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France’s Muslim voters fear far-right election win

French Muslims fear the impact of a far right election win
French Muslims fear the impact of a far right election win - Copyright AFP Jack TAYLOR
French Muslims fear the impact of a far right election win - Copyright AFP Jack TAYLOR
Claire GALLEN

Muslim voters are increasingly worried about the prospect of a far-right victory less than two weeks before France’s snap parliamentary elections, fearing the possible restrictions that could follow.

For Sarah, there’s a “real risk” of seeing the National Rally (RN) win the ballot, called by President Emmanuel Macron after the far-right party trounced his centrists in early June’s EU elections.

The 23-year-old member of a Muslim women’s collective told AFP that would give the party of Marine Le Pen free rein to pass laws restricting her freedoms in matters of dress and worship.

The RN has made no secret of its hostility to ritual slaughter, which would effectively ban halal and kosher meat.

A bill it tabled in 2021 called for bans on “Islamist ideologies” and on the wearing of headscarves in all public places.

The current law prohibits the wearing of headscarves in public schools, and bans the wearing of full-face veils, such as the burqa, in public.

The centrist government of Macron also banned the wearing in schools of the abaya gown worn by many Muslim women from this school year.

– ‘Tool of discrimination’ –

Appearing on French TV this week, RN party leader Jordan Bardella said it wanted to ban the wearing of the Muslim headscarf in public, describing the hijab “as a tool of discrimination between men and women and not desirable in our society.”

But he said even if the RN won the polls the measure would not come into force until after the next presidential elections in 2027. 

Sarah — who like most people interviewed did not want to give her last name — was also concerned about the “legitimisation” of hostility to Muslims.

For her, if there is “an openly racist party in charge of the state, Islamophobic acts will multiply”.

With around six million people of Islamic faith or background, France is home to one of Europe’s largest Muslim communities. 

On Saturday evening, around 40 ultra-right-wing supporters marched through the streets of the southeastern city of Lyon, chanting “we are Nazis” and “get Islam out of Europe”, according to videos on social media.

The march was condemned by the rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Chems-eddine Hafiz, who called on the authorities to act in the face of “the liberation of extremist speech”.

– “Scapegoats” –

Hafiz had already condemned the “worrying rise of the extreme right” on June 11.

For him, Muslims and North Africans had “become the scapegoats, the symbols of all that is perceived as threatening, as foreign, as incompatible with a supposedly homogeneous national identity.

“It’s all mixed up in people’s minds now: immigration equals Islam… and religion equals the invasion of a population,” Bordeaux’s imam Tareq Oubrou told AFP.

Many Muslims complain about the media treatment reserved for them in the wake of the wave of the militant attacks committed in France in the name of Islam since 2015.

“As soon as I turn on the TV, it’s dramatic: it’s Islam Islam Islam, they confuse it with Islamism, they tar everyone with the same brush,” said Maryam outside the Grand Mosque in Paris.

The 46-year-old mother-of-two has advised her grown children “to study so that they can go elsewhere”, as life as a Muslim in France had become “more difficult than it was 15 years ago”.

This echoed a recent sociological survey, “La France, tu l’aimes mais tu la quittes” (“France, you love it but you leave it”), charting the unease of some young Muslims tempted to leave the country. 

– ‘Obviously scared’ –

Yet older Muslims are also expressing their dismay at the upcoming two-round election on June 30 and July 7.

“We’re obviously scared, not so much about religion, but more for everyday life,” said 70-year-old Fatima.

However, Karim Tricoteaux, a 32-year-old French-Algerian, told AFP he took hope from the feeling that “the left-wing parties are coming together and are more powerful”.

He said he would vote in the parliamentary polls, convinced that “that’ll do the trick”.

At the European elections in early June, 62 percent of Muslim voters who went to the polls opted for the hard left France Unbowed party (LFI), according to an Ifop poll for the newspaper La Croix. 

But as many as 59 percent of Muslims abstained.

AFP
Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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