As the French has passed a series of amendments to prohibit the muslim headscarf for minors and in school field trips, where is this fury coming from and where is France going?
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This is your host Yasser Louati speaking to you from the Paris South side Banlieue. I thank you again for joining us and welcome to our new listeners. This podcast is a product of the CJL that I head the committee for justice liberties. You can look us up on CJL.ONG/EN. France is again, making international headlines. Headlines made around the senate passing of a series of amendments that are aimed are at again, restricting civil liberties if not violating them when it comes to Muslim minorities in France. Many people have commented abroad and on social media on the amendments passed by the Conservative Party Les Republicains in French, the Republicans. This series of amendments literally should scare any person who gives any value to fundamental human rights, namely the right to believe or not to believe, freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of speech. And of course, especially in the case of women, freedom to do what you wish with your body. For many activists around the world, who are still fighting this sense of ownership of men, over the bodies of women and their tradition of legislating over their bodies. I think this is again a new last battle. And if you think it is a good thing that white men can again legislate on the bodies of non white women, Muslim women wearing a headscarf then you definitely have to question your political positioning and your intellectual integrity. This podcast is not being recorded with the same tone. And for those who have been listening to me for the past, almost one year since this podcast was launched. There is a sense of urgency in the face of a intellectual and moral collapse. taking place in France today. I commented on social media and made people react, even though sometimes they just write them to vent off what I feel that the more France becomes irrelevant on the international scene, the more it becomes racist and brutal at home. So the headlines made covered the Senate’s passing of a series of amendments banning the headscarf for Muslim women under the age of 18. Even though the age of consent is 15. The banning of school field trips yet again, because it’s not the first time the banning of school field trips for Muslim mothers while they attend them in public schools, the banning of the burqini in public swimming places, and another amendment that I warned about even before it was passed. I warned about it right after the dissolving or the shutting down of two Muslim organizations. Today the senate under the leadership or other the majority of the Conservative Party leader publica passed a an amendment or voted an amendment that would give the capacity for the French government to shut down an organization on the mere accusation that it promotes non mixed meetings. Now of course, those meetings have been held for decades by feminist organizations. And it is normal for women to have safe spaces where they can discuss common problems come up with common solutions strategize, and at least feel safe from male domination. And those meetings reserved for women only. Were never a problem. I never heard of them. I was born here in the early 1980s, and I never heard of a problem arising from the organization’s holding these meetings for women only. But when those meetings were adopted by black, Arab, Asian, no, no white female Muslim organizations, that they became a problem. And this amendment will allow the government to shut them down, or the mere accusation of holding such meetings. The reason for that is the UNICEF, which is one of the biggest student unions in France has been holding these private meetings, you know, people of color only women only three times a year or so. And that has become a problem for the people in power today. So this series of amendments has been passed. To further widen the scope of the so called anti separatism bill. We covered it extensively on this very podcast. And there is plenty of literature out there to explain what it’s about. And this anti separatism bill has also its twin sister, if I may say called the comprehensive security bill, and that will recreate a security continuum for the French state. And that would allow for strengthening the executive branch of power, strengthening the police making it even more difficult for citizens to hold the police accountable, for example, banning filming police officers if they quote unquote, are intended, or if these those videos are intended to cause harm, physical or psychological. It will also ban establishing records or listings of government officials, police officers who are caught, misbehaving or involved in cases of police brutality, and that measure is specifically aimed at the cop watch. If I can call practice to film the police record them and name and shame them to allow accountability and mobilizations. Now, many of you out there have reacted to this a series of amendments, so I am not going to downplay the grave danger facing us all here, Muslims and non Muslims alike. First, people have to keep in mind that I’m going to share with you my feeling on how it has been carried and share it through social media, especially, of course, Twitter and Facebook, but mostly Twitter. There are many of a few out there, you know, online activists, keyboard activists, and we need such a work, but we also need online activists to be better informed. Otherwise, they end up doing a disservice to the very causes they’re supposed to support. Now, when people began expressing their anger and accusing France of outright banning the headscarf I would have wished that they would get in touch with people who are better knowledgeable than them. On the legislative process in France. The amendments that people have been speaking about are senatorial amendments saw the law, the separatism bait, excuse me, made it through the National Assembly, which is the lower house of legislation and in France, we’ve got two of them. We have the National Assembly and we have the senate the higher chamber. The National Assembly have voted in majority in favor of the bill. After that the bill goes through the Senate and the senate before voting for it. They have senators have the right to propose amendments. But before the bill becomes law, the very same text, or the very same bill, or the very same versions have to be adopted by both chambers, which means the Senate and the National Assembly have to both agree on the same version of the bill. And that’s why we have in France, what is called the parliamentary shutter, and a text goes back and forth, until they come to an agreement. If they don’t, there is what we call a bipartisan committee, if I can say or in French, a CMP, commercial mixed biter, which will bring members of both chambers. So they can agree on a final version, then once they agree on the final version of the bill, it is validated by the government. This explanation does not mean the situation is not that dangerous, it is still is the fact that both chambers of Parliament have been mobilized to cook up a bill, specifically targeting millions of individuals because they happen to be Muslims, because they there to