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Why Boycotting France is the Wrong Response

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“I don’t think it’s safe to come visit you in France with your Aunt…she wears a hijab, and she will have trouble getting around”, my mother nervously quipped as we discussed travel arrangements for their trip. 

“Of course it’s safe! How could you say that? There are women wearing hijab all over this country!”  I protested, as I tried to assuage her concerns.

I was living as an expat in France when my family was planning their visit to the country last year. I was surprised to hear the reservations from my own folk; it went on to highlight the pre-conceived notions Muslims often have about the French. “They hate Muslims!” “They are racists” “They insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him)!”. The list goes on.  

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Having spent a considerable amount of time in France, Quebec and Suisse-Romande, I’ve developed an affinity towards the French culture, language and people. I’ve never felt marginalized in these lands because of my dark skin, my Muslim faith, or my never-ending struggle with French conjugation. Yes, I am privileged in many ways, but that doesn’t negate the validity of my experiences. 

I was thus naturally taken aback by the recent calls to boycott France in light of the opportunistic and contemptable actions of Emmanuel Macron. If these boycotts made me uncomfortable, I can imagine how much more offended the average French person would have been. Macron’s decision to first politicize an unspeakable crime, and then to insult our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a deplorable move. It exposed his true colors and showed us that he is just another disdainful politician who seeks to divide, rather than build bridges. 

As pitiful as Macron’s actions are, is the Muslim response calling for boycotts of France justified? Is it fair to hold all of France guilty for the comments made by its President? Are we not only advancing the ‘Us vs Them’ narrative that extremists on both sides want? No one holds all of America responsible for the ridiculous comments that Trump makes – why a different standard for France? 

Collective guilt is a serious disease that we must overcome. We need to stop holding a people accountable for the actions of a few. We need to stop blaming a people for the actions of their ancestors. French corporations, that employ thousands of Muslims across the world, did not insult the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) – so why take them to task? French Muslims have not called for these boycotts, so why are we advocating for them?  If we collectivize and boycott all of France, how are we any different from those who hold all Muslims responsible for the violence perpetrated by a few? 

We need to abandon the ‘Us vs Them’ mindset; this parochial idea of ‘Islam vs the West’ or ‘Islam vs France’. We need to adopt a post-nationalist worldview where we look at all people as one, as our own. There is no ‘Them’ – it is all ‘Us’. It is ‘Us’ against hatred, bigotry, divisiveness, and racism. It is ‘Us’ against those in power, on both sides, who seek to exploit ‘Us’ for political and personal gain. 

As one people, we should never advocate for boycotts which seek to create divisions and animosity between ‘Us’. Blanket consumer boycotts are short lived and have a minimal impact regardless. What lives long past the boycott are the feelings of resentment, hatred and enmity directed towards an entire nation. Our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) is a prophet to all people, to the French people – our people. We must not partake in actions which alienate our kin from being receptive to his message.  

Know that paltry cartoons will not take away from the rank of the Chosen One. One of his miracles in these modern times, is that those wishing to disparage him have been unable to succeed. His enemies have caricaturized him over and over again, but none of their images have stuck around or gained acceptance. Despite all of these attempts, the only descriptor with which he continues to be universally recognized is that of prophethood. You read a headline: ‘Artist makes images of the Prophet’, and you know instantly who ‘the Prophet’ refers to regardless of who you are. Unqualified, the word always brings to mind the thought of one man!   

Even those that don’t believe in him call him ‘the Prophet Muhammad’ – lips refuse to utter his name with anything other than his noble epithet. So, fear not about the Prophet’s ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) rank – for the one being praised by angels in the Heavens cannot be belittled by lowly men here on Earth. 

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Waleed Ahmed writes on current affairs and politics for MuslimMatters. He focuses on Muslim minorities, human rights and the Middle-Eastern conflict. Based out of Montreal, he's currently pursuing a Ph.D. at McGill University in fundamental physics. Waleed also has a keen interest in studying Arabic and French. He spends his spare time reading, playing basketball and praying for Jon Stewart to run in the next presidential election. contact: waleed dot ahmed at muslimmatters.org

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Abu Ismail

    November 4, 2020 at 7:20 AM

    Salam brother

    It will never be “us”. It will always be “us vs them” until the Day of Judgement. Believers and nonbelievers will always be enemies until the day of Judgement. And then Allah will once and for all separate us into paradise and hell.

    “…the disbelievers are ever unto you open enemies.” Quran 4:106

    We can live in peace but it will never be “us”. They will never accept our values, and we will never accept theirs, so how can there ever be an “us”?

