French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to present his strategy to fight separatism, on October 2, 2020 in Les Mureaux, outside Paris
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to present his strategy to fight separatism, on October 2, 2020 in Les Mureaux, outside Paris
AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week angered Muslim activists across the world when he declared that Islam was “in crisis”, and unveiled a plan to defend France’s secular values against what he termed as “Islamist radicalism”.

His speech on Friday invited angry reactions from activists, especially the Muslims, who alleged that Macron has emboldened far-right, anti-Muslim leftists and threatened the lives of Muslim students with his speech.

Here is what Macron said:

According to reports, Macron, in a speech made in French declared, “Islam is a religion that is in crisis all over the world today, we are not just seeing this in our country."

"Secularism is the cement of a united France," he said, announcing that the government would present a bill in December to strengthen a 1905 law that officially separated church and state in France.

Macron said the measures were aimed at addressing a problem of growing “radicalisation” in France and improving “our ability to live together."

“Our challenge is to fight against those who go off the rails in the name of religion … while protecting those who believe in Islam and are full citizens of the republic,” he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“The country has been hit by Islamic terrorism since 2012 and we have progressively rearmed against this threat,” he added.

He further said that radical Islamism had shown a “willingness to contravene the laws of the republic, to promote other values … to organise another society”.

Macron's description of "separatism" was said to be regarding the neighbourhoods around France where Muslims have concentrated population and from where cases of radicalisation have been reported.

Background

Macron's speech came while a trial is underway in Paris over the January 2015 attack on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that had published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Last week, a man from Pakistan stabbed two people near Charlie Hebdo's former offices.

In a country where hijab is already banned in schools and for public servants at their workplace, activists have often pointed out the deep Islamophobia.

Only last month, a parliamentarian from Macron’s La Republique En Marche party sparked outrage after he staged a walkout over the presence of a hijab-clad student union leader at a parliamentary inquiry.

Reaction

Activists did not take Macron's remarks kindly and accused him of dog-whistling while ignoring threats of white supremacy.

"Macron no longer hiding his feelings about Islam. No longer radical Islam, now it’s just Islam that is the problem," London-based author Bruno Maçães said.

"It’s stunning to watch this. I don’t think any Western leader has ever spoken of Islam like this. There was always a careful distinction between Islam and fundamentalist movements (in itself problematic but the rhetorical move was considered important)," he added.

"The willingness to use Islam & minority Muslim communities to rally supporters by promoting a divisive culture war against minorities, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, shows more about those who promote such divisiveness than anyone else," activist Miqdaad Versi said.

French Muslim activist Yasser Louati tweeted: “The repression of Muslims has been a threat, now it is a promise. In a one hour speech #Macron burried #laicite, emboldened the far right, anti-Muslim leftists and threatened the lives of Muslim students by calling for drastic limits on home schooling despite a global pandemic.”

Rim-Sarah Alaoune, a French academic, tweeted: “President Macron described Islam as ‘a religion that is in crisis all over the world today’. I don’t even know what to say. This remark is so dumb (sorry it is) that it does not need any further analysis …"

"I won’t hide that I am concerned. No mention of white supremacy even though we are the country that exported the racist and white supremacist theory of the ‘great replacement’, used by the terrorist who committed the horrific massacre in #Christchurch,” Alaoune added.

Iyad el-Baghdadi, a Norway-based Palestinian activist, simply wrote on Twitter; “F*** you, @EmmanuelMacron.”

"He rolls the red carpet for our dictators time and time again and sells them weapons and even breaks UN arms embargos for them, then he comes to lecture us about our "crisis". Our crisis is because of motherfuckers such as yourself. F*** you and your necolonialism," he added.

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