French politicians have responded to the gruesome crime against teacher Samuel Paty with increasingly problematic language.
Rabat – In the week following the horrific attack on a Parisian history teacher, French politics has shown little restraint in targeting the country’s Muslim minority. A growing trend of mainstream Islamophobia has used the despicable crime as a means to spread hate. Despite near universal condemnation of the attack from the Muslim community, politics prevails.
An article titled “Macron’s not worried about Islam, he’s worried about Le Pen” by Foreign Policy magazine on October 8 explored the political motivations behind Macron’s increasingly problematic language on Islam, with a particular focus on his statement saying, “Islam is in crisis worldwide.”
In France’s political scene many centrist politicians are worried that Marine Le Pen’s openly Islamopohic National Rally (RN) could become the country’s largest party. Recent polling showed that Le Pen is gaining in popularity, with roughly one in four French voters saying they would vote for her. Ahead of the 2022 presidential elections, centrist parties are on notice.
In the last presidential elections, many voted for Macron as an alternative to Le Pen. Many deemed her party, with its history of anti-semitism and current Islamophobia, as too extreme. Yet as Le Pen gained in the polls in recent months, centrists have done little to discredit her ideology. Instead they have attempted to outdo her in sensational rhetoric.
That trend kicked into high gear following the shocking decapitation in Paris last week.
As expected the far-right of French politics pounced on the brutal attack to further their political ambitions by amplifying Islamophobia.
Party members of the National Rally used the refugee status of the Chechen assailant as a means to attack all refugees. Parliamentarian for Pas-de-Calais Bruno Bilde claimed the immigration judges that had approved his immigration status had “some responsibility for the drama of the beheading of our compatriot Samuel Paty.”
The RN’s Frederic Boccaletti of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur Regional Council called France’s centrist Republican party “complacent and submissive.” The centrist party had made several problematic statements about “the Islamists” but the far-right still accused them of “permanent duplicity.”
Marine Le Pen herself has aimed to paint the situation in France as being on a wartime footing. Le Pen called for “wartime legislation” against what she described as an “organized and installed force” as she aims to replace Macron in the 2022 elections. Far-right parties are using the ideology of a “great replacement” to target minorities and win votes.
Observers expect such remarks from French far-right politics that have peddled anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and racism as a means to gain votes for decades. However, this trend becomes increasingly dangerous when centrist politicians join in to compete for the Islamophobic vote.
Macron’s interior minister, Gerald Darmanin, who visited Morocco on the day of the appalling murder, has since called a group providing legal assistance to victims of Islamophobic attacks “enemies of the Republic.”
The centrist Republican party, which the RN has painted as complacent and submissive, called to “build strong safeguards against the advance of political Islam.” The center-right party called to ban the hijab, calling it “the weapon of submission for Islamists.” The party called for a national referendum to enshrine current fears into law, saying, “we must put a sudden stop to this immigration which threatens us culturally.”
Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer, of Macron’s La Republique En Marche party, linked Islam with French left-wing politics that decry Islamophobia. Today he denounced “Islamo-leftism,” joining some other politicians and media presenting even those speaking out against Islamophobia as “wreaking havoc.”
Blanquer called anti-racist and anti-Islamophic stances by the left “intellectual complicity” in the death of Samuel Paty. The troubling witch-hunt against Muslims and those who reject xenophobia and hate are a troubling indicator of the vortex of the far-right thinking infecting French politics on all slides.
France’s far right, and now some centrists, are demonizing the country’s Muslim minority and its secular supporters on the left as a threat to French society and secularism itself. Amid a wave of hatred on social media, French politicians are happily fanning the flames in order to garner votes.
Having someone from the center of French politics call the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) a “controversial activist group” for fighting against hate is further fostering a dangerous “us versus them” mentality.
Macron is now presenting himself as a warrior against specifically Islamic extremism. On Wednesday he told reporters his government had shut down “hundreds” of Islamic organizations, with more to come. The government is pushing to deport hundreds of asylum claimants, including nine Moroccans, for alleged “extremist beliefs.”
As the political center and the far-right try to outcompete each other on vile rhetoric towards France’s Muslim community, racism and xenophobia become more mainstream. The problematic developments threaten the safety of four million French Muslims, evidenced by the stabbing attack on two Muslim women near the Eiffel Tower on October 19.
French suspicion and hatred of the “other” are reaching levels not seen since before the second world war. While the religion of the targeted minority is different in 2020 than it was in the 1940s, the implications of this resurgence in hatred could become an eerie foreshadowing of events to come.