    Dont incline towards them and love them lile that brotver.

    Salam

  2. Avatar

    Halal Jihadist

    November 4, 2020 at 11:54 AM

    Note that French multinationals have not come out condemning the cartoons or the govt position. Perhaps you should write to each asking for their position so we know who sides with tolerance vs intolerance.

  3. Avatar

    Noor

    November 5, 2020 at 6:03 PM

    Why are articles like this approved for posting? The author seems to miss the whole point behind macron bring the leader of a nation. It’s not as simple as one man. He represents an entire country and acts as their mouth piece. He is still in power because I’m good people’s eyes, he’s still accepted for his actions. Muslims will never accept such actions.

    • Avatar

      Waleed S. Ahmed

      November 6, 2020 at 12:01 AM

      Would it make sense to boycott Microsoft because of Trump’s ‘Muslm ban’? Would it be justified to boycott all of India because of Modi’s Islamophobia? Would it make sense to boycott all of Saudi Arabia because of the Khashogi killing or the countries war crimes in Yemen? The article is questioning the flawed logic of collective guilt and the underlying rationale for boycotting France. If we use this logic, we would have to be calling for the boycott a whole lot of countries who have done far worse things than France.

  4. Avatar

    Hahahajjnd

    November 5, 2020 at 6:18 PM

    Hdhdhdhdhfhdhd

  5. Avatar

    Noor

    November 6, 2020 at 2:39 AM

    It’s your logic that’s flawed. Trump didn’t directly support and insult the prophet. That’s what you miss and seem to not understand. There is a difference between banning Muslims from entering your country and insulting the Prophet of God (saw). What trump did and what macron did are completely different things so trying to ask whether we should boycott American products is irrelevant. Find another country that insulted the Prophet and then ask, should we boycott them too? And the answer would be yes. Find a country that is openly killing Muslims like China and ask, should we boycott them too and the answer would be yes. In other for your argument to have any worth, you would need to find countries that have crossed the red line of the sharia. If you then ask, why don’t we boycott China, the answer would be, some of us do, and the ones that don’t simply haven’t understood the worth of a Muslim life yet.

    • Avatar

      Waleed S. Ahmed

      November 6, 2020 at 1:37 PM

      The point is to not collectivize all French people into a single entity – just like we don’t like being treated as a monolithic entity. We should protest oppression perpetrated by any state – but our anger should be towards the state – not its people, culture or non-complicit corporations. The argument is that to hold the average people accountable for what their State does is unjustified. The US has done far more destruction in the Muslim world than any other country in recent history. However, this doesn’t mean Muslims should start hating on all American people and corporations. Similarly, boycotting Jack Ma and his corporation for actions of the Chinese government is unjustified (unless there is evidence to show he is complicit).

  6. Avatar

    YT

    November 6, 2020 at 12:59 PM

    I have to question why this is front and center on the main page.

    Claims:

    1. A boycott punishes the innocent not involved with the situation

    With this logic you couldnt punish, for example, a diamond company that sells blood diamonds because you would harm the innocent people working in all the other parts of the company who had nothing to do with this. You couldn’t boycott a meat supplier who mistreats their animals because it harms all the workers not involved with the animals care. Seems silly.

    2. Would you boycott Microsoft for Trumps Muslim Ban?

    France has a long tradition of attacking religion, suppressing it and promoting an extreme version of secularism. Their actions with the cartoon are not the results of Macron or a few individuals but a systematic pattern of targeting Muslims that extends beyond them and throughout various branches of society. No American president tried to do a “Muslim ban”. Heck, Trump’s administration even tried to spin it as a “certain Muslim country ban” rather than one against the religion. America can do better not to target Muslim minorities but it is far far easier to express yourself religiously in America. There was massive resistance against Trumps actions inside the government and without. The norm is suppression of religion in France, the norm is freedom of religious expression in America. The norm is promoting mockery of religion in France, the norm is simple letting it be in America. There are exception but those are the norms. Its fair game to boycott countries with a norm of insulting Islam and just because hijabis walk around means squat. Youll find Han Chinese hijabis in China while they keep Uyghurs in concentration camps.

    3. It adopts an us vs them mentality

    Muslims have not adopted this. It was thrust on them by the fact that the majority of France already deeply disapproves of the religion. A boycott is a legitimate nonviolent reaction. No where did I see a solution in your post only an attempt to castrate nonviolent protests. Heck, are we even allowed to protest according to your logic since “we” would be protesting against “them.” If France doesn’t want Muslims to boycott them and they need Muslim money so bad that depriving them of it will make them “resent” us then whoever “resents” Muslims for this clearly is incapable of empathizing with them in the first place, so why should Muslims care about them losing money?

