- Macron’s anti-muslim agenda panders to the growing far-right
You don’t expect a wise man to sow the seeds of violence and await peace in return. But Macron is not wise. In fact, he has given us enough proof to expect otherwise.
After hate-filled statements that provoked worldwide anger, the French President has now come up with a charter of “republican values” for its Muslim community. In reality, the charter is neither republican nor has much to do with values. If anything, it is only a political gimmick aimed at luring far-right voters.
A few years ago, Macron became President of France on the basis of moderate, centrist credentials. He defeated the far-right candidate Marine La Pen and gave hopes of rescuing the country from a populist onslaught. Not many had imagined that the so-called voice of reason would soon deteriorate into a voice of polemic. A person who was to bridge differences across the aisle is now driving a wedge among communities. His continuous hate-mongering and insults at Islam are fanning Islamophobia and driving social intolerance. Pandering to the far-right is a political imperative that the French President doesn’t want to miss out on.
In recent years, the far-right has become stronger and more popular in France. With less than two years remaining for the next Presidential election, Macron is counting on far-right support. His worldview is obscured by electoral considerations and therefore, his tirade against Islam must be assessed in this context.
One of the clauses of the Charter requires Muslims to accept Islam only as a religion and not as a political movement. Instead of issuing a piece of paper, it would have been far more sensible to work with the Muslims to address their genuine grievances and to win over their hearts. Sadly, the French government has opted to discriminate against its largest minority community and treat their religion with disrespect.
What France really needs is a charter of universal values stipulating respect for every religion. The road to social tolerance cannot be paved with derogatory policies and derisory statements against Islam. In fact, such irresponsible behavior only adds fuel to the fire.
This aggravates the discontent among Muslims which in turn feeds into the extremist narrative. That Muslims are unsafe in France and their religion is ridiculed is reason enough for terrorist organizations to exploit and recruit more followers. Yet, Macron doesn’t seem to care. Because right now he has politics to care about. Societal peace can wait till after the next election.
But that might be too late.
Muslims in France are embroiled in a crisis. They are confronted with fewer jobs, little economic prospects, and many problems. France’s more than 5.7 million Muslims comprising 8.8% of the population are not treated well. And this is wrong.
Yet, instead of righting its wrongs, France is making more mistakes to top previous mistakes. It had earlier placed a ban on the Hijab and Burkini. It also barred some schools from providing pork-free meals and forbade outright expression of religious sentiments. Ironically, wearing the Hijab is considered an outright religious expression but wearing the Holy Cross is not.
Macron has also called for reforming Islam. Such provocative statements from the Head of a state only aggravate the problem instead of solving it. “Instead of addressing the alienation of French Muslims……the government aims to influence the practice of a 1,400-year-old faith, one with almost 2 billion peaceful followers around the world, including tens of millions in the West.”, James McAuley (2020) wrote for The Washington Post.
What France really needs is a charter of universal values stipulating respect for every religion. The road to social tolerance cannot be paved with derogatory policies and derisory statements against Islam. In fact, such irresponsible behavior only adds fuel to the fire. In the end, Macron may go on to win the next election, but France will be a loser in terms of achieving social peace and harmony.
In such a scenario, Europe would also be faced with what is presently going on in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Men, women, and children will be harassed, mauled, and murdered for belonging to a different community, for practicing a different religion, and for thinking differently. The edifice of European civilization built on democratic values will begin to crumble under the weight of a populist resurgence.
Scapegoating one community or group for problems afflicting the country is not an advisable approach. It is, in fact, counter-productive. Branding Islam as an extremist religion only serves the agenda of extremist groups. Moreover, religion is not to be blamed for crimes perpetrated by a few. Otherwise, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, or any other religion shall be equally culpable. Instead, the appropriate approach is to show tolerance towards every faith and not hurt the religious sentiments of people adhering to a particular faith.
Therefore, the French government must change course. It must try to win over hearts instead of provoking sentiments. But for this to happen, Present Macron needs to exhibit visionary leadership and a willingness to prefer public interests over personal political ambitions.
Let’s be wise enough and sow the seeds of peace. We can then yearn for peace in return.
The writer is a student of Development Studies from NUST. She can be reached at [email protected]