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Macron v Le Pen: A Hobson’s Choice for French Muslims

Macron v Le Pen: A Hobson’s Choice for French Muslims

Categories: Latest News

Friday April 22 2022

As the French Presidential Election nears a close, following the first round of voting, the National Rally party candidate Marine Le Pen continues to challenge incumbent Emmanuel Macron for the top seat in France in round two, which is set to take place on the 24th of April. Perhaps unsurprisingly, much of this election campaign has been plagued with anti-Muslim and anti-migrant rhetoric with French Muslims, yet again, targeted and marginalised throughout.

This election saw two far-right candidates, the likes of Eric Zemmour, and Le Pen. In an election campaign that saw Macron escape the spotlight, much of the debate between candidates primarily centred on securitisation, anti-separatism and immigration. 

Right-wing media commentator Eric Zemmour’s campaign largely ran on a platform based on the “great replacement” theory. He also called for Muslims to renounce their faith, objected to mosques in France, and threatened the seizure of assets of African leaders should they fail to take back their migrants. While Marine Le Pen ran with her campaign slogan, “Give the French their country back”. Macron also appealed to the far-right, giving interviews to right-wing media outlets and introducing draconian policies limiting the freedoms of French Muslims in the name of Republican values, whilst Les Republicains candidate Valérie Pécresse committed to a quota system for migrants.

Concerningly, the hostile environment of the elections should not come as a surpise; since France has been accused of state-sponsored Islamophobia by many human rights organisations including CAGE. Rather more concerningly, it demonstrates its normalisation in public discourse, which in turn facilitates a rise in Islamophobia. Furthermore, it leaves French Muslims with a dilemma; Macron or Le Pen? In any case, the future looks bleak for Muslims in France.

Le Pen, leader of the National Rally, formerly known as the National Front, has pledged to rewrite the constitution to give France new powers to tightly control its borders and cut off immigrants from housing subsidies and healthcare. Furthermore, she proposes a hijab ban in all public spaces and a ban on what she perceives as ‘Islamist’ ideologies. Worryingly, a potential Le Pen presidency and inevitable influence will bring about autocratic change and increased targeting of Muslims and migrants. Many French Muslims fear that a Le Pen presidency will set dangerous precedence, legalising Islamophobia, with some fearful of deadly repercussions in the context of rising Islamophobic hate crime.

However, it is not only on the streets where Muslims of France are subjected to Islamophobia. Rather, structural Islamophobia facilitated by the state has been growingly profound. Macron’s infamous war on ‘separatism’ has seen the introduction of draconian policies, including a crackdown on mosques and Muslim organisations across the country. Macron’s Government introduced a series of controversial laws such as the anti-separatism law and Imam charter. Under these new powers, 718 Muslim organisations have been closed down or dissolved by the state, including Collectif Contre L’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), the only major anti-racist organisation monitoring Islamophobia in France, and over €46 million has been seized from mosques and associations. The law has been dubbed a systematic obstruction targeting Muslim groups and institutions. Several human rights groups have deemed such policies as Islamophobic, as these measures further stigmatise  groups.

Macron has offered very little assurance to French Muslims worried about the erosion of their rights. When elected five years ago, he made a promise to the French people: that the country would never again see a far-right candidate reach the second round of the presidential election. Today, France stands more divided than ever, and French Muslims are deeply concerned for their future. A win for Le Pen will see a wave of authoritarian changes, while a second Macron term only looks to bring about more of his anti-Muslim agenda. Hence for French Muslims this election is a case of Hobson’s choice. Regardless of the outcome, MEND urges the French Government to take responsibility for the targeting of Muslims, and the increase in Islamophobia, while calling on all political actors to commit to protecting the rights of Muslims in France.

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