    Finally, I was under the impression that Muslim Matters vets articles and that every Tom, Dick or Harry can’t simply slap an article together and call it a day. The author has no qualifications to try and talk about what is considered a legitimate protest or not. A physics phd does not entitle someone to call for the abandonment of boycotts for the entire Ummah. There is no Islamic degree here nor a documented history of activism and leadership. If this is what passes for posts then I will take my donation away since I can read random opinions on reddit or forums.

  7. Avatar

    Taha

    November 6, 2020 at 2:15 PM

    This is a terrible article with flawed logic. Is this what muslimmatters supports now? Next thing you know they’ll be posting articles asking people to look pasts macrons faults because Muslims live in their country. Forget the fact that Muslims only live there because of the war murder rape and pillaging that was done by those very same countries. If mm has any shame, they’ll remove this article and prevent this author from ever sorting about this topic again. Stick the physics…

  8. Avatar

    Lowly McLowington

    November 7, 2020 at 9:19 PM

    Indeed, mutual hostility and anger is what extremists on both sides want. People on both sides read about certain things in the news and get upset over them, while ignoring the millions of abominable blasphemies and crimes that the news does not broadcast. Muslims and unbelievers around the globe are united in being pushed and pulled around by mass media like dogs on leashes. May we rise above this nonsense. Let’s boycott consumerism, because mostly everything seems to be made in militant atheist China or with the help of Mammon-adoring bankers and imperialist-capitalists.

    We have not even banned these cartoons in Muslim countries. If someone has internet access they can go online, usually even without a VPN or Tor, and view whatever outrageous rubbish they want. Macron could not ban these cartoons even if he tried to. By reacting strongly we are all drawing attention to such cartoons and possibly causing people to look at them and draw more, yet I understand it is hard to ignore a deliberate public insult and provocation. Like the Pope said, “I’d punch anyone who insults my mother!”

    When you boycott France, it’s not unlikely that whatever country you buy things from instead is guilty of similar crimes. May this boycott be followed by so many more boycotts that the ummah gives up on consumerism altogether.

    Astaghfirullah. Fatihah.

  9. Avatar

    Shawn Smith

    November 9, 2020 at 1:40 PM

    Why is this horrid article on this website? Please do not be telling people that it is wrong to boycott this fascism from your comfortable ivory tower.

  10. Avatar

    Maryam

    November 9, 2020 at 6:20 PM

    SubhanAllah, all these negative comments because someone expresed thier opinion on the matter.
    Though I don’t agree with the idea of not boycotting French product, wondering why an article was published just shows our level of intolerance. Whatever happned to healthy discussions?

    I think the article presents interesting points as to why we shouldn’t ban french products, though I think the only reason it worked was there were barely 7 – 8 companies on the list that was going around the internet, that needed to be boycotted. If we were to boycott American or Chinese products, it would have been a lot more harder.

    One thing no one is talking about is the murdur of the teacher who showed the cartoon. That was highly unasked for, and compeltely against te teaching of the Prophet (PBUH) himself. If the murder didn’t happen I wonder if things would have gotten this far in the first place.

    Maybe there were other ways of dealing with this? Like making a caricrature of Macron or having his picture on the floors for everyone to walk over. Not sure if it would have been as effective as the threat of boycott, since the reason these counteries have so much arrogance is because of thier economic power. In case of boycott, it would show the power of the Muslim consumers.

  11. Avatar

    Shathir

    December 19, 2020 at 7:41 AM

    Transcript (Stop, Enough talking about France already!?) :

    Maybe many were saying this to themselves, ” France France France, too much of it Enough!, Isn’t there other than France? Whats the difference between France from Britian and the US ? What’s the difference between it’s mocking cartoons than Denmark’s? Don’t you have any other work than calling, ‘Boycott France’, ‘Support your Prophet (ﷺ) ‘! Look at any other topic and move on ” ?

    So in reality, why so much importance for the issue of France? Aren’t we as Muslims used to roaring up for some topic for a few days and then forgetting it & moving to another?

    See my brothers, It is said that a scholar sees a tribulation while it’s coming, while others see it while it’s departing. If the Muslims properly act to the issue of France, it is an opportunity to have a new Islamic Honour. And if we are weak in it, then it is a big problem that maybe be continuous, unlike the past.

