By Ramin Mazaheri
In 2017 two out of three French voters were on the side of the nation’s Muslim citizens - for two weeks.
In between the first and second round presidential vote the incredible repression which Marine Le Pen was going to wage on Muslims was constantly cited as a reason to vote for Emmanuel Macron, who was presented as a “centrist”.
As the largest Muslim country in Europe the Muslim vote matters: In 2012 French Muslims decided the election. More than 2 million Muslim voters voted for Francois Hollande to the tune of 93% against Nicolas Sarkozy. Hollande prevailed by just 1.1 million votes, or a 51.6% to 48.4% margin.
Hollande immediately sold out the Muslim vote by refusing to take a zero-tolerance approach to Sarkozy’s inauguration of France’s normalisation of Islamophobia.
The start of open attacks on Islam with Sarkozy has only backfired in every way, because since his election polls show that French Muslims have only gotten more devout in their practices. The reason is obvious: the constant accusations that Islam is bad pushes French Muslims to look more closely at their religion - they do, and they realise how wonderful Islam is, thus they become more devout.
For France’s non-Muslims it has tragically backfired as well. Many in France don’t realise that the insulting Islamophobia, which results in humiliating domestic oppression, comes on top of two centuries of colonial and neo-colonial domination, plus foreign wars in places like Mali, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. Seemingly every Muslim attacker in France since 2008 who wasn’t clearly insane cited France’s wars in Mali and Syria, specifically, as justification for their attacks.
Hollande manipulated the attacks to gain approval for state-sponsored Islamophobia, which became his trusty “Islamo-diversion” tactic to deflect from his unpopular enforcing of far-right economic austerity. In his tenure some 4,000 warrantless raids on Muslim homes, mosques and properties only led to six suspicions of terrorism. The handful of the court cases were won, and I cannot unearth even one conviction from Hollande-era raids.
France’s fake-left assumed they have the Muslim constituency in their back pocket in 2012. In 2017 the threat of the National Front forced them into Macron’s camp. 2022 is a changed place.
Many French Muslims have told me they will do what was unthinkable to them previously - vote for the National Front (now rebranded as the “National Rally) in the second round.
Why the change? The insidious deception that Macron is a “centrist” and not a willing manipulator of Islamophobia has been totally disproven - the lower class and the Muslim class have paid the price for five years.
Sarkozy brought French Islamophobia into the mainstream, Hollande got it approved, but Macron institutionalised it. Macron took Hollande’s multiyear state of emergency and legalised it, with Muslims the clear targets and practically the only victims. Only the Yellow Vests and a small number of leftist and environmental activists have ever been impacted.
From not apologising for various massacres and atrocities against Algerians, to keeping Europe’s oldest political prisoner and the ‘Arab Nelson Mandela’ Georges Ibrahim Abdallah in prison, to falsely and shamefully enacting legislation which equates anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, to a “cyber-hate bill” which targets pro-Palestinians and Yellow Vests - Macron did very little in the past five years which did anything but hurt Muslims.
Have Islamophobic acts increased during the Macron era? We don’t know - Macron forced the closure of the French Collective Against Islamophobia, seemingly the only and certainly the best Muslim NGO committed to tracking this problem.
His so-called “anti-separatist law” of 2021 was the definite legalisation of Islamophobia, and was so heavy-handed even the United Nations and English-media widely criticised it. It tried to ban the hijab for minors and clearly violated constitutional protections for the freedom of association, worship and politics. In recent months nearly 100 mosques have recently been raided by the government, with at least two dozen shut down so far. (Who says Macron doesn’t care about far-right voters?)
Just this week a new report from Reuters came out: The mosque closures were based merely on “secretive evidence” which violate the right to fair trial and equality before the law. “Secretive” is simply another word for “false”, of course.
As his record clearly now proves, Macron is on the far-right economically (austerity and neoliberalism), politically (with his repression of the Yellow Vests), in his governance style (it’s a completely top-down style befitting a monarch and not an elected public servant who must listen to the others and compromise) but also culturally - he’s Islamophobic.
The error is exactly as I wrote in 2017 - in agreeing with the Mainstream Media’s insistence that Macron was a “centrist”. The past five years proves he is authoritarian, pro-economic inequality, and Islamophobic.
Much like with the absolutely brutal repression of the Yellow Vests - Marine Le Pen would have never gotten away half of the Islamophobia Macron did. People would have been on guard from the day she took office - similar to the response to Donald Trump’s election in the United States. A Le Pen victory would have sparked organised progressive resistance groups - something like a George Floyd response or #MeToo but à la française.
The handful of French media oligarchs who decided to give a political neophyte (he was previously a Rothschild banker) like Macron such glowing press coverage in the run-up to the 2017 election also decided to hand the 2022 election campaign agenda to convicted racist Eric Zemmour. The reason? Primarily this was done to spit the far-right voter for Sunday’s first round vote, but Zemmour also aids Macron by making Macron look more falsely “centrist”. Look at his record - he needs that assistance.
Making Islamophobia the 2022 election’s primary campaign issue will backfire - record abstention is widely predicted. It’s actually good news in this way: Islamophobia may still propel French politicians but the French people are bored by it - they wanted to go back to discussing real issues.
A recent poll has Marine Le Pen just 3 points down from Macron - that’s within the margin of error, and thus it’s a dead-heat. Her Hungarian “right-nationalist” counterpart just won a huge victory even though polls predicted a much tighter contest. French polling agencies are not just staffed by politicians - the biggest one is owned by a politician. Thus the odds of a 2nd round win by Le Pen seem much, much higher than many claimed in the previous months.
A Le Pen victory will be no picnic for France’s Muslims but at least everyone will be on guard against her. Macron, foolishly, was given a huge leash, and he went so far against Muslims that he broke the chain.
But mostly, France’s Muslims will do what a record number of French people will likely do: tune out the mainstream media hate factory and not vote. Abstention will hurt France’s left wing candidate - Jean-Luc Melenchon, who opposed the anti-separatism bill - but in France even the left wing is often as Islamophobic as the right wing.
One thing is certain: the alleged “centrist” Macron was no solution for France’s anti-Muslim problems.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. His new book is ‘France’s Yellow Vests: Western Repression of the West’s Best Values’. He is also the author of ‘ Socialism's Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’ as well as ‘I'll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’, which is also available in simplified and traditional Chinese.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.