France under Macron: All Citizens Can Criticize the Republic Except Muslims

March 4, 2021

When will France end its war against its own Muslim population that it had always viewed with suspicion?
French lawmakers began debating the controversial "anti-separatism" bill against what the interior minister described as the "disease" of Islamist extremism eating away at the country's unity. President Emmanuel Macron has pushed for the legislation. Photo by Ludovic Marin, AFP via Getty Images

Muslims are a problem for France today, as they were in the colonial period. In the words of General de Gaulle, “We are still primarily a European people of the white race, Greek and Latin culture, and the Christian religion. Don’t tell me stories! Muslims, have you gone to see them? Have you watched them with their turbans and jellabiyas? You can see that they are not French!” In 1959, when Algeria was still a French colony, de Gaulle used a metaphor to explain the difference between the French and Arabs when talking to MP Alain Peyrefitte: “No matter how much you mix vinegar and olive oil, after a while they separate.”

De Gaulle is, of course, much more than this and like de Gaulle, French President Emmanuel Macron too wants to leave his mark on history. As the party leader of Le Republique en Marche (LREM), Macron did not miss the historical remark, which was sometimes implied by some of his predecessors, that vinegar and olive oil don’t mix. On the contrary, he went further. De Gaulle expressed these views in a private conversation – Macron made his speech titled “Separatist Islamism” publicly in Les Mureaux.

Though recent polls show that Macron and opponent Marine Le Pen are neck and neck, it is highly possible that Macron will be re-elected in 2022 for a second term. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who has become a leading figure in the political battle, has attacked Le Pen arguing, “To proclaim in every election, ‘Either the nationalist parties or the National Front!’ is not nice.

This is Marine Le Pen stigmatizing the voter base, and I am opposed to this kind of popular disdain.” His desire is to draw the far-right electorate into his camp. If one side of the coin is historical, this is the other side. Why not unite under Macron’s “En Marche” after you separate the olive oil and the vinegar?

President Macron, in his speech titled “Separatist Islamists,” explained what makes the Muslims who are not accepted as French by both the right and some of the socialists, especially the far right, different – even though this does not cover the entire political spectrum of his country. Macron used a very inclusive language for the Muslims in his country. So much so that even a Muslim who lives a secular life and, for example, is only sensitive about halal food among the orders of the Islamic religion, could be counted among these “separatists.”

As president of one of the six founding states of the European Union and, as he claims, “the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the president of one of the G7 countries,” he was not going to let his words only be words.* Rather, he made a small change. His speech “The Fight against Separatist Islamism,” which he gave to announce a legal framework, was harshly criticized and even ridiculed not only by Muslims but also by the media across the Atlantic and the English Channel. He begins with the “Draft Law Strengthening Republican Principles” and the “Charter of Principles for French Islam” dictated by a group of imams in his pocket.

Aside from its funny, tragicomic, horrible, and unacceptable content, this draft is an unsolicited document for any religious community or ethnic group, and its very existence signifies the official announcement that Muslims are a separate entity under the French constitution and laws. France is not satisfied with this separatism. While this draft is introduced as the first official document of the invention of French Islam, it also clearly distinguishes Muslims from the Islamic ummah.

VIDEO: Is France at war with its Muslims?

Furthermore and although it may be considered by some a nuance compared to the aforementioned two issues, the principle of secularism which is perceived as a non-negotiable part of the constitution is also clearly violated since the freedom of religion and belief and the principles of Islam are directly interfered with.

As for the content of the draft, it portrays Muslims as a group of fanatics that live with hatred, resort to violence, threaten internal peace, attack those who abandon Islam and unbelievers, propagate Islam day and night, are racists who do not know how to speak or debate, anti-Semitic, hate others, misogynists, and attack homosexuals.

So much so, that they even discriminate against people according to their health status and disability. In fact, the Muslim community has committed or has the potential to commit all kinds of crimes against humanity. In Articles One, Three, Four, and Five of a total of ten articles, the ideas and actions that imams and, therefore, Muslims are asked to condemn and abstain from, are listed as exactly these criminal acts.

According to the draft, the right of Muslims as a separate entity to speak their minds and criticize current developments in France or world politics is also largely limited. The Article Six titled “Refusal of All Kinds of Intervention and the Instrumentalization of Islam for Political Purposes”  contains material that could give rise to lengthy considerations.

Of course, it is not clear what the ban on “political Islam” means in a country where even the thoughts and practices of Islam within the beliefs and practices of Islam are labeled as “political Islam.” However, the footnotes in the draft address the Salafi-Wahhabi movements and the Muslim Brotherhood.

