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The French Republic and the Muslim World: Who is Winning This War?

Published by Foreign Affairs Bulletin by IDSA on

The Islamic religion…

…has always been under quite some scrutiny, and never appeared to seamlessly flourish in the Western World. It has always faced obstacles in being part of Western society, and is often associated with extremism which has led many to believe that Islam is at its root a ‘danger’. But is it really that? Or is there a truth to be unfolded? Taking into consideration the recent developments in the French Republic, the current situation begs the question: does any religion have a place in a modern society.

It came as quite a shock to many that the French Government has come up with a plan to combat ‘Islamic Separatism’, but what is Islamic separatism, and why the need to fight it? Islamic separatism is believed to be a preference to religious rules and customs which undermines the rules set forth by the State authorities. This very term was coined by the President of French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, in his October 2nd Speech. This is nothing new, as the government of France in the past had called for a ban on burqas and hijabs, as well as other forms of religious clothing. The ongoing attitude towards their Muslim minority is thus not surprising, given these past policies. There has been a series of events that has caused a ruckus and stir in France’s Political discourse, however, the recent developments regarding French Government and President Macron’s speech has hurt the sentiments of millions of Muslims around the globe- leading to a debate revolving around what the future holds for Muslims living in France. Is the move to preserve France’s secularism necessary?

In Islam, the visual depiction of any of their Entity is forbidden, especially those depictions including their Prophet Muhammad PBUH. In the Muslim world, there are blasphemy laws in these countries to combat this issue. However, this all surfaced once more with the recent publishing of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad in the French Satirical Magazine, Charlie Hebdo, their second time featuring blasphemous depictions of the Prophet. These caricatures depicting Muhammad are also believed to be Islamophobic, as they present Muslims as extremists, again linking them with the sceptre of terrorism. These recent caricatures have been nothing new, as it has all been encapsulated in a series of publishing dating back to 2005 Danish Newspaper. So what is different now?

After President’s October 2nd speech, in which he calls out Islam as a religion in ‘Crisis’, and again on October 16 following the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty, which was believed to be radical Islamist attack, the initial response was characterized by the forced closure of Mosques. But that was just one reaction. The Major Highlight of this series is when President Macron in his October 22nd speech quoted “We will not give up cartoons”, whilst condemning the terrorist attack.

Following this October 22nd speech, President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, took a dig on Macron calling him to get a Mental Health Check, and as a result, France pulled their Ambassador from Ankara. There are two opinions that have come to the surface: the first could be regard to that of Macron, where he refers to the importance of freedom of Media, and their ability to publish anything they want, including the caricatures of the Islamic Prophet. The second one is that of Erdogan’s, where he refers to the freedoms of belief, as Macron has offended not only Muslims but also the people of different faith living within his own country. Erdogan’s remarks have resonated with much of the Muslim World, and his support for the Boycott of the French Products have surely inspired other counties too. Most of the Muslim countries have called for a ban on French products as well, as can be seen with the #BoycottFrenchProducts trend, that of which has been trending across social media in Qatar, Egypt, Kuwait, Pakistan, Jordan, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. President of Pakistan, Imran Khan, also called out Macron for his Islamophobic approach, noting this type of speech creates polarization and marginalization that he indicates will ultimately lead to radicalization.

As the situation unfolded rather unfavorably in France, Macron has urged the Arab World to end the boycott, referring to their approach as “baseless”. The misstep by Macron, however, is his failure to distinguish radical Islam from “real” Islam. The growth and support of Islam is inevitable. However, during his recent interview with the News Outlet, ALJAZEERA, he stated his words were twisted and torn. The Muslim World, however, is still unconvinced whether this is but a political ploy, or if the comments are genuine regarding the global Muslim community. After all, France’s position globally is incredibly reliant on retaining good diplomatic and economic ties with that of the Muslim world.

With this recent ban flourishing in Muslim countries, the measures will take a huge toll on France’s economy, as France has one of the highest amounts of exports to Muslim countries, exceeding more than $100bn annually.

There is a lot that will follow, and it is hard to predict what will be the outcome of these current events. To answer the earlier question in regards to this “war for values”, the Muslim world has the upper hand on the French Republic, and there is definite place for religion in the Modern cooperative world.

— Written by Idrees Razak, Associate Editor at FA Bulletin and Computer Engineering student at BME —