After intense backlash for alleged Islamophobia, a section of social media is standing up in support of the nation following a series of controversial comments by its President Emmanuel Macron.
From proposing stricter laws to uphold the principle of secularism to using terms like “Islamic separatism" and Islamic terror attacks", Macron’s comments have evoked severe backlash not only from a host of countries like Pakistan, Turkey, Iran among others. As the discourse seeped to the general populace on social media, many accused France of using secularism to persecute Muslim minorities in France and #BoycottFrenchProducts trended on Twitter.
But on Tuesday, a new hashtag was trending on Twitter in India - #IStandWithFrance. Thousands of Indians accounts tweeted under the hashtag, expressing their support and appreciation for Macron’s decision to take a stand against extremism. Critics have, nevertheless, slammed Macron for targeting Muslims and using the violence for political advantage.
Why is Macron targeting Islam?
France, which follows a model of strict separation of state and religion, recently saw a rise in terror attacks and sectarian tension following a republication of the controversial Prophet Mohammad cartoons in September by the french satire magazine Charlie Hebdo. The republication of the caricature, meant to mark the start of the 2015 shooting in its Paris office which led to eleven dead, was condemned by critics as promoting Islamophobia.
France has since seen a rise in sectarian tensions with several incidents of hate. On September 25, four people were left severely injured after getting stabbed outside the old Charlie Hebdo office in Paris. In October, a French schoolteacher was brutally beheaded after he reportedly held a discussion about Prophet Mohammad in class.
But these are not the only hate crimes that have taken place in France since September. Following the beheading, French police led a severe crackdown on radical Islamist groups and mosques as the French President asserted that “Fear is about to change sides". While Macron has been denouncing Islamic separatists and claiming “Islam is in crisis everywhere", several reports suggest a rise in Islamophobic incidents in France with minorities expressing fear of persecution.
On October 21, two women were stabbed under the Eiffel Tower with the assailant yelling “dirty Arabs" and asking the women to go home.
Is France Islamophobic?
Despite its fierce adherence to the principle of secularism which requires a strict separation of religion from state and education, France has often been accused of targeting Muslims in the country. Be it the 2004 ban on burqa and hijab for women in public or the 2015 crackdown on “Islamic terror networks" following the Charlie Hebdo attacks that resulted in thousands of warrantless raids ad spurred further hate against the community, France has often been slammed for its use of secularism to tacitly alienate Muslim minorities from society and paint them all as “Islamists". The ban on headscarves, for instance, was deemed as an attack on the religious freedom of Muslims’ right to practice religion.
Some critics observe that Macron’s shift to neo-conservatism and targeting Islam was to compete with France’s far-right leader and the Republican Macron’s rival Marine Le-Pen.
Support has, nevertheless, been pouring in from certain quarters in India with many appreciating Macron’s tough stance on terrorism.