France - Islamism

Macron denounces Islamists’ politico-religious project in France

President Macron delivers his speech, Les Mureaux, 2 Oct.
President Macron delivers his speech, Les Mureaux, 2 Oct. REUTERS/Ludovic Marin/Pool

In a key speech, the French President Emmanuel Macron has outlined plans to halt the growing influence of radical Islamists in France, warned that some were pursuing an organised “politico-religious” project in sports clubs and youth groups to indoctrinate youngsters and adopting separatist behaviour in some workplaces.


Speaking in Les Mureaux, north west of Paris where there is a large Muslim population, the president’s theme was that Islamists, who have a political agenda, were the enemies of mainstream Muslims and were infiltrating numerous aspects of ordinary life.

Wahhabi and Salafist strands of Islam, originally simply spiritual, had become radicalised and many of their adherents no longer accept French laws, he stated.

'Counter society'

The French president declared that the existence of such a “counter society” was an acknowledgement that the French state had sometimes failed to deliver. “As we withdrew” he declared, “they pushed ahead with their project … Methodically.”  

“And we let it happen”, he observed.

Political scientist Paul Vallet of SciencesPo in Paris says it has been several years since the problem of a parallel society was identified.

“It’s easier for Islamists to create sort of counter societies in these areas than for the state to carry out its normal duties”, he notes, affirming that criminal networks and Islamist leaders control some neighbourhoods.

Many French people will be shocked to learn that “in a covert way, gradually” sports clubs and youth clubs have been infiltrated, reckons Vallet. He worries about the intensification of an already existing cultural insecurity in France.

Macron also detailed how authorities had recently had to close down a religious school where children said they spent most of their time praying and another where 7 year olds were wearing face-covering veils.

All schools in France, even those which are not run by the government, are expected to teach a range of subjects and abide by French law, which prohibits face-covering veils.

The president also alluded to the fact that there is no law against blasphemy in France, where the right to insult or ridicule any religion is an important freedom, hard-won in a country where for centuries the Catholic Church wielded significant power. His speech comes just a week after a man wounded two people outside the former Paris offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical weekly, seeking to avenge its publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

Home-schooling banned

The president went on to outline a series of measures aimed at combating the growing influence of radical Islamism in a new bill which will be put before parliament in January.

Home schooling is to be banned, to try to reduce the numbers of children who are withdrawn from government-run schools. Macron cited a radical Islamist parent who removed his daughter from school after first insisting she be allowed to miss singing and swimming lessons.  Unless there are medical or health reasons, from September 2021 every child must attend a school from the age or three.  

In a bid to end a reported growing separatism among workers in the public transport sector, men and women will no longer be able to ask to work in single sex teams.

Separate women-only sessions in public swimming pools will also be banned, he announced and public funding will be cut from sports and arts groups if they stray from republican principles and sow division rather than unity  

Sociologist Philippe Braud, of the Centre de la Vie Politique Francaise (CEVIPOF) thinks the new laws will certainly hamper radical Islamist efforts at disseminating propaganda, but expects some in the Muslim community to feel stigmatised by the measures.

Institute for the study of Islamic civilisation

If so, they will perhaps be heartened by plans to create of a “Scientific Institute of Islamology” for the intellectual and academic study of Islam and Islamic civilisations, also announced by Macron in his speech.

According to the president, the study of Islam and Islamic civilisations is an academic domain that has been neglected in France recently and is increasingly explored from an Anglo-Saxon perspective.



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