World News – UA – Muslims question their place in France after terrorist attacks


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The attack by French officials on « Islamic separatism » and « the enemy within » leads Muslims to wonder if they will ever be fully accepted

At 42, Mehdy Belabbas embodied the French Republican promise of upward social mobility: the son of a Muslim worker of Algerian origin, he was the first in his family to attend doctoral school and was for 12 years assistant to the mayor of the working-class town where he grew up

And yet, for two weeks, Mr. Belabbas thought of only one thing: « I wonder if I should leave France »

M’s thoughts Belabbas emerged from days of heated, if not hostile, public debate largely fueled by President Emmanuel Macron’s own ministers, which began in response to the gruesome beheading of a teacher by an 18-year-old Muslim extremist and was fueled by this that officials believe to be an Islamist terrorist attack in Nice on Thursday

French officials have vowed to crack down on what Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin has called « the enemy within » by closing a mosque, proposing to ban several Muslim groups the government considers extremist and even suggesting the elimination of ethnic food aisles in stores

M Macron, who launched a campaign earlier this month against Islamic « separatism » from deeply rooted secular values ​​in France, recently said Muslims must develop an « enlightenment Islam », which many saw as condescending

While these and other statements by French officials have sparked a backlash in some Muslim countries, they have mostly caused confusion among the nearly six million French Muslims, who almost all condemn the violence but fear being all qualified as terrorists

« After this attack, five or six million people have to justify themselves, » said M Belabbas « But we just don’t know what is expected of us »

The knife attack on a church in Nice on Thursday promises to deepen the confusion, despite the conviction of the killer by Muslim leaders Naziha Mayoufi, a member of LES Musulmans, an association of Muslim groups and mosques, said that ‘she felt’ an infinite fear and sadness for the families of the victims, for our Catholic friends »

But she said after Thursday’s attack she feared politicians and commentators would feel even more entitled to label Islam an « enemy from within »

The amazement of the Muslim community in France is particularly pronounced in Ivry-sur-Seine, the working-class suburb east of Paris where Mr. Belabbas grew up and where several thousand Muslims have integrated economically and socially since the 1950s

« Everything that has been said and done suggests that we Muslims are all targeted, that we are all likely to be linked to this new paradigm of ‘separatism’, that we are all suspected, » Mohamed said. Akrid, the president of Annour, an organization overseeing the construction of a mosque due to be completed in 2023

Since 2004, the Muslim faithful of Ivry-sur-Seine have had to make do with a dismal gym and a tent that the town hall has lent them to accommodate the some 2,000 people who attend the prayer from Friday

M Akrid acknowledged that Islam in France has been overwhelmed by radical factions that have a strong influence on young people, especially on social media.But he added that France’s recent crackdown on Muslim individuals and groups accused of radicalism risked creating more confusion than fighting against this pervasive influence

M Darmanin said the 250 or so raids last week swept away « dozens of individuals not necessarily linked to the beheading investigation » but to whom the government wanted to send a message: « No respite for enemies of the Republic ”He later added that the raids only resulted in seven prosecutions

« It’s about conveying a message, » said M Akrid “But to whom? To these people or to all Muslims? « 

These are M’s comments Darmanin on ethnic food aisles in supermarkets – such as the shelves of halal products – which he said could foster « communalism » and lead to « separatism » which have raised eyebrows and seem to suggest that a wider debate on the ‘integration was at stake

« The confusion is dangerous, in that you risk further radicalizing certain strains of Muslim society, especially young people, who may feel rejected by such comments, » said Claire Renklicay, a restaurateur at Kurdish origin who qualified the fight against jihadism as « a fight for humanity »

Mr. Belabbas declared that when he grew up in the “Cité Gagarine”, formerly an ambitious social housing project in Ivry-sur-Seine, “the French model of meritocracy told us:“ If you work, if you study, if you respect the laws of the Republic, you will have the right to social mobility  »

But « that did not necessarily mean that we had to eat like everyone else, or believe like everyone else, » he said, adding that the current model rather implied that Muslim customs and practices were incompatible with the laws of the Republic

The authorities’ vow to defend those who publish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, within the framework of his strict secularism laws which allow blasphemy, is at the heart of France’s convoluted relationship with its Muslim citizens But many Muslims, from shoppers at the open-air market in Ivry-sur-Seine to the president of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, have declared their unease with the cartoons, arguing that there should be limits to the offense. when it comes to religious beliefs

A poll published in early September indicated that while 59% of French people supported the publication of the cartoons in the name of freedom of expression, only 19% of Muslims agreed

Vincent Geisser, a sociologist specializing in Islam at the University of Aix-Marseille, said that the current debate reflected a failure of the French model of integration, which « was accompanied by distancing and even a break with religion »

He said that « not only did it not happen, but the opposite actually happened », highlighting the thousands of French Muslims who had integrated into society while maintaining their religious practices This development is considered a « republican betrayal » by some political leaders

In 2016, a report on French Muslims from the Paris-based Institut Montaigne showed that 70% still buy halal meat and 65% are in favor of the hijab, veil or headscarf that many Muslim women carry but which sparked years of conflict in France

For young Muslims who do not assimilate, said Hakim El Karoui, author of the report, “the question is, ‘Who am I? And the answer is, « I am a Muslim »

But in the shock of the teacher’s beheading and now the terrorist attacks, several prominent imams and officials say they have come to realize their responsibility to ensure that a peaceful version of Islam is promoted in mosques and call on Muslims to publicly support Le combat de M Macron against « Islamist separatism »

Sitting next to the plans for the future Ivry-sur-Seine mosque, a modern 20,000 square foot building that will feature prayer rooms, classrooms and a library, Mr. Akrid said many young people ignore religion « and will educate themselves on social media, at the mercy of manipulators »

M Akrid said he agreed with the need for Muslims to participate in public debate and work towards a better understanding of religious texts.But he added that France’s assimilation policy, which tends to deny differences, could contradict such a role

« We are being asked to do two contradictory things at the same time, » said M Akrid « Withdraw and introduce yourself »

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News from the world – AU – After terrorist attacks, Muslims question their place in France


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