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Sunday Open Thread 6/20/2010: Can Les Bleus Save France From Civil War?


The current trend of anti-immigration, anti-religion (read: anti-Muslim) legislation in Europe arguably began with France’s landmark “Law on Secularity and Conspicuous Religious Behaviors and Symbols in Schools” in 2004. Colloquially dubbed the French headscarf ban for its disproportionate effect on young Muslim schoolgirls, this policy foreshadowed a wave of right-wing hysteria over the supposed Islamization of European cities and suburbs.

To this end, threats of a looming “Eurabia” have, particularly over the past couple of years, fueled assimilationist agendas across the continent. France, given its well defined national character and commitment to a strictly secular society, is one of the most austere proponents of this trend. Despite its seemingly hostile climate, however, the future of Islam  in France is hardly a forgone conclusion.

Certainly, there are a lot of reasons to be pessimistic about the prospects for French Muslims. From the niqab ban earlier this year, to the more stringent immigration policies it gave rise to, to the recent allowance of a provocative political poster in Southern France, it seems that French policies are continuing down an Islamophobic road. One prominent public intellectual in France, Eric Zemmour, predicts where this road will lead in his latest book Mélancolie Française. In addition to blaming the sorry state of France on past English provocation and current French political correctness, Zemmour, an Algerian Jew, asserts that France is doomed to civil war between Christians and Muslim “barbarians.” What’s more, he claims that he is only speaking what the (truly) French people are thinking.

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Yet, there are also signs that Zemmour and his ilk underestimate both the adaptability of French Muslims and the tolerance of French society. Last week, for example, a planned “Pork and Booze” street party in a predominantly Muslim neighborhood was banned by French police. Even more heartening is the start of a new “mega-mosque” in Marseilles, a city home to a quarter million Muslims. In the near-term, however, the best opportunity for a shift in national sentiment towards Muslims is not likely to arise from a parliamentary office or construction site, but a soccer pitch.

France is a soccer crazed national, and nothing would lift the national spirit more than a World Cup championship. Imagine, then, how the French would feel if a number of the individuals responsible for bringing them such joy were Muslim? Well, as it happens, there are more than a handful of (inshAllah practicing) Muslims starring on the French squad, including Frank Ribery, Nicolas Anelka, and Eric Abidal. Admittedly, France is a bit of longshot to win it all this year, but that seems fitting given Islam’s seemingly underdog position in Europe. Here’s at least one reason, then, to root for (instead of against) the French for the next couple of weeks.

Allez les bleus!

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Youssef Chouhoud is an assistant professor of political science at Christopher Newport University, where he is affiliated with the Reiff Center for Human Rights and Conflict Resolution. Youssef completed his PhD at the Political Science and International Relations program at the University of Southern California as a Provost’s Fellow. His research interests include political attitudes and behavior, survey methodology, and comparative democratization.



  1. ibn Ahmed

    June 20, 2010 at 5:33 AM


    Either you wrote this a while ago or you don’t follow football much but France have hardly any chance of qualifying from their group never mind winning the World cup. As for Nicolas Anelka he has been sent home early for having an argument with the manager. Underdog is and understatement.

    On more important matters, what are peoples views on Dr Zakir Naik being refused entry to the UK? For me this is something terribly worrying because if someone like him can be banned for being an “extremist” then what hope is there for other imams, scholars and preachers? The evidence they use against him is laughable. Is this the beginning of a crack down on Muslim activity from the new coalition government? May Allah help us all.

  2. Hassan

    June 20, 2010 at 7:02 AM

    France team sucks, so lets not wait for them to solve the crisis.

    I was shocked to see Anelka in team, as he is always been ignored because of his anger and attitude. He was substituted in half time last match, and he told coach to go ______ yourself, and he was sent home.

    Frank Bilal Ribery, may Allah forgive him, and guide him, and increase in his eman, was recently part in running of under-age prostitution ring.

    Holland has 2-3 allegedly muslim players. Van Persie is rumored to be muslims, but muslims, can not confirm it. Then there is for sure a muslim Khalid Boulahrouz in it and also Ibrahim Afellay.

    And holland has chance to win, so better support them,

    • elham

      June 20, 2010 at 10:58 AM

      Sheesh,did you have to tell us that about Ribery?, Allah yahdeek.

      France and Scandinavia are not easy places to practice the deen so I am not going to expect great religiosity from people born in such environments.

      This year I am with Algeria(desperate) or with an African team,time to see a different team win:) Don’t mind New Zealand winning either (fat chance, but still).

      • Hassan

        June 20, 2010 at 2:34 PM

        So you would not look stupid to non-muslims in doing dawah by telling look Ribery is muslim as well, and they would say Ribery the one involved in under-age prostitution ring.

        Ameen to your dua.

