By Sajjad Shaukat
Just after the simultaneous terror attacks in Paris which killed more than 130 persons, on November 13, the people of France, the government and the media became one. A wave of anti-Muslim chauvinism could be seen in France in particular and the whole Europe in general.
French President Francois Hollande who declared emergency in the country, said, “It is an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army, Daesh [Islamic State group or ISIS/ISIL] against France…France would act with “all the necessary means, and on all terrains, inside and outside, in coordination with our allies, who are, themselves, targeted by this terrorist threat.”
Recall, just after the September 11 tragedy inside the United States, chauvinism and extremism were deliberately developed among the Americans through media and statements of high officials of the Bush Administration. President Bush used the words, “crusade against the evil-doers”, adding to the perception that the ongoing ‘different war’ against terrorism is actually a war against the Muslim countries. Inside the US, suddenly, every Muslim found himself divested of his nationality. Arrests, detentions and harassment of the Muslims by the CIA and the FBI were other steps which still continue. Israeli atrocities on the Palestinians were brushed aside.
Learning no lesson from the drastic aftermath and the implications of the post-9/11 tragedy, some irresponsible politicians, writers and think-tanks of France and their media are repeating similar anti-Muslim chauvinism in France by manipulating the Paris tragedy, which could divide the world on religious lines. Now, persecution of the Muslims in France has been accelerated.
In fact, there are some other purposes behind creation of xenophobia against the Muslims in France, which need appropriate analysis.
France has a population of six million Muslims, the largest in the Western Europe. At least two million Muslims have French citizenship. The Muslim community is made up of immigrants from Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria and a small population from South Asia. The immigration started in 1960-70s and consisted mainly of “economic migrants,” who filled the blue collared jobs which the native French did not want. However, their second and third generation is educated, but ostracized from the mainstream French society. The reasons of this isolation are usually attributed to the inability of Muslim community to integrate in the French “secular” society.
French perceptions of Muslims and Islam changed significantly over the past decade. Since 9/11, a number of terrorist attacks in Europe, and in particular in France led to an increase in debates, such as “Clash of Civilizations”, “Islamisation of Europe” and the “Islam problem.” It has, thus resulted in dividing the French society between “us” and “them.”
As the fear of Muslims and Islam grows in Europe, France has enacted a number of laws to maintain the “secularism” of the French society. In this respect, the controversial ban on the traditional veil, worn by Muslim women is notable. France has banned the traditional veil in public areas, considering it to be a symbol of “oppression” against women. Consequently, women, wearing veils cannot enter universities, banks, hospitals, offices etc., thus making it difficult for Muslim women to avail public facilities.
Head scarves and other religious traditional dresses have been banned in schools. This has, mainly, affected Muslim children. While, proposals for discontinuation of substitute for pork and “Halal”(Permitted in Islam) food in school cafeterias are also being voiced.
In the post 9/11 period, various laws were passed in France, which also increased the powers of police. These include: search and detention of people, extensive monitoring, recording etc. Muslim population has mostly been affected by these laws with identity checks and increased surveillance.
Many Muslims, nevertheless, find these laws part of discrimination, which have further broadened the divide between the Muslim community and the Christians.
Besides, the Muslim youth is facing discrimination in employment opportunities. In this context, “Muslim Diaspora” is twice more likely to work in factories than the rest of French force. They are also underrepresented in executive positions.
The Charlie Hebdo incident has also put Muslim population under greater scrutiny. Violence against Muslims increased twofold after the incident. As regards the incident, on January 7, 2015, two Islamic militants attacked the office of French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, and killed 13 people on January 9, 2015, two brothers namely Said and Cherif Kouachi suspected for the incident were killed in a shoot out with Police—in a hostage-taking situation, at a signage company in Dammartinen-Goele where some people were also targeted. Thus, the gunmen killed total 17 persons. Afterwards, the Israeli secret agency Mossad’s connections with Charlie Hebdo episode had been proved by many serious writers, analysts and social media bloggers—a video titled “Did Mossad Do Charlie Hebdo” prepared/uploaded by www.brothernathanaelchanne.com is worth-watching. In fact, besides creating differences between Christians and Muslims, Zionist groups and Mossad used the episode to punish France on recognizing Palestinian state and to desist other EU countries to avoid such approach on Palestinians.
Nevertheless, as part of discrimination, radicalized Muslim inmates are detained separately from the rest of the inmates. The second and third generation Muslim youth which has been brought up and educated in France, is faced with an “identity crisis,” despite being a French Muslim in a society which is unwilling to accept them as truly French. This lack of identity has led to a number of French citizens to fight in Syria.
Media has also played a major role in increasing the paranoia against Islam and Muslims in the European society. It is again mentionable that the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo was attacked early this year by two Algerian Muslim brothers, because it printed controversial cartoons, which had greatly hurt the sentiments of Muslims around the world. Mossad exploited the anti-Muslim approach of France, and indirectly used these Algerian Muslims through ISIS. However, the magazine continues to print anti-Muslim publications, under the pretext of freedom of speech, thus creating resentment in the Muslim community. Similarly, one of the most confrontational debated books of this year has been, “Submission” by Michel Houellebecq, which portrays France being ruled under Islamic law by 2022. The book thrives on paranoia of the European society towards Islam and Muslims.
The right Wing political Parties of France have also cashed in on the anti-immigration and Islamophobia sentiments of the public. The National Front party, known for its anti-immigration and Islamophobism is expected to make substantial gains in the Presidential elections of 2017 by manipulating the public sentiment, which is increasing weary of the new wave of immigrants from Syria.
The issue of Islamophobia and discrimination against Muslims will continue in France, Europe and elsewhere as long as the invisible line between “us” and “them” remains in the society. In the recent years, the laws and policies implemented by France have further marginalized the Muslim community. The negative rhetoric by media, think-tanks and politicians which incites religious and racial prejudices needs to be curtailed and the Muslim youth needs to be involved in the mainstream society to keep them away from radicalization.
Taking note of the November 13 tragedy in Paris, French rulers and politicians must show realistic approach. They must know that most of the people involved in the Paris attacks were the local Muslims, used by the ISIS which is subsidiary of the Israeli Mossad which itself exploited the French phenomena of discrimination against the Muslim community.
Nonetheless, after the Paris tragedy, instead of inciting religious and radical prejudices against Islam and Muslims, creating anti-Muslim chauvinism which could culminate into “Clash of Civilizations”, French politicians, think-tanks and media must end this discriminatory treatment against the Muslims.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations