In an effort to stave off a challenge to his leadership from the far-right, divert attention away from his government’s disastrous response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and sate the public’s desire for revenge in the aftermath of a terrorist attack on a schoolteacher, French President Emmanuel Macron has stunned global audiences by launching a highly visible crackdown on Islam and the country’s six million Muslims.
In recent weeks, Macron has argued “Islam is a religion in crisis all over the world,” echoing the same debunked Islamophobic tropes that have percolated in far-right circles for the past two decades. While accusing the country’s Muslim minority of engaging in anti-nationalism, extremism, and separatism, he unveiled his plan to regulate the practice of Islam in France, one that includes a crackdown on foreign influences in Muslim communities, government surveillance of mosques, and a ban on Islamic schools.
Macron has also encouraged and vowed to protect those who draw and publicly display racist and Islamophobic depictions of the Prophet Muhammad.
Predictably and justifiably, Macron has drawn condemnation from all corners of the world, including human rights organizations, civil rights activists, and the entire Muslim world, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging his French counterpart to seek “mental treatment.” The Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) described Macron’s words and actions as “harmful to Muslim-French relations” and a form of “hate mongering” that only serves “partisan political interests.”
The Saudi-led Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) described Macron’s words and actions as “harmful to Muslim-French relations” and a form of “hate mongering.”
Trade organizations and corporations throughout the Middle East and beyond have called for a boycott of French products and pledged to stock store shelves with non-French alternatives, sending the social media hashtag #BoycottFrenchProducts viral on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
There’s enough hypocrisy and blatant double standards in this entire episode to fill a proverbial truck, starting with Macron’s disregard for the Muslim lives France has snuffed out with its airstrikes and commando night raids in Libya, Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso; and ending with the Arab Gulf’s complicit support for government crackdowns and repressive measures against Muslims in Palestine, China, and Kashmir.
For instance, Saudi Arabia condemned France and Macron indirectly by rejecting the normalization of cartoons that mock the Prophet Muhammad and efforts to link Islam to terrorism. But, this is the same Saudi Arabia that co-signed a letter with 36 other mostly Middle Eastern and African countries in support of China’s effort to portray 15 million Uyghur Muslims pre-emptively guilty of terrorism, heaping praise on its “counterterrorism and deradicalization measures.”
The governments of the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Egypt, Oman, Syria, Iraq, and Sudan also co-signed the letter, which essentially praises China for detaining millions of innocent Uyghur Muslims in its network of concentration camps throughout Xinjiang. The territory has since seen as much as 80 percent of the Uyghur population disappear in the past five years in some of its cities and villages, according to research conducted by the Jamestown Foundation.
When Arab-African governments laud China’s network of concentration camps, they are sanctifying the illegal detention of upwards of five million Muslims.
To be clear, when Arab-African governments laud China’s network of concentration camps, what they are sanctifying is the illegal detention of upwards of five million Muslims who are subjected to torture, gang rape, brainwashing, sterilization programs, family separations, forced labor, organ harvesting programs, forced COVID-19 vaccine testing, biological weapons testing, and summary execution – all under the pretence of combatting Islamic terrorism and separatism, the very same argument being made by the French President.
If this isn’t a profile in moral cowardice and duplicitous cynicism, then what is?
Let’s also be mindful of the fact that these are many of the same countries that have normalized relations with Israel in exchange for nothing that resolves the plight of millions of Palestinians who are being crushed under the weight of Israel’s 53-year-long illegal military occupation.
How can anyone with good conscience condemn France’s hostility towards Islam and Muslims while at the same time giving implicit approval to the kind of vicious cruelty and humiliation Israel metes out to the predominantly Muslim population in the occupied West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem?
Many of these Muslim majority countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have also lent support to the Indian government of Narendra Modi and its extremist Hindu nationalist agenda. Modi’s government has stated its objective to rid the country of its Muslim minority, equating them with “invaders,” “pests,” and terrorists,” and thus putting 200 million adherents of the Islamic faith on the “brink of genocide,” according to numerous human rights activists.
Many of these Muslim majority countries, notably Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have lent support to the Indian government of Narendra Modi and its extremist Hindu nationalist agenda.
These Arab Gulf regimes have also expressed support for India’s abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in Indian Occupied Kashmir, with the UAE absurdly claiming the move will “improve social justice and security…and further stability and peace.” Similarly, Saudi Arabia minimized India’s human rights violations as a benign “internal issue,” when in reality New Delhi’s stripping of the disputed territory’s semi-autonomous status marked the start of India’s Hindu settler-colonial-project, one mirrored on Israel’s colonization of the West Bank.
There’s also the fact that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have become two of the most significant sources of global Islamophobia in the wake of the Arab Spring, with the respective governments funding Muslim hating far-right groups and individuals in Europe, including the Danish People’s Party, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, and Sweden Democrats.
In 2017, The Intercept published leaked emails of the Emirati Ambassador to the United States, Yousef Al Otaiba, describing the ideology of political Islam as a “problem that needs to be dealt with.” Moreover, he praised the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as “someone willing to address it,” making these words indistinguishable from those uttered publicly by the French President.
Ultimately, the French government’s hostility towards Islam and Muslims warrants global condemnation, but unfortunately so few Muslim majority countries can do so while maintaining a straight face.