        • elham

          June 20, 2010 at 7:39 PM

          What da’wah is pointing at people? Nope akhi, I start with something called Tawheed, not a ”look Obama has a Muslim auntie!”. Where do you get these ideas from. I only meant the mentioning of his sins like that.

          • Hassan

            June 20, 2010 at 7:56 PM

            i would hope people think that other people are thinking as well. When I was writing, I thought is it considered exposing of sins of muslim brother? Answer was no, because its already in media, and the way author of article wrote it, I made a tough call to repeat what is commonly known about his sins, so that we do not go blind in supporting a team just based on that and plus you may not start dawah like that, but some people may.

            In the end I made a judgement, and it was well intended, and unfortunately I have to write a paragaraph to explain my thought process.

          • amad

            June 21, 2010 at 12:12 AM

            But Hassan mentioning someone’s sins without any real reason (for instance, if we were talking about him as a role-model, that might be significant), is not appropriate.

            The difference between him and tons of born-Muslims is that he got caught. He didn’t justify it. It’s between him and Allah now.

            And as for dawah, maybe its problematic, but becoming a Muslim doesn’t mean you stop being a human being.

          • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

            June 21, 2010 at 9:30 AM


            The article wasn’t suggesting the players as role models? It talked about how great it would be for France to see Muslims contributing to bringing the World Cup to the country and how the players were examples (among others) of how one could be both French and Muslim.

            Also, the allegations against Ribery involve more than just private sins, they involve activity which is criminal even in France (where prostitution itself is legal) and the exploitation of minors.

            I am not saying it is clear cut whether it should have been mentioned or not, but I think people are being very unfair to Hassan.

            May Allaah (swt) forgive all of us for our sins and make us merciful amongst each other.

            Allaah knows best.

          • Hassan

            June 21, 2010 at 10:18 AM

            Yes people are being unfair to me, not because they disagree, and they would not have mentioned it themselves, but to think that I have not given this thought when writing this.

          • Amad

            June 21, 2010 at 11:33 AM

            yes, let’s be merciful.
            to sinners as well.

            the guy did a remarkable thing to become a muslim (for himself) in a country that despises muslims. he is STILL a muslim.

            unfair? this is blogging, and we can disagree… its nothing personal against Hassan and he knows that from me.

    • Hassan

      June 21, 2010 at 12:16 PM

      I guess people dont read comments very well.

      Frank Bilal Ribery, may Allah forgive him, and guide him, and increase in his eman, was recently part in running of under-age prostitution ring.

      I think there is nothing better I can write than that. I am not being harsh at all.

      • elham

        June 21, 2010 at 7:28 PM

        Don’t worry brother I read that and I never thought you were not well intentioned , Ameen to yours and Abu Noor’s duas.

  3. Amad

    June 20, 2010 at 7:33 AM

    • elham

      June 20, 2010 at 11:01 AM

      Mash’ Allah,thats what I mean. We should encourage them in doing good. They need our support not just as fans but more importantly,their brothers and sisters in Islam.

  4. Youssef Chouhoud

    June 20, 2010 at 10:37 AM

    Heh, yeah, I guess I put a bit of an optimistic spin on the situation, but stranger things have happened. In last year’s confederations cup, for instance, USA needed to beat Egypt 3-0 in order to advance instead of them…and…well…every Egyptian knows what happened :/

    In any case tho, I just think that it’s remarkable that there are so many Muslims representing this country that, as observed, is a bit hostile to Muslims.

    The saga of Dr. Naik is disheartening to say the least. It seems that there are always some trumped up charges brought up against any renowned daee/scholar entering a Western country these days. Governments should really be more mindful of the psychological effect this has on there Muslim population.

  5. Mezba

    June 20, 2010 at 5:38 PM

    The Toronto Star take on Dr Zakir Naik. He is visiting Toronto next month.–islamic-televangelist-booked-for-toronto

  6. F

    June 20, 2010 at 7:32 PM

    Tarek Fatah again……..I suppose the media goes to him because he serves their purpose.

  7. sebkha

    June 20, 2010 at 11:00 PM

    Did Zidane winning the ’98 World Cup for France prevent the 2005 riots? Nope. Neither did it prevent the results from a 2007 study in France that showed that if you’re an Arab or sub-Saharan African in France, you have a less than 11% chance of being treated equally by employers. The utter majority of beurs in France are Muslim, and a sizable percentage of sub-Saharan Africans living there are Muslim as well. Nor has it prevented Muslim World War 2 veterans’ graves in France from being vandalized over and over and over, and it didn’t get the French government to finally stop ripping off Arab and sub-Saharan African veterans of that same war by denying them their military pensions.

    I am, for the most part, a pretty optimistic sort of lady. But in this case, I think the author just asks too much of me, in trying to drum up optimism on this particular topic. Sorry. Even with a home-grown convert fellow such as Ribery…meh. Though his past indiscretions might endear him to a certain percentage of French, adultery being almost as much of a French cliche as stinky cheese and baguette. Though for our purposes, his indiscretions really, really don’t help a darn thing.

