A couple of weeks in the past, Laurence Rossignol, France’s minister for households, youngsters, and girls’s rights, went on a morning speak present, the place the host introduced her with a collection of ads for brand spanking new attire “tailored for Muslim traditions,” corresponding to headscarves (foulards) and full-body bathing fits, or “burkinis.” The primary picture confirmed a younger lady with a screen-printed silk scarf knotted round her head and neck, her lips in a pout tinted the identical coloration as her outsized pale pink coat. The host requested for Rossignol’s opinion on European retailers, corresponding to H & M and Dolce & Gabbana, which are cultivating a distinct segment market in what they name “modest vogue.” Rossignol replied that it was irresponsible for firms to make and market such clothes, and that they share in an obligation to assist free Muslim ladies from cultural and spiritual pressures to cowl their our bodies. “After all there are ladies who select to put on the veil,” Rossignol mentioned. “There have been additionally American negroes who have been for slavery.”
The backlash in opposition to Rossignol was swift, each for her use of the phrase “negroes” (nègres) and the content material of her assertion. “Our ministers and intellectuals would possibly step outdoors of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, take a quick stroll past their ghettos, which might certainly assist them to forged just a bit doubt on just a few of their certitudes,” Esther Benbassa, a senator and researcher on the Sorbonne, wrote in Libération. On a ladies’s weblog referred to as “Kroniqueuse,” a younger lady with a Moroccan father, who was raised by her French mom’s “white bourgeois” household, provided an account of her resolution to put on, after which to not put on, the veil in France. When the author was rising up, “all one needed to do was activate the tv to note that the dominant mannequin of femininity necessitates a ‘sexually engaging’ physique and angle, all the time with the identical aim: to please males,” she wrote. “True private sexual liberation, the assertion of 1’s proper to pleasure and sexual selection is a course of . . . through which the veil, for me, occupied an actual place.”
Thirty-five thousand folks signed a petition demanding that Rossignol resign. However Manuel Valls, France’s Prime Minister, got here to her protection, and Rossignol later allowed that she had made an “error of language.” “I’m sorry that lots of people felt harm and humiliated by that phrase,” she mentioned, explaining that she didn’t usually use the phrase “negro” however meant to make use of the time period that will have been used on the time. She additionally regretted that her vocabulary had distracted from the which means of what she was saying, which she stood by. The feminist thinker Elisabeth Badinter, who has lengthy been waging a battle in opposition to the foulard, additionally defended Rossignol. “The minister selected the improper phrase in talking of ‘negroes,’ however she is completely appropriate in substance,” Badinter instructed Le Monde, just a few days after Rossignol’s offense, including, “I even assume that girls ought to boycott these manufacturers.”
For practically three a long time, a debate about find out how to combine Muslims with roots within the former colonies into a selected concept of secular society has occupied French opinion pages. Badinter, particularly, has lengthy been on the heart of that dialog, having signed a 1989 petition that in contrast women carrying headscarves at French faculties to Germany’s annexation of Czechoslovakia, in 1938. Extra lately, she was a robust advocate for the “burqa ban,” which just about unanimously handed, in 2010, and prohibits facial coverings in public. “I consider that what’s good for me—liberty—is nice for you,” Badinter instructed Jane Kramer, for a Profile on this journal, in 2011.
The views of those that, like Badinter, consider that the scarf represents an assault on ladies’s liberty and, with it, the values of the Republic have largely prevailed in authorities. Six years earlier than the burqa ban, France banned the scarf and different “ostentatious” shows of non secular religion in public faculties. In idea, the legal guidelines apply to all residents, with out regard to their non secular affiliation. However they have been developed in response to “incidents” involving Muslim ladies, and Muslim ladies are clearly their objects. (As one commentator famous, nobody objects to Orthodox Jewish ladies carrying wigs and different head coverings in public.)
