France needs to be held accountable for its blatant Islamophobia

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Fibonacci Blue | Wikimedia Common

Farah Javed, Copy Chief

In recent weeks, the French government has taken a stance against its Muslim population.

The French government chose to support the circulation of caricatures of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon Him) following the beheading of a teacher, Samuel Patty, for teaching students using these cartoons.

Some say the French government is justified and is representing freedom of speech, and Muslim protests are not considered justified. That line of thought is completely wrong.

First, France’s hatred towards Muslims didn’t just spring up overnight, it has been festering for years. For example, take the fact that France banned Muslim women from wearing burkinis on the beach. These modest garments allow women to cover their bodies, as per Islamic teachings.

Scientists have repeatedly stated these outfits pose no danger to the women wearing them or to people in the ocean that are with them. Still, non-Muslims freak out over these outfits. Heeding their complaints, the French government chose to punish Muslim women by banning burkinis, when the women have done nothing wrong but peacefully follow their religion.

People who do not believe that France expresses Islamophobic sentiments are simply choosing not to see what is so blatantly obvious. France has banned hijabs or any form of headscarves since 2004.

Many seem to forget that while France was so quick to mandate wearing face masks during the coronavirus pandemic, the burqa has been banned since 2010. A burqa is a full-body covering that goes over the mouth, which would provide better protection than a mask would, since it further limits physical contact.

“If you are Muslim and you hide your face for religious reasons, you are liable to a fine and a citizenship course where you will be taught what it is to be ‘a good citizen,’” Fatima Khemilat, a fellow at the Political Science Institute of Aix-en-Provence, said. “But if you are a non-Muslim citizen in the pandemic, you are encouraged and forced as a ‘good citizen’ to adopt ‘barrier gestures’ to protect the national community.”

There is a double standard that is in action.

A non-Muslim who refuses to wear a mask is highly encouraged to reconsider their decision. A Muslim that wears a burqa, is rebuked and is labeled to be an improper citizen. The implication here is that in France, being Muslim and French are two mutually exclusive things.

This is further justified by the 2010 parliamentary report detailing the debate over the burqa ban. “The concealment of the face in public space has the effect of breaking social ties,” the report said. “It manifests the refusal of ‘living together.’”

For being fully dressed and just having their mouth covered, Muslim women are seen as miscreants, purposely trying to disrupt orders. It seems like France has forgotten that Islam translates to peace and a Muslim abides by that peace.

Instead, France is so opposed to the idea of someone not conforming to the adjustment of western clothing and the behavior that they choose to police those different from themselves. France decides to meet peace with violence. Now into 2020, the search for the truth still remains.

Now, French President Emmanuel Macron refuses to condemn the depiction of the Prophet (peace be upon Him) through French cartoons. Any Muslim knows that no image of Him or any other prophet should ever be created.

“The Prophet himself was aware that if people saw his face portrayed by people, they would soon start worshiping him,” Akbar Ahmed, chair of the Islamic Studies department at American University, said. “So, He Himself spoke against such images, saying ‘I’m just a man.’”

For this reason, there are no depictions of the Prophet (peace be upon Him). There are no statues, no artworks, nothing. If nothing even with the intent to praise exists, then Macron, a non-Muslim, should not believe he is in the right to produce materials spawned out of malicious intent.

When Patty was beheaded, his killer, Abdoullakh Azorov, was immediately arrested. From the western, even secular vantage point that Macron champions, the arrest should have been the end of the story. Instead, Macron took this one occurrence and used it as an excuse to launch an anti-Muslim crackdown across France.

“What we must fight is Islam with separatism. It’s a conscious, theoretical, socio-political project. It is repeatedly at odds with the values of the republic and often leads to the creation of a counter society,” Macron said in a press conference. “Islam is problematic.”

According to a 2017 report by the Pew Research Center, France has the largest Muslim population in Europe. The center reports that the population has been increasing since then and will continue to do so.

The republic Macron speaks of is not part of the French republic he is supposed to care for as president. The republic that he refers to is one that shares his anti-religious beliefs.

How can president Macron stand before his country and say that Islam, the identity, the very core of many of his French citizens, is problematic? He is the face of the French government, yet he spews prejudiced, opinionated statements against Islam.

France needs to be held accountable for its actions. Macron must apologize for his actions and stop production of the caricatures, which he allowed to continue under the pretense of the First Amendment rights. That itself is wrong.

If he were to read the French Constitution, he would see that there are limits on freedom of speech, such as hate speech.

The French Constitution defines hate speech as words, “Inciting discrimination, hatred or violence against a person or group of persons because of their origins or because they belong or do not belong to a certain ethnicity, nation, race or religion.”

If Macron researched Islam, he would know that the religion is not “problematic.” Like any belief system, a few individuals can act as extremists, but that doesn’t mean every follower is.

Just because one grape on a vine is sour, doesn’t mean they all are. His comments and actions are laced with hatred that is being targeted toward Muslims, this violates the First Amendment right, he seems so concerned on saving.

There is so much evidence that indicates Macron is using his power to perpetuate Islamophobia. Even now, with public outcry, there are protestors and leaders who are condemning Macron, who keeps armed forces nearby at Mosques.

He continues to state that there is an Islamic threat in the country. He continuously fails to apologize. France must take responsibility for disrespecting its own people and the religion of Islam.

Macron needs to put an end to France’s long anti-Muslim history and, as the leader of a democratic nation, keep his opinions and hatred out of his judgement.