France - university

Minister orders probe into 'Islamo-leftism' in French academic research

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France’s minister for higher education says she has called for an assessment of all research currently underway in France, to ascertain whether supposedly academic work is sometimes a cover for activism.

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Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Frédérique Vidal announced that she had asked the National Centre for Scientific Research, CNRS, to conduct the probe.

The move comes against a background of accusations that academia is in the grip of 'Islamo-gauchisme' – an expression used by some French politicians and commentators to describe complicity between Islamists and those on the left whose definition of Islamophobia is far-reaching.

Speaking on French TV on Sunday, Vidal alluded to Islamo-leftism, which she said was "eating away" at society in general, and that the universities were not immune.

“What you notice in universities is that there is a minority of people who use their academic aura and qualifications...to advance radical or militant ideas.”

'Witch hunts'

The announcement of the probe has met with mixed reactions.

“We are shocked by these witch hunts…What are you referring to? Have you nothing better to do than establish a thought police?” asked MP Bénédicte Taurine of the far-left LFI party in parliament on Tuesday.

“I was asked about what is happening at universities, namely academics who say themselves that they are prevented from doing their research,” the minister replied.

“University is not impermeable, it is subject to the same currents as wider society. The role of university is always to study them, to understand them, and to allow debate and argument…and to ensure that within universities and in the world of research, there is discussion.”

In a statement in reaction to the proposed probe, the Confederation of University Presidents expressed its “astonishment in the face of another pointless row about Islamo-leftism in universities”.

“If the government needs analysis, argument, scientific back-up to help it rise above its grotesque caricatures and petty nit-picking, then universities are ready and waiting,” the statement added.

Meanwhile, MP Julien Aubert, of the mainstream right wing LR party, welcomed Vidal’s move. He declared that the creation of such a fact-finding mission was urgent, so that parliament might address the issue.

The minister also announced that among the issues to be examined by the CNRS is research into post-colonialism.

She said it was "essential" that France's social science and humanities departments study such subjects.

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