination against Muslims in French society, their violations of rights and the inculcation of the feeling of not belonging to the country. In the French media, debates about Islam and Muslims are regularly conducted without the participation of Muslims, where racist expressions that increase hatred are often tolerated. During the various elections held in the country (presidential, National Assembly, Senate, etc.), the topic becomes relevant within the election campaigns, and some right-wing and extreme right-wing forces take an openly anti-Islamic and sometimes nationalist position.

Although French criminal law prohibits incitement to hatred and hate speech, in practice there is no appropriate legal system for identifying and prosecuting such crimes. When taking anti-discrimination measures, the concept of "immigrants" is used in relation to citizens in France.  

In French reality, "Muslims" often refer to people who are descendants of people who migrated from the Maghreb, Africa and the Middle East, which leads to the country not distinguishing between the concepts of "immigrant" and "Muslim", and as a result, they are characterized as outsiders and strangers to French society. The root of the problem of Islamophobia in France should not be found in the principle of secularism guided by the state, but in the historical colonial policy of the country and the racist thinking of the current government. The Islamophobia currently observed in French society does not stem from any fear or historical mistrust, but from the manipulation of anti-Muslim hatred and colonial racism by the political elite.

Relying on the slogans of "equality", "fraternity", "secularism" artificially instilled in the modern French society, ignoring the problems of racial and religious minorities in the country, discrimination, segregation and isolation against them in domestic policy, and the excuse of "protection of Eastern Christians" in foreign policy targeting the countries with Muslim majority are actually the manifestations of historical colonialism and neocolonialism policy.

The scale of the crimes committed by the French colonialists against Muslim countries and Muslims, which lasted for centuries and extended into the history of the modern era, is enormous. France occupied the territory of more than 50 countries in different regions of the world - America, Africa, Asia, Oceania, looted their wealth, enslaved their people for many years, killed and enslaved millions of people, committed crimes against humanity and humanity, as well as by carrying out nuclear tests, it seriously damaged the health of the Muslim population of Algeria and committed war crimes. France controlled the fate of local Muslims and exploited local economies within the empire for the development of the French economy.

In contemporary French political and public discourse, supremacist and racist tendencies towards the Muslim and black population are on the rise. For example, in April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread widely around the world, the head of the "Inserm" health research group, Dr. Camille Locht and the head of the intensive care unit of the "Cochin" hospital in Paris, Jean-Paul Mira suggested testing vaccines against the coronavirus in Africa.

Speaking on secularism and Islam in October 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron made statements such as "Islam is currently experiencing a crisis all over the world" and "Islam must be freed from foreign influence in France". In 2021, France passed an "Islamic separatism law" initiated by the ruling party, which many have characterized as racist and anti-Islam. On November 3, 2022, during a speech by Carlos Martens Bilongo, an African-born member of the National Assembly, on the situation of migrants arriving in the country, one of the right-wing MPs called on him to "Let him go to Africa." These events aroused disgust not only in France, but throughout the world and were widely criticized.

On March 15, 2019, 51 people were killed and 40 injured as a result of an armed attack on two mosques by Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant in Christchurch, New Zealand. While investigating the identity of the terrorist, it was revealed that he was inspired by French far-right and ultra-nationalist writer Renaud Camus's chauvinist ideas and the book "Le Grand Remplacement" (Le Grand Remplacement), even a 72-page manifesto he published online before the incident. also gave the same title as Camus's book. It was determined that the formation of the terrorist's identity was influenced by the "New Right" political trend, which arose in France in the 1960s and supported the ideology of white extremist, Islamophobic, fascist "identitarianism", which has become widespread in recent years.

The country's political elite is vehemently rejecting the ever-increasing demands of France to recognize and officially apologize for its violent colonial policy and racist imperialist past, carried out against dozens of countries and millions of people under the slogan of "civilizing mission" (fr: Mission civilisatrice). The French elite sees topics such as white privilege, colonialism, Islamophobia and racism as threats to its "white nationalist" identity. Those who raise these problems are branded as "out of control leftists", "Islamist leftists", the problem is considered to have been solved by the "liberty, equality and fraternity" policy, and the policy of erasing the bitter consequences of France's "civilization mission" from the collective memory of French society is being carried out.

A phenomenon of French society – ANTISEMITISM

Another type of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, is a phenomenon specific to French society. Anti-Semitism has shown itself from time to time in this country. For example, hundreds of thousands of Jews have left France in recent years. In addition, mosques are being closed one by one, attacks and murders are committed against people. The most extreme of this is applied against the local people on the island of Corsica today. For some reason, France, which thrives on democracy and human rights, does not want to see this anti-Semitism related to national minorities in its own country. According to the official statistics provided by the government, 589 of the 1,659 anti-religious acts that occurred in the country in 2021 were directed against Jews. The problem of anti-Semitism is regularly discussed in the French public. Recently, the activation of extreme right-wing and negativist forces in the country also determines this.

In 2021, at a joint press conference held by the Israeli Minister of Migration, the Jewish Agency of Israel and the non-governmental organization "Nefesh B'Nefesh", it was announced that 3,500 French people immigrated to Israel that year. This figure shows an increase of (2,200) compared to 2019 and 2020. It should be noted that in previous periods (2013-2017) against the background of terrorist incidents in France, this indicator was higher and reached 7,500 people in some years.

Local police grossly violates the right to free assembly

France's power structures, which always talk about democracy and human rights, specifically, the behavior of the local police with the citizens, allowing acts of violence is another issue widely discussed by the country's public. In this regard, the results of surveys conducted by various agencies (OpinionWay) in France, mainly among young people, on the evaluation of the police activity, suggest that the trust in the police among this social group has been undermined, as well as the confidence in ensuring the full protection of the right to free assembly.

Since France's last UDI report, many peaceful demonstrations in the country have been marked by police violence, some of which have turned into scandalous court cases. In general, public opinion shows that even when such violations are committed by police officers in France, those officers are protected by their authorities. In this context, the Law of May 25, 2021 "On Global Security Protecting Freedoms" has been criticized by a number of domestic and international human rights non-governmental organizations, as well as human rights defenders, by increasing the powers of police and gendarmerie institutions.

Thus, this law legalizes the use of new technologies, including drones, by law enforcement agencies, and at the same time, criminal liability (5 years in prison or a fine of 75,000 euros) for the distribution of footage of law enforcement agencies that have been filmed "in bad faith" ) implies that.

Moreover, the "National Law Enforcement Scheme" document adopted by the French Ministry of Internal Affairs in September 2020 has also caused wide discussions. In 2018 and 2019, this document, adopted as a reaction to criticism of police violence during past demonstrations in France, changed the type of grenades used by law enforcement officers (however, again, according to human rights defenders, the use of a tool that can have serious consequences is envisaged), as well as also regulates the conduct of individual identity checks (including the application to children). All this is reflected in the reports of various non-governmental organizations.

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