  8. Dreamlife

    June 21, 2010 at 2:00 AM

    I always liked Anelka – from the time he was at Arsenal. It’s sad, what’s happening to the national team.

    In 2006, I supported France because i’d found out about Zidane – so it did give a kind of closeness.

    Anyway, yes, there are many Muslim players in top European club and national teams – but what counts, to me, is how they uphold their deen.

    Obviously the sports industry is not the ideal place for a Muslim – given the obscene amounts of money spent on a mere pastime; and the alcohol and bad behaviour largely associated with the game in some places – like England (pub culture – but that’s just ENglish culture, i think).

    But how you maintain your deen in that environment – is what’s most admirable. I think many players still fast in Ramadaan while playing.

    In South Africa, we have a cricket player called Hashim Amla – and he’s a role model for our Muslim youth because of his strong Muslim identity – what he displays outwardly. He doesn’t just try to blend in and go with the flow.

    I would love for the Muslim footballers in Europe to be similarly strong in their outward profession of their deen – as a means of da’wah to those in that environment.

  9. Manas Shaikh

    June 21, 2010 at 8:46 AM

    The flotilla massacre was no accident.

    It is designed to poison relation between US and a longtime ally Turkey. The US’s handling of the issue has to be very nuanced because I sense there are some vile interests at play here.

    Israel has been a strategic asset for the US since the late sixties when the Arab countries turned to USSR for friendship, and has benefited greatly from the relationship. US relied heavily on Israel to counter Syrian and Egyptian governments in the region, and provided Israel with aid, intelligence, expertise, equipment and political support. The cold war is over, and what Israel is worried that US may not care about it as much.

    The Israelis came in with a belligerent attitude onto the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, killing nine people from close range. Incidents that was certain to cause uproar in Turkey, and sour Turkish-Israeli relationship. This appears to be a deliberate goal of the campaign.

    But Israel had a friend in Turkey in the region, even until 2008.

    Which begs the question: why? Why alienate their only ally in the region?

    It appears that now they see Turkey as a regional challenge. Turkey has been a staunch ally of the US for longer than 60 years, recently has risen economically, and now the size of Turkish economy is three times that of Israel. They used to be comparable not so long ago.

    Israel is afraid to have a country that is an ally of the US in it’s neighborhood that is much more important politically and economically than itself. It fears that Israel will become insignificant to the US (compared to Turkey) in the region. It therefore wants to sabotage the relationship between the US and Turkey by forcing US to choose between the two- so as to remain the only ally US has in the region. They want US to depend on Israel in that region and only on Israel. It will open US to blackmail.

    Which is very clever, if not found out.

  10. ummousama

    June 21, 2010 at 8:18 PM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    My question to the writer: Have you ever lived in France? Are you reading or listening to French media? Do you really think any country will thank and change their behaviour and their racism because of sport? Have you read what happened to Muhammad Ali, back in 1968, when he won the gold in the Olympics? He went back home to California and was banned from entering a restaurant for whites. So the country loved him and respected him because he won a gold medal for the US but it doesn’t mean they changed their behaviour.

    And now here is a question on tawheed and wala and baraa: Is it right for a Muslim to represent (in sport) a country that openly fights Islam or to even represent any kafir country?

    • Abu Noor Al-Irlandee

      June 22, 2010 at 12:12 PM

      It is right to say that having an athlete do well does not change everything over night. Many sports in the United States have long been dominated by Blackamericans, and this doesn’t necessarily make life better for the masses of Blackamericans…it has positive and negative effects.

      I used to really love sports growing up as a non-Muslim, but if you spend time around athletes you learn that especially with regard to famous ones they are in general not people whose character is especially admirable, certainly they are not people in general who should be held out as role models, especially for Muslim youth. Of course, this makes the exceptions even more special.

      Muhammad Ali actually did over the long course of his career have positive effects for da’wah…that is undeniable. I’m sure he himself would admit that he did not always act in the best of ways, so it is complicated.

      Allaah knows best.

  11. abu Abdullah

    June 23, 2010 at 12:21 AM

    And now they (the lobby) are coming for the internet…

    few politicians were willing to take the risk to act against such a popular medium. It is unsurprising therefore that it took someone as shameless as Joe Lieberman, the man who has only ever saluted one flag–the Israeli flag–to propose a bill that gives the US president authority to ‘kill’ the internet. His model? Why, the great people’s republic of China course.

  12. pop goes the weezle

    June 23, 2010 at 2:06 AM

    ppl should really stop back bitting.. relax, its just an article.. this place is becoming more ‘backbitting matters’ and muslimmatters.. its just an article.. read, understand it or think abt it, or just delete it off your memory and then move on.. my god whats with you ppl!

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