    The one who follows the details knows that the French government’s embracing the mocking cartoons of the Prophet (ﷺ) is continuity of a long large plan that was being enacted since before the issue of the teacher. It’s aim is to suppress Islam from France. And before 5 days (on 9th Dec), a conference was held, where a group of French Ministers talked about presenting a bundle of new laws to the Parliament, under the title, strengthening the republic values. The laws are tailor made to fight the Muslims from showing the symbols of their religion and to melt them into the society and to prevent them from being distinguished in belief and in manners! This is in addition to what we have already mentioned a lot about closing the masjids and Islamic centers. If you want more details, follow the videos of the channel “شؤون اسلامية” .

    This event my brothers with this much excessiveness, is unprecedented in the New world order, which used to cover up behind slogans of ‘equality’ and ‘freedom of mankind’. Yes, they have waged military wars against the Muslims, but this time we are talking about initiating laws which wage war on religion and solidifying it in the principles of the country. This war is communicable and can be transmitted to other western countries as well. Which means, if France are able to apply these laws, separating the grounds of Muslims from their religion, then it will be very desirable for other countries to do the same.

    Islam, my dear ones, is a religion that rejects oppression and enslavement to the New World Order. And it is not from the benefit of the Human enslavers, the Politicians, and the Capitalists to let it (Islam) grow & spread in the midst of their own lands. And due to this, the French government sees the Islamic Symbols and the Hijab as a potential threat to their Republic values, like the claimed “Freedom”. Whilst it does not see the skulls of the people it killed during its occupations, preserved as a memory in the Museum in Paris to be against freedom, How ironic.

    The enemies of Islam are carefully watching on what will be the result of this ongoing conflict between the French government from one side, and what remains of the life of Muslims on the other side. If the Muslims get cooled down and get weakened, and the laws are implemented and succeed in peeling off the Muslims from their religion; What will stop the ones watching, from copying the same example in their countries?

    At the least estimation, they will keep it as a ‘humiliation’ for the Muslims, Like the Arab governments say to their people: “Keep quite, no one open his mouth, even if we humiliate you & steal your daily provision, no need for it to become like Syria for you!”.

    France can become a ‘humiliation’ for the Muslims in the West, “Keep quite, so it doesn’t become like Muslims in France for you! Even if we distress you, close your centers, your masjids, make kufr beloved for your children, & enforce upon you what goes against your religion..”

    Whats happening now is a measuring scale of life of the Muslims in the world, of the love of them for their religion and their steadfastness upon it.

    The events regarding boycotting France was based on manliness and coincidental, It was not led by any group or any organisation, and the soul of one ummah was apparent through it. Due to this some of the Arabic media purposely ascribe it to “Ikhwan”(The Muslim Brotherhood) , and the French official media ascribe it to “Extremists”. Whereas everyone knows that it is not “Ikhwan” nor “Extremists” nor others, and that the issue is a completely just, clear one. Our Prophet Muhammed (ﷺ) is mocked on the government buildings. The masajids get shut down and the French officials show off about it, The Minister of Interior is telling you, ” If you O father O Muslim tell the teacher: Please don’t expose my Muslim child to drawings mocking my prophet (ﷺ) in his school class, You will be criminalised and maybe we will kick you out of France & methodological laws (are to be placed) to peel off the Muslims from their religion & to let the upcoming generation grow into kufr” .

    If the Muslims don’t move up for an issue as this, then when will they move? When you don’t move and the issue doesn’t bother you, then you are sending a message to France and from behind them to all the (other) enemies of Islam, whether, Western, Eastern or Arab that the Muslims don’t honour their religion, and whatever you do, we wont move, take your time & take steps ahead in your plots.

    So the events of France is a thermometer.. Measuring scale for the heat of Eeman in the hearts of the Muslim population. Don’t think my brothers that the issue this time is like the ones in the past. This time the Muslims have a reached a level with their opponents that has no return. Either they (Muslims) get weak and get beaten and their enemies get more braver in mocking them Or either they are patient and manifest their honourable jealousy for their religion, So that the one who has that dirty spoiled stuffs keeps it to himself and cannot display their hate in totality.

    So seek help from Allah in continuing the boycott, and in spreading awareness of the issue, & supporting your brothers in the West, & dawah towards Allah, and working in honouring the Muslims in making the Sharia of Allah of (true) status in their life. & we call to you to the website : france-boycott.com & to register your vote alongside the ones with your brothers.

    WaAssalamalaikum

    __________

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