Islamophobia in France is rising. On Sunday, October 18th, two Muslim women were violently attacked by two white women after an escalated argument involving an unleashed dog, according to the New York Post. Around 8:00P.M. near the Eiffel Tower, the two Muslim women asked that the dog be kept on a leash because their children were scared. Witnesses reported that the two white women refused, proceeding to call them “dirty Arabs” and telling them to “go back to your [their] country.” Witnesses recounted to Le Monde that one of the women’s veils was torn off during the attack as well. The Metro states the two white women proceeded to pull out knives and stabbed the two victims, 49 year-old Kenza and her cousin Amel. Kenza was stabbed six times and taken to the hospital with a punctured lung, while Amel had surgery performed on her hand after sustaining injuries.
The increasing phobia and hostility towards Muslims in France seems to be brought on by the image of violent Islamic extremists, including the unacceptable and disturbing beheading of teacher Samuel Paty after he showed pictures of the prophet—something prohibited in Islam. It seems that many people do not understand this act of violence against Samuel Paty is not condoned in Islam and is considered despicable. Muslims agree the actions of these extremists do not reflect true Islamic values, and in fact, are the opposite. While Islam preaches peace and love for all, it is being wrongfully branded as a violent and oppressive religion and is receiving a very negative and hurtful reputation. The blame for other’s actions is being taken out on Islam itself and the innocent Muslim population that follows it peacefully and truthfully.
According to the Washington Post, President Macron’s response was that of reforming Islam. He wants to create “an Islam in France that can be an Islam of the Enlightenment.” This may insinuate opposing public forms of Islamic displays, which has already been done in the past by banning the veil and the burqa—both of which are modest coverings for women worn out of choice, not oppression. The Washington Post claims what Macron is eluding to could also mean mandatory French-trained certificates for Imams, as well as controlling funding that Muslim mosques receive from areas outside of France. This would require Islamic organizations to sign a secular charter, as stated by The Guardian. The BBC says he [Macron] also intends to restrict home-schooling opportunities, despite a global pandemic, to avoid possible Islamic teachings that don’t conform to Republican laws. Macron uses freedom of speech as a reason to excuse the mockery of Islam and the Prophet. SkyNews states he believes religion is merely an idea, and therefore, people should be able to openly ridicule it.
Macron’s response doesn’t sound like a proper solution, and rather, seems like a way to control and change Muslims and their religion. Rather than reshaping Islam to fit more Western ideologies, the root of the problem should be addressed. The Washington post explains that French Muslims are facing alienation in the ghettos, or banlieues, and the suburbs of France. Moreover, 61 percent of Muslims in French households earn below minimum wage, according to a study done by the Ipsos Institute this year, reported by France24. These factors contribute to making French Muslims more vulnerable to radicalization and violence, ultimately creating and demonstrating the presence of Islamic separatism and systemic discrimination.
France24 states that the five million Muslims in France are not given the opportunity to voice their diverse opinions and views on the current discourse of Islam, despite the religion being a popular topic among French politicians. This is partly due to France’s desire to not associate with religious pluralities and remain secular. This, along with the image of a few Islamist radicals, has lead to pressuring Muslims to choose between their two identities: Islam versus France. However, the vast majority of Muslims that love their country and do not wish to separate and choose between the two are not being taken into account. The Ipsos Institute’s study on the Muslim population in France also concludes that 90 percent say they love their country and 82 percent are proud to call themselves French. However, 44 percent feel as though the country and its people have little consideration for them.
Blaming and attempting to reform the larger group is not a good solution against the actions of a few deviant individuals who do not represent the same values as the whole. As Fatima Bent, head of a Muslim feminist organization, Lallab, says in France 24: “manipulation of laïcité [secularism] creates a confusion between radical Islamists and other Muslims, ultimately encouraging Islamophobia and helping the extremists.” Rather than further hurting innocent Muslims, it is important to spread knowledge of the true values of Islam to fight against Islamophobia. Creating environments of harmony and understanding could be the solution to eliminating ignorance and needless violence. People must come from a place of understanding and desire of peace for this to work.