France President Emmanuel Macron who on the plank of being an economic and social liberal swept to power in 2017, has over the past few months, binned liberalism as he finally acts tough against the illegal immigrants. The thing that took liberalism out of him was the prevalence of Islamist thought in many regions of French cities, threatening the very idea of the French nation.
Perhaps owing to various terror attacks in the last two years, be it the ghastly November 2015 Paris terror attacks which killed 130 people or the Nice truck attack in 2016, several knife attacks every year, and encounters with extremist ideologies, Macron has done a complete volte face when it comes to tackling the illegal immigrants.
French President Emmanuel Macron seems to have launched an all-out campaign against political Islam and what he calls Islamist “separatism” in some French cities, seeking to restore order in sometimes violent and impoverished suburbs and to elicit support from right-wing voters ahead of local elections in March.
Macron has hit out against the Islamists as he said that it was “unacceptable” for anyone to disobey the laws of the French republic in the name of a religion or a foreign power. “The republic must keep its promises, we must fight against discrimination, we must put meritocracy everywhere,” he said. “But on the other side we must fight against separatism because when the republic does not keep its promises, others try to replace it.”
He recently announced measures to tighten controls on foreign financing of mosques, to end the nomination by Algeria, Morocco and Turkey of 300 Imams a year for France, and withdraw from this year permission for foreign governments to control language courses for 80,000 pupils learning Arabic, Turkish and other languages from their countries of origin — a system he called “an important vector of separatism” given that many of the teachers did not speak French or care about French culture.
The Imams, according to Macron, were often linked to Salafism or the Muslim Brothers and “preach against the republic”. He shredded any political correctness that was left as he said: “We will train imams in France so they learn the language and the laws of the republic.” Bourtzwiller district of Mulhouse in eastern France has an interesting demographic. While Mulhouse continues to be dominated by the white supporters of the far-right but over the past few years have also witnessed inroads of large swathes of the immigrant population. When Macron visited the district to interact with the residents, he made it a point of not visiting a large new mosque in Mulhouse.
Macron’s newfound distaste for political Islam is not without reason. There is a growing concern in France about the influence of Islamist radicals in the backdrop of multiple terror attacks the country has faced in the past few years. François Pupponi, who was mayor of Sarcelles near Paris for 20 years recently wrote a book titled: ‘In The Emirates of the Republic: How Islamists are Taking Control of the Suburbs’, he wrote that 100-200 Islamists and young thugs are terrorising a community of 60,000 — including Muslims, Christians, Jews and others. “One of the realities of these suburbs is the eruption of radical Islam,” he writes.
Radical Islamists have made their presence felt on social media too as consequences of criticising Islam can be dangerous which a school going girl the hard way. A teenage schoolgirl who casually criticised Muslim men and their religion in an Instagram exchange quickly became the target of death threats and insults. Abdallah Zekri of the French Council of the Muslim Faith prompted outrage when he suggested in a radio interview that the 16-year-old had it coming. “You reap what you sow,” he said.
Leader of the far-right party Rassemblement National party, Marine La Pen and Macron’s principal opponent won the most votes in France in the European elections in May on the plank of controlling immigration, curbing Islamists and tackling crime. Immediately in September, Macron outlined stringent immigration policies and said it was time to be “extremely firm” in applying asylum rules strictly given the surge in applications from foreigners taking advantage of France’s longstanding reputation as the “land of asylum”.
Speaking to French radio Europe 1 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly summit in New York, Macron said, “In order to be able to welcome everyone decently, we shouldn’t be too attractive a country.” He went on to say that “France cannot host everyone if it wants to host people well.” Macron had already signalled a tougher line on immigration last week while speaking to his Party MP’s, arguing the government must stop voters drifting to the far-right owing to its “humanist” policy on asylum-seekers. France and Germany have the largest Muslim populations in Europe. As of mid-2016, there were 5.7 million Muslims in France (8.8% of the country’s population) and 5 million Muslims in Germany (6.1%).
In a stern message to Turkey, Macron said: “I won’t let any country, whatever it is, feed separatism,” Macron said. “You can’t have Turkish law on French soil. That can’t be.” Recently, Macron accused Turkey of colluding with Islamic State proxies during the Nato summit in London. Macron charged, “When I look at Turkey, they now are fighting against those who fight with us, who fought with us, shoulder to shoulder, against Isis. And sometimes they work with ISIS proxies.”
France is facing a massive influx of illegal immigrants from Northern Africa and West Asia, and its southern borders are constantly under siege. The influx has been particularly unchecked during the last decade as refugees as well as extremists have been pouring into Europe from countries like Libya and Syria where regime-change wars and terrorism have rendered millions displaced. However, France now, with the largest population of Muslims in Europe, is reacting to the dire effects of the ideology that the influx has brought with it.
Macron who started as a liberal and a strong proponent of immigrants has seen France succumb to radical Islamists and hence is forced to do a straight 180. Indeed, the French President’s politics has aged like a fine wine.