France’s Islamophobia and its roots in French colonialism

Картинки по запросу France’s Islamophobia

The Australian who carried out the terrorist attack in Christchurch was influenced by French Islamophobes, but just how far back does the country’s antipathy towards Islam go?

More than two weeks have passed since the terrorist attack in the New Zealand, which killed at least 51 people, and topics such as white supremacy and Islamophobia have found themselves in the media limelight.

Acts of terror are committed by individuals actings under a range of influences but in the weeks following the attacks, it has become clear the attacker drew inspiration from the European far-right, particularly the Identitarian movement, and the ideas of French far-right author, Renaud Camus.

A number of analysts have zeroed in one country that seems to have played an important role in nurturing such ideologies: France.

Camus’ book Le Grand Remplacement (The Great Replacement) became an inspiration for the Australian terrorist to such an extent that his own 72-page manifesto had the same title.

The French influence on the white supremacist terrorist is far from limited to just one racist thinker.

France’s New Right or Nouvelle Droite (ND), a post WWII far-right movement, became an  inspiration for Austria’s Identitarian movements with whom the Australian terrorist had close contact and financial links.

Today’s Identitarians have found a huge support base in France, where they have become closely linked to the far-right Front National (FN), one of the countries main opposition parties.

The Australian who carried out the terrorist attack in Christchurch was influenced by French Islamophobes, but just how far back does the country’s antipathy towards Islam go?

A recent history of anti-Muslim hatred in France

“France has had a hostile attitude towards Muslims and Islam since the first headscarf cases started in France in 1989,” Abdelaziz Chaambi, President and Founder of Coordination against Racism and Islamophobia (CRI) in France, told TRT World.

Since the 9/11 attacks, senior officials, including the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, and other politicians have not shied away from labeling Muslims as a 5th Column (Cinquième Colonne).

Invectives against Muslims over their religious attire, eating habits, and supposed inability to integrate are commonplace in mainstream media, as well as in political discourse.

And it’s not just limited to words.

The country banned headscarves in public schools in 2004, followed by a ban in private schools.

More bans followed with former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial Niqab ban in 2011.

And municipal bans on burkini swimwear designed for Muslim women. The controversial move was supported by then Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

“2004 was the opening of the Pandora Box when Islamophobia became a legal form of discrimination and not just an opinion,” Yasser Louati, a French human rights and civil liberties activist, told TRT World.

Zeynad Alshelh,  wanted to challenge preconceptions about women who wear the burkini. The medical student from Sydney decided to fly to the country after she became angry at 30 French towns banning the modesty swimwear in the wake of several terror attacks.

Colonial roots of French Islamophobia

Such policies are not a recent phenomenon, according to the activists, but instead are intimately tied to France’s history of empire.

“France’s colonial past determines how French elite and a large group of natives regard Muslims,” said Chaambi.

“The perception of Muslims as second-class citizens like in the days of French Algeria is still significantly dominant,” he added.

According to Louati, it was France’s Algerian experience that helped define its approach to Islam today.

For much of the 20th century, France was a colonial power, which occupied largely Muslim-majority lands in Africa and the Middle East.

While most of these lands were ruled as colonial territories, Algeria was integrated into the French state as a constituent part of the country.

The rights of citizenship of that state though rarely extended to its Muslim Algerian subjects.

Muslims were seen as too attached to their religion and unqualified to participate in a state built on strict adherence to an ideology built on the separation of state and church, known as laicite.

French occupiers urged a detachment from symbols of Islamic culture and religion, which entailed sometimes forcible campaigns urging women to unveil, and the relegation of the Arabic language to the private sphere.

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The European Blog #FBPE #StopBrexit@TheEuropeanBlog

In light of the ban on face veils in France (and elsewhere in Europe), this propaganda poster from French Algeria (dated 1960) says a lot about the imperialist / colonial origins of these views. #colonialism #outremer

This was also the period during which the foundations of the modern French state were set in stone.

“The current Fifth Republic was proclaimed with the 1958 constitution, in the midst of the bloody repression in Algeria and while France was still dreaming of keeping its grip on its colonies”, Louati said.

The impact of such thought continues to this day, he explained.

In 2005, Sarkozy attempted to pass a law changing the school curriculum to “recognise the positive role of the French presence overseas”.

Though the legislation was since cancelled following academic opposition, according to Louati, it demonstrates the continuing post-colonial mentality of many politicians and the elite in France.

“The end of colonialism brought no assessment of what had gone wrong and what lessons needed to be learned,” Louati said, describing the present French Republic as the ‘Colonial Republic’.

“Rather, the country entered into voluntary amnesia without addressing this poisonous legacy.”

The Bilal mosque desecrated by swastika sprays in December 2009. On the left side of the wall it is written

The ‘anti-colonial’ struggle continues in France

Algerians are one of the largest diaspora communities with up to four million Algerians or French citizens with Algerian roots living in the country. The total number of Muslims is estimated at between six and seven million.

Muslims have been more assertive in protesting for their rights given the France’s reputation for  labour discrimination, police brutality, and hate crimes against, mainly, Muslim Arab and African migrants.

But, for Chaambi and other activists the idea of France’s imperial ‘Civilisation Mission’ continues, laying the soil for more extremist thoughts, such as Camus’.

The latest attempt by President Emmanuel Macron to launch his French Islam initiative, in which he and his government take on state-appointed representatives of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM) as primary counterparts, is not including but excluding local Muslims.

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