demand equality, because they dare to exist as citizens. As I said, in a podcast I had with AlJazeera the take to exist as citizens and to step over the boundary of faith and become active in the public debate and to bring their contribution for a better society. both chambers of Parliament have been mobilized for weeks in order to pass this bill, which is a direct assault on basic human rights, civil liberties, and, of course, a clear violation of the French Constitution and the sacral St. Louis city law, because that bill allows the government to meddle in clerical affairs to intervene in religious charities to make it more difficult to build mosques in the name of being religiously neutral. Whereas at the same time, of the 45,000 churches in France 40,000 of them are owned by the French government and are still maintained to this day by taxpayers money Having said that, and having named some of the amendments, let’s backtrack and get into the details. This is not happening out of nowhere. This is not a situation that is unseen seen, or that no one could have forecasted in the past. This is a direct continuation of decades of drift. Towards the far right, we have to keep in mind that if you hear me say, or others, that marine lepen, the leader of the biggest far right party in France, has won the battle of ideas. It does not mean she single handedly defeated the whole intellectual spectrum in France. Far from that, we have to go back to the 1970s. And the very foundation of the National Front by her father is romare Lubin, who is himself a former soldier in the French troops and who admittedly committed war crimes in Algeria. And Rama had been banded with fellow activists from the far right, former Nazis, former members of the Vichy government, former collaborationist and they together set up the National Front, which is only the culmination or the amalgamation of multiple groups for right. militant groups in order for them to hope, getting an access to the halls of power in the 1970s, the National Front was nothing if I can say, for example, in 1981, the National Front only had about 270 members. And a score of point 18% point one 8% of the legislative election in which we elect the members of parliament. Three years later, Rama indepen is invited by the country’s top political show. The truth hour or the hour of truth in French learn the Verity which was extremely popular back then. And once you get there, that was a platform for nationwide visibility, if not respectability, because now you become legitimate to speak of politics, and be seen as a legitimate political leader. But who was in power back in 1981. In 1981, phospho meter home from the Socialist Party had just been elected president. And seeing a threat coming from his right, represented by the Conservative Party, or the rally for the Republic has sobre como por la public and phospho meter Whoa, hard to not only position himself or establish himself firmly. We keep in mind that under the Fifth Republic, born in 1958, through a coup d’etat in the favor of the General Charles the goal Yes, I said the coup d’etat It was not born out of an election, a bloodless coup d’etat was carried to the point that forced me to himself, coined the term, the permanent coup d’etat. Speaking of the return to power of Charles de Gaulle, and the fact that a new republic was born, just so he could become president of the republic, with the powers that we know, and I invite you for that to listen to my previous episodes of the breakdown. Now, back to phosphorimager Hall. And the rise of Rama hinlopen saw in 1981 is a historic moment in French politics. Here is Francois mediahome. Who, by the way, excuse me for coming back to the past because I really put things into perspective. And I want for our listeners to have a historic look on our current events. So for cemetery Hall when he was elected in 1981, he was indeed, the first socialist president under the Fifth Republic, which means since 1958. However, also Mattel himself had been a collaborationist. Yes, he worked with the Vichy government that collaborated with the Nazi occupying forces, which means he was not a real leftist, or a real socialist. And these are the peculiarities of French politics, that you can come from the far right and make it through a socialist political party, to become president. And, again, back to 1981. Three years after that election, the legislative elections are to be held there in 1984. Now, given the functioning of the French Republic, even though I’m extremely comfortable with this term, because it’s not really a republic, it’s a compromise between a republic and a monarchy. The President has so many powers that we cannot really speak of a republic because the parliament is not really independent. From the executive branch of power and the justice or the G the justice system is not independent at all, because the executive branch of power nominates the prosecutors. So in order for me to learn how to properly govern, he needs to have a majority in the National Assembly. Three years down the road in 1984. French people, French voters are to elect their representatives in the National Assembly. And for Swami, their whole fear is that the right wing party, the RPR, led by Jacques Chirac, will become president in 1995. The RPR is a direct political threads. So what does fossil media do? One would think that he would stand his ground and firmly establish a left leaning administration and garner the left wing forces to oppose the Conservative Party. Well, he goes in the opposite direction for submitter Hall, gives a platform to john mahila pen to become nationally known. And this is what forced me to declare is right before the legislative elections, opening quotation marks, pushing the National Front to the forefront to make the right ineligible is a historic opportunity for the socialists. Yes, you heard me. That’s Paul samito. Claiming that by emboldening the far right, Joe mahila been a war criminal, a supporter of the Vichy government, an openly racist individual, with the sole objective of making political gains, those political gains that phospho meto was aiming at, we are still paying for them today. Rama pain goes from heading a almost non existent political party to making it the number one threat against democracy in France. But it would be wrong to think that Rama had been by himself became a threat to democracy in France. without speaking of how many people even among the left, agreed with him in 1984, for example, the very same year in which we The legislative elections were taking place. Law of abuse, who was then a prime minister declares Rama hippin is asking the right questions on immigration, but providing the wrong answers. So here you have a legitimization of far right attacks against blacks and Arabs, especially Arabs. And I will record for you another podcast on the racist crimes targeting Arabs in France in the 1960s 70s, and 80s. And how they were forgotten from the national narrative, and how the French government never cared about the victims, out of a sense of solidarity with the perpetrators of the attacks, who oftentimes were from the ranks of the National Front and its allies in the far right. Now, when you have a socialist president, that gives a platform to the far right. When you have the Prime Minister, that idea