— Nicolas Sarkozy, février 2013
This really doesn’t surprise me - if France could get away with a ban on Islam and Muslims themselves, they’d be all over it in a minute.
I remember saying earlier, how Muslims outside Europe shouldn’t be fooled into thinking Sarkozy was a friend of Muslims - as many polls unfortunately indicate many Muslims are - he’s not.
Despite his relatively non-interventionist stances in regards to the ‘war on terror’, as opposed to other European countries, he’s a right wing nut-job and populist par excellence domestically, and uses Islamophobia as a potent electoral tool - to a degree of success as well, as he garners the vote of the France’s burgeoning far right.
This is the same government who farcically banned women from wearing a niqab, even if they wanted to - and if you do, you’re just treated like other petty criminals, merely for wearing a garment of your choice - this condescending western approach to Muslim women, because hey, apparently our women are all oppressed, need ‘liberation’, and can’t speak for themselves.
This is the same guy who forcedly had Romanian and Bulgarian Roma/Gypsy folk evicted from their houses and deported from the country en masse, on flimsy grounds - at odds with the EU itself and widely criticised by human rights groups. They even got the French church involved in having Gypsy members of their parish arrested by the police - policies that can only be described as thinly-veiled ethnic cleansing.
This is the same person who wanted to start a national ‘identity debate’ on if Muslims belong in France. The same government that garners the votes of people who go as far as saying they want Halal food banned in France, because evidently they find it offensive that Muslims can live as they want in their country. The same person that fired a French Muslim minister of his own party, over his criticisms of the way Sarkozy questioned whether Islam is compatible with France.
This is a president who resides over a population that is ~10% Muslim, the highest proportions inside the EU, yet actively pursues Islamophobic, and far-right policies at odds with it’s human rights obligations.
So no, it doesn’t surprise me that France would only further stamp on the feet of Muslims, hypocritically - “all public prayers in France receive government approval beforehand… ‘Here we have the hypocrisy of the French right. On one side, they authorize in the street and on the other side, they say ‘look French people, Muslims are taking over our streets and speak of invasion’ ”
It’s just another case of scapegoating Muslims, riding on populist waves of Islamophobia, for electoral gain.
Being a country of such a high Muslim population, and such importance within the EU, what France does has a knock-on effect, and their Islamophobic policies often have much more wide-reaching effects than within just France itself - with governments thinking “If France can get away with it, so can we!” - leading to a scenario where France, under the excuse of it’s ultra secular Laïcité traditions (which pans out as discrimination against religion, rather than freedom of religion) and under guises of pseudo-liberalism, has been at the forefront of xenophobic policies across Europe - in stark contrast to the romanticised liberal image of freedom and democracy that people have of it.
France in many ways is an image of what the rest of Europe can come to expect, in terms of governmental xenophobia, as the Muslim populations within each country continue to grow and the right exploit a xenophobic ‘fear of another’. Exemplified in the ghastly comparisons as the above - comparing French-national Muslims to the Nazi occupation… it’s a theme we see right across Europe, from the Geert Wilders in Netherlands to the FPO in Austria, and so on.
We saw just how much of a threat the growing fascist right is in Europe, with the tragic incidence of the Norway shootings and Breiviks well-documented Islamophobic intentions. Indeed, the far-right has always been a bigger threat to European stability than Islam or Muslims ever will be, or intend be; for us European Muslims, its our home, we’re not visitors or strangers, or ‘occupiers’, as the right like to say - the vast majority of us are merely trying to practise our faith and go about our existence peacefully. Not that we should have to explain ourselves to anyone.
Unless there’s a sea-change in the attitude of European politicians and media - from scapegoating and institutionalised fear mongering, such as the above, to tolerance, understanding, education and reaching out - then the far right will continue to play on populist fears and European society will only be ever more fractious.