New book puts France at center of anti-Muslim backlash

Women hold signs reading ‘Is it not a provocation, just my freedom of conscience’ during a ‘headscarf march’ organized by the Collective against Islamophobia ‘Respect Equality Dignity’ on Sept. 3, 2016, in Avignon, southern France. (AFP)
Updated 14 February 2018
0

New book puts France at center of anti-Muslim backlash

LONDON: Islamophobia in France is being fueled by state-backed efforts to encourage secularism, according to a new book that puts the country at the heart of a growing intolerance toward Muslims in Western societies.
In “Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France,” Jim Wolfreys, a British academic and author, argues that French politicians have given discrimination and racism a veneer of respectability in their response to a wave of Daesh attacks that hit French towns and cities in the last three years.
The bloodshed has left innocent Muslims facing unprecedented scrutiny of what they wear, eat and say in a society polarized by inequality, he claims.
Wolfreys, a senior lecturer in French and European Politics at King’s College London, told Arab News there is a “danger of confusing understandable fear of terrorism with fear of Muslims.”
France is home to Europe’s largest Muslim community, with estimates of its size ranging from 2.1 million to about 6 million, out of a total population of 66.9 million. Many of these Muslims can trace their roots back to the country’s colonial rule in North and sub-saharan Africa during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Secularism is one of the guiding principles of the French political and legal systems and questions around immigration and integration have long been a subject of debate in the country. But rhetoric once considered taboo has entered mainstream political discourse in recent years, according to Wolfreys.
In 2011, even before the recent wave of militant attacks, France became the first European nation to ban women from wearing full-face veils in public.
Then, as gun battles and suicide bombings rocked the country in a series of attacks claimed by Daesh, local authorities in several towns outlawed women from wearing burkini swimwear. Officials said the clothing, which covers the female head and body in keeping with conservative Islamic custom, was a security threat and flouted the nation’s secular principles.
France’s highest administrative court subsequently overturned the restriction imposed by one resort, with three judges ruling that it was “clearly illegal” and in violation of “fundamental liberties,” but the ban heightened concerns among many Muslims that they were being made scapegoats for the Daesh-inspired violence.
Islam and immigration went on to become two of the central issues in the 2017 presidential election, when Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party, won almost 11 million votes in the second round of polling.
Le Pen campaigned on an openly Islamophobic ticket, denouncing mosques for allowing worshippers to pray in the streets and warning of the danger of living “under the yoke of the threat of Islamic fundamentalism.”
She lost convincingly to her liberal rival, Emmanuel Macron, but mainstream political concerns about Islam have not gone away.
On Sunday, President Macron told the French weekly newspaper “Le Journal du Dimanche” that he planned to reorganize the structure of Islam in France to help “preserve national cohesion.” He provided no details about how he hoped to do this.
Wolfreys’ book, “Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France,” looks in detail at the causes and consequences of state-fueled discrimination.
He reports the results of an opinion poll conducted by a French human rights institute that found 45 percent of National Front supporters do not consider “dirty Arab” a reprehensible phrase. In the same survey, nearly three-quarters of respondents said they do not regard Muslims as fully French.
However, Wolfreys accuses mainstream parties from both the right and left of the political spectrum of adopting increasingly intolerant interpretations of secularism.
He writes that the problem became particularly acute after two masked gunmen attacked the Paris offices of the satirical magazine “Charlie Hebdo” on Jan. 7, 2015, in retaliation for a series of cartoons defaming the Prophet Muhammad. Twelve people were killed, with Al-Qaeda in Yemen and Daesh issuing contrasting claims of responsibility for the carnage.
On Nov. 13 that year, Daesh militants also carried out a coordinated assault across the French capital, with three suicide bombers blowing themselves up outside the Stade de France and gunmen killing 89 people attending a rock concert at the Bataclan theatre.
This was followed in July 2016 by an attack in the southern city of Nice, in which a cargo truck was driven into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day, killing more than 80 people.
Wolfreys’ book warns that the French government’s response to the bloodshed has been disproportionate and risks further marginalizing innocent Muslims, pushing them into the arms of extremists.
“The renewed emphasis since the 2015 Paris attacks on inculcating respect for ‘republican values’ in schools, punishing those alleged to defy them, fast-tracking those accused of ‘apology for terrorism’ through the courts, and increasing surveillance and ‘vigilance’ is unlikely to prevent such atrocities from happening again,” he writes.


Trump blacklists critical ex-CIA chief Brennan

Updated 15 August 2018
0

Trump blacklists critical ex-CIA chief Brennan

  • In a highly unusually directive, Trump claimed that Brennan had become “erratic”
  • Brennan, a frequent Trump critic, could now lose access to classified information, a courtesy usually afforded to former senior officials

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan Wednesday, warning several other prominent critics they too risk being blacklisted.
In a highly unusually directive, Trump claimed that Brennan — a former station chief in Riyadh who rose to lead the formidable spy agency — had become “erratic.”
Brennan is a frequent Trump critic. Just hours before this presidential edict, he accused Trump of failing “to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity.”
Brennan, who has briefed Republican and Democratic presidents, could now lose access to classified information, a courtesy usually afforded to former senior officials.
The White House has been besieged by a scandal over a former aide’s tell-all memoir in recent days and often tries to defuse crises by stoking new controversy.
It said that eight other critical officials could also lose their clearances.
They included former director of national intelligence James Clapper, former CIA director and four star general Michael Hayden and ex-FBI director James Comey.
The group was accused — without details — of politicizing and monetizing their public service and security clearances.
“Historically former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their government service so that they can consult with their successors,” Trump’s statement read.
“At this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr.Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
Following the president’s summit last month with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Brennan, who headed the CIA under president Obama, described Trump’s behavior as “nothing short of treasonous.”
The move to pull his security clearance prompted immediate outrage, with former secretary of state John Kerry accusing the president of “putting personal petty politics ahead of patriotism and national security.”
“You expect this banana republic behavior in the kind of countries that the State Department warns Americans not to travel to, but not at home in the USA.”
National security lawyer Brad Moss said it is not certain that Trump can legally rescind clearances on the grounds stated by the White House.
Hayden said Trump’s threat would have “no impact on what I think, say or write.”
He went on to tell CNN that “it’s almost as if they wanted us to implicitly sign a no disparagement agreement” — a reference to gag orders which Trump often insists on for civilian staff.