France’s Emmanuel Macron & Islam — His Frustration


French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Seine-Saint-Denis prefecture headquarters in Bobigny, near Paris, France, October 20, 2020. (Ludovic Marin/Reuters Pool)

Emmanuel Macron is fed up with how some Anglophone media outlets have portrayed his government’s crackdown on Islamist activity in France.

In the immediate aftermath of the murder of schoolteacher Samuel Paty in Paris last month, an initial New York Times headline viewed the killing apparently through the lens of America’s debate on policing: “French Police Shoot and Kill Man After a Fatal Knife Attack on the Street.” A later Associated Press explainer asked, “Why does France incite anger in the Muslim world?” It answered: “Its brutal colonial past, staunch secular policies and tough-talking president who is seen as insensitive toward the Muslim faith all play a role.” Other examples abound.

Macron reportedly fumed about this sort of coverage during a cabinet meeting last week. This past weekend, Le Monde  reported the French president’s annoyance at how the New York Times and the Washington Post reproached his defenses of the country’s republican model. “Alignment with American multiculturalism is a form of defeatist thought,” he said, according to the French newspaper.

An op-ed in the Financial Times this week has apparently brought these frustrations to a head. In the article, which the FT has since taken down for containing “factual inaccuracies,” the author warned that Macron’s campaign against “Islamic separatism” pushes French Muslims away and empowers the far-right.

Yesterday, Macron responded in the publication’s pages:

For its readers, and I am one, being informed by the Financial Times means being certain of accessing robust facts, rich analysis and reliable information, without needing to verify its veracity. Therefore, who could imagine that the statements made publicly by the head of a G7 member state could be distorted by this news organisation?

And yet, that is what happened in a column published online yesterday. The piece misquoted me, substituting “Islamic separatism” — a term that I have never used — for “Islamist separatism”, which is a reality in my country. It accused me of stigmatising French Muslims for electoral purposes and of fostering a climate of fear and suspicion towards them.

He goes on to defend his government’s approach to fighting terrorism on French soil and rebuts charges of prejudice against Muslims.

Others in Macron’s government have also espoused this rejection of U.S. cultural guideposts. Michel Blanquer, the French education minister, decried the intellectual currents coming out of U.S. universities, such as intersectionality, calling in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche for a fight to be undertaken against them.

The Macron government is fighting a battle on two fronts. First, and obviously, against the “Islamist separatism” that Macron has identified. And second, against the tendencies, which have metastasized on American college campuses, that would prevent a defense of France according to its republican values.

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