It is no secret that the leaders political leaders in France, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are working to invent French Islam. Ghaleb Bencheikh el Hocine, president of the French Islamic Foundation, organized a meeting on the fight against radical Islam, sponsored by the Saudi-based Muslim World League, in Paris, where President Macron and former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe were said to attend.

The meeting was sponsored by the Muslim World League, which is headed by the former Justice Minister Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa of Saudi Arabia, the very fortress of Wahhabism. Al-Issa later denied the news that Macron would attend the meeting, and the meeting was held regardless.

News of the meeting was published in various magazines with the following titles: “The Joke of the Day: World Islamic League Will Condemn Fundamentalism in Paris” (Marianne); “World Peace Conference Sponsored by Saudis” (La Croix); “An International Meeting That Sparked Polemics in Paris” (Le Figaro); “World Muslim League Is ‘Manipulating’ Macron” (Valeur Actuelle).

The newspaper Opinion, on October 20, 2020, one year after the meeting, described how this alliance developed in an article titled “Saudi Arabia, Macron’s Unexpected Ally.” For example, Hakim al-Karoui, adviser to the French president, who is one of the most important actors in the efforts to invent French Islam, cooperates with the United Arab Emirates.

Judging by the course of politics in France, the ban on the Muslim Brotherhood is clear. It is forbidden to criticize the current Egyptian government that staged a military coup against the Muslim Brotherhood, which came to power through democratic elections for the first time in Egypt’s history. Although not demanded in the draft, Macron’s ideal is to bow to General Sisi (who overthrew Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi with a military coup) the way socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo did during an official visit of the general.

The draft points out that “mosques were not established to spread nationalist discourses that advocate foreign regimes that are hostile to France and French citizens and support their foreign policies.” Given that the draft appears to be stating the obvious in regard to a place of worship, there must be a different motive behind it; Regardless of the possible intentions behind this, it seems to have a current application and one that is not even related to foreign policy but surprisingly to the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic.

In France, imam Farid Slim was sent to court on February 2 because he stated in social media that “Turkish President Erdoğan is managing the pandemic better than French President Macron.” Slim, whose home was raided by police at 6 a.m. on the orders of the Chambéry Governorate on charges of “humiliating France, trying to overthrow the French government, and propagating terrorist propaganda,” is on trial at the Paris Court of Appeal. While the public prosecutor expressed his opinion that the search warrant for the imam’s house was unlawful, the President of the Court decided to announce the result of the hearing on March 31.

The statement in Article Sixth of the draft that “none of our institutions and none of our rules aim at treating Muslims differently in France” is definitely funny and also obscure. However, it becomes clear when Article Nine titled “Fight against Anti-Muslim Hatred, Propaganda, and Misinformation” comes in. In the draft it states that “Muslims in France and symbols of their beliefs are often the target of hostile actions.

These actions are the work of an extremist minority, who should not be confused with the state or the French people” and continues, “[t]herefore, like in all kinds of victimization situations, allegations of state racism are considered as defamation.” In summary, unlike French citizens, it is forbidden for Muslims to accuse or criticize the state, the president, and the political establishment along with alleging a case of racism or Islamophobia. It continues and states, “Insulting and misinformation are crimes. It is a moral requirement to prohibit them.”

As for the terms of implementation of the draft, on November 18, President Macron announced, “There will be those who sign the charter and those who don’t. Either you are with the republic or not!” The war that Macron and his government are fighting under the name of “Fighting Separatist Islamism” and the “Draft Law to Strengthen Republican Principles” along with the “Charter of Principles for French Islam” will definitely find the historical place they deserve by virtue of their originality – not only in France but in the whole world.

* French President Macron reacted to news in British and U.S. media by writing to them or sometimes by phoning them. He replied to an article by Mehreen Khan, which was published in the Financial Times, entitled “Macron’s War with Islamic Separatism Divides France More” via letter. In his letter, Macron started by saying that “France is fighting Islamist separatism, never against Islam” and “I could not imagine that a newspaper like the Financial Times could distort the words of the president of a country which is among G7 and is a permanent member of the UN Security Council.”

Kılıçkaya worked as a journalist for Cumhuriyet and Milliyet newspapers. In 1992 she moved to Paris and completed her studies in International Relations. After returning to Turkey in 2009, Kılıçkaya started working for Habertürk. In 2016, she formed a three-part documentary on DAESH.