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The Disenfranc(e)hisement Of Muslims And Why We Need To Stay Focused

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France is currently enjoying its turn in the limelight of the current news cycle, constantly feeding journalists, pundits, activists, religious leaders and laypeople with material to justify more and more stage time.

“We don’t believe in political Islam that is not compatible with stability and peace in the world,” President Emmanuel Macron is quoted to have said, blind to the fact that the very specific brand of politicised liberalism he currently wields, is ironically only holding that olive branch further out of reach.

Unfortunately, with the France-Macron issue, we find ourselves stuck in torturously lengthy debates over the many hypocrisies of the French laïcité, or going back and forth yet again trying to correctly define the newest terminology (‘Islamic Separatism’) coined for our apparently many-tiered brand identity, refusing to acknowledge the reality check in the room. That all those answers have already long already been writ.

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Macron’s message to Muslims is clear: You Are Not of Us. And in unabashedly endorsing the parading of offensive caricatures of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) — knowing with full certainty the distress this causes for Muslims the world over- and cracking down on prominent Muslim charities and even anti-Islamophobia organizations. Macron is shouting it out from the rooftops; seemingly unafraid of any potential repercussions.

And why should he be? In a political climate where Donald Trump  is the leader of the free world, where Britain is no longer part of the EU, and the highly-respected Merkel soon on her way out, Macron is enticed by the notion that if he plays his cards right, he may well be in contention to be seen as the strongman of Europe.

Liberal Anti-Muslim Bigotry

Although there is so much more to unpack geopolitically, this only partially explains why Macron’s beef (not halal, of course) with France’s Muslim community is not new. Long before the Samuel Paty brouhaha, Macron has been stirring the proverbial pot of anti-Muslim sentiment by shutting down over 70 mosques, schools, and private institutions in the name of neatening up France’s secular identity. Domestically, having only barely earned his presidency when the country went to the polls last, Macron has now chosen to conveniently stretch the limits of his party’s liberal stance in order to drum up support when up against the far-right Le Pen in 2022. And when anti-Islam rhetoric is being employed in a secular political agenda, you know now is the time to be really concerned.

It becomes evident then that Macron too is operating from an all-too-familiar political playbook which calls for the weaponization of Islamophobia for political gain, in a bid to cover-up the deeper underlying issues of the state; and if that comes from smearing an entire civil society under the guise of countering radicalization, so be it. The same playbook has already been passed on by one too many hands, and if we fall into the trap of treating each incident in isolation, there looms the threat another great (Muslim-specific) pandemic.

Leaves of the Same Book

We recognize the same machinations from some of the pages China has earmarked, where the Chinese state is currently incarcerating of over 1.3 million Uyghur Muslims in a network of brutal concentration camps across what China calls Xin Jiang 9occupied East Turkestan. This under the official guise of countering separatist tendencies. Further south, a few leaves too have been taken and applied by India’s Modi  — notoriously known to have come into power flaunting his hard-line nationalist agenda—, in the passing of the blatantly anti-Muslim Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), and his ruthless ‘handling’ of the people of Kashmir. These examples representing only a small segment of an extensive readership.

Currently Muslims the world over are being distracted into believing that the demonization of Muslims is a very Macron-specific issue, and that we can wash our hands from the matter once through. The very specific French pastry mould that cuts out the definition of a ‘good’ Muslim (apolitical and unseen), and the increasing elasticity of laïcité, is in reality just a modified version of attempts at Muslim disenfranchisement and erasure we are witnessing the world over; only in this instance disguised by very French accents.

We have witnessed many an example where scare-mongering against Muslim minorities and immigrants has done wonders for winning votes in elections and referenda, and although the situation of Muslims in France does appear particularly bleak right now, taking offense too can be a surprisingly effective catalyst in tackling an unfair world order. As concerned bystanders from afar, we the oft-silent majority -and our non-Muslim allies-, should most certainly invest in efforts to counter instruments of institutionalized Muslim bashing  — in specific, and minority bashing in general- that is increasingly being mainstreamed.

Many jaded activists will testify that this movement too shall pass, with the oppressed yet to be left behind in the dust again. While most likely true, instead of cynically questioning whether or not these movements, petitions, and demonstrations are going to eventually produce results, we need to show up while the coals are still hot. Better still, with the blinders off. In reading up, speaking to those on the ground, keeping abreast of developments, and pressurizing our governments, we stand a chance at greater staying power for this cause now, and for a re-fuelled sense of purpose against Muslim-directed atrocities being committed anywhere else.

Secularism has never killed anyone, tweeted Macron callously, simultaneously blacking out pages from France’s bloody history and wiping clean the blood from his own hands.

Au contraire, Monsieur President. Au contraire.

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