Last Sunday, November 10th, a demonstration against Islamophobia in Paris gathered more than 13,500 people (according to France Presse). The demonstration involved Muslim organizations and activists, and Left-wing movements. However, it also divided political leaders, some of whom don’t support the notion of Islamophobia, and it was, of course, rejected by the far right.
The demonstration was called through a tribune in the French newspaper Libération, last November 1st, and was signed by members of La France Insoumise, the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), human rights activists, and scholars, among others. Its context was the recent attack to a mosque in the city of Bayona last October 28th, when a member of the far right party National Rally (the ancient National Front) shot two people after trying to burn the mosque, and the Islamophobic attack suffered two weeks before by a Muslim mother whose hijab was ripped off while she was walking her daughter to school. But it also took place in a growing context of social tension with regard to the Muslim population, the debate surrounding the hijab and the controversy on laicism in French public institutions.
Last Sunday’s demonstration claimed for social harmony in France, and the freedom to wear the veil, as well as a stop to Islamophobia, and the end of indiscriminate attacks against the Muslim population. As expressed by the demonstrators: “Yes to the criticism of religion, no to the hate against believers”.
The division of the Left with regard to Islamophobia
However, in spite of this slogan, many Left-wing parties and movements decided not to participate in the demonstration, among them, the Socialist Party, or some members from La France Insoumise. Among the reasons given, it is possible to note the rejection of the term “Islamophobia” (they claim their right to reject any religion, though not the believer), the rejection of the Tribune’s positions regarding the laws that forbid the wearing of religious symbols in public institutions (the most remarkable, the veil), or the alleged relations held by some of the signing organizations, such as the CCIF, accused of defending positions close to those of the Muslim Brotherhood. The demonstration was also rejected by prestigious Muslims figures such as the imam of Bordeaux, Tariq Oubrou, who defended the need to find conciliatory positions, that didn’t contribute to exacerbate social tensions.
The debate surrounding Islamophobia isn’t new, as it isn’t the excuse of wanting to criticize any religion. However, there is no shade of doubt in the fact that we are facing an increase in tensions with regard to the Muslim population in the country, or the fact that islamophobia expresses a type of racism against Muslims, based in its physical features, physiognomy, and clothing. The well-known anecdote about the sij communities attacked in the USA, mistaken by Muslims, is a reflection of the racism that surrounds this type of attacks.
It is noteworthy the division of the Left on an issue that affects the freedom and security of a part of the French society, while standing impassive before the rise of the far right.
Still, it is noteworthy the division of the Left on an issue that affects the freedom and security of a part of the French society, while standing impassive before the rise of the far right. This was already the most voted party in the last elections (the European elections of 2019, where Marie Le Pen’s National Rally won 23 seats). Not only that, it is also noteworthy the fact that, in the two attacks mentioned, the two attackers were related with this radical party. It is one more example of an unashamed far right that roams freely across all Europe. That is certainly some to reflect on in Spain as well, seeing the recent elections, where the far right party VOX won 52 seats.
The following video, published by the Collective against Islamophobia in France (CCIF), offers a good visual summary of the demonstration against Islamophobia.
Le dimanche 10 novembre 2019 a eu lieu à Paris une marche historique contre l’islamophobie, et pour la liberté de conscience en France. C’est aussi simple que ça. #Marche10Novembre pic.twitter.com/bXz6pnE2bu
— CCIF (@ccif) November 11, 2019
Alfonso Casani – FUNCI