Now, after the terrorist assaults in France and Belgium, by younger males who pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and ISIS, the controversy about French Muslims and their assimilation has suffused the nation. Xenophobia in France, particularly towards Muslims, has typically been considered because the province of the far proper, and particularly of figures like Marine Le Pen, the chief of the Nationwide Entrance, who has made ending “mass immigration” one of many foremost options of her platform. However now, as outstanding public figures like Rossignol rail in opposition to the scarf, others have questioned whether or not the stigmatizing results of this debate, typically maintained by supposedly left-wing secularists, might also be an element within the radicalization of a small however vital variety of French residents of Muslim background.
In December, President François Hollande launched an initiative that will have reformed the French Structure to permit residents convicted of terrorist crimes to be stripped of thei
r French nationality. Hollande lately withdrew the proposal due to disagreements within the parliament, and since such a measure might have violated worldwide legislation. The measure, which might have been largely symbolic, would doubtless have affected solely French residents with double nationality, most of whom are Muslims with roots within the former French colonies. This measure—mixed with the greater than 4 thousand raids on Muslim houses, eating places, and mosques that the federal government has staged since a state of emergency was declared in November, and the greater than 300 folks, principally Muslims, it held beneath home arrest for a number of months following the assaults—has created a way, based on the Collective Towards Islamophobia in Paris, of “retaliation” in opposition to the bigger Muslim communities for the actions of only a few.
But these only a few are an precise menace to French society. Earlier this month, Belgian prosecutors revealed that the suicide bombings in Brussels, in March, had initially been deliberate for France. Within the scramble to make some sense of the lots of of younger French residents who’re leaving house to affix the Islamic State in Syria, teachers have been energetically debating what is perhaps the causes. The French political scientist Olivier Roy has provide you with a extensively circulated idea of what he calls the “Islamization of radicalism.” He argues that ISIS represents a brand new, Islamist incarnation of radical actions which have existed in Europe and elsewhere for many years, such because the Baader-Meinhof group, in Germany. Roy factors out that a lot of the younger males who’ve dedicated terrorist acts in France up to now few years have been second-generation French residents who appear to have had little data of or involvement in Islam previous to becoming a member of ISIS (and twenty-five per cent are converts). Roy argues that some second-generation French residents of immigrant origin haven’t been capable of finding an appropriate technique of expressing their non secular heritage in French society, and that in some circumstances they is perhaps pushed into ungrounded interpretations of it. “We’re in a society that’s so secularized that it now not understands the fact of religiosity itself,” Roy has mentioned. “It’s exactly there that we should make an effort, to normalize the Muslim actuality as a non secular actuality and combine it into the French cultural house.”
One other political scientist, Gilles Kepel, has publicly opposed Roy’s idea, arguing that what is going on in France is, quite the opposite, the radicalization of Islam. The spreading affect of Salafist preachers, funded by governments within the Center East, has made younger folks extra inclined to violent extremist actions, Kepel wrote in Libération. He feels that as a result of his idea criticizes Islam itself, the left has been much less prepared to simply accept it. Kepel has gone after Roy within the press, accusing him of naïveté, and the broader left of latching onto Roy’s idea as a result of it additionally occurs to be politically appropriate.
The French demographer Patrick Simon has proven that, by way of language adoption and academic attainment over generations, the method of integration in France is definitely fairly wholesome. On the identical time, he has discovered that whereas youthful generations of immigrant origin really feel that they’re French, in addition they really feel that the French don’t view them as such. “We’re seeing as we speak the crystallization of otherness,” Simon instructed Le Monde. “The difficulties of integration don’t come up from the social practices of immigrants, who in the long run are fairly open, however from a society that refuses to combine sure teams on a double standards: faith (Islam) and pores and skin coloration of non-European origin—‘seen’ minorities.”
In different phrases, the newest coverage and rhetorical campaigns are injurious to the power of society to operate at finest, and maybe an element within the disenfranchisement of some younger folks at worst. Because the nation prepares for a contentious Presidential election subsequent yr, through which the Nationwide Entrance is definite to play a outstanding position, a piece of the mental class, with Badinter at its helm, and the mainstream political class will undoubtedly be decrying the divisiveness of the far proper. They may look, first, at their very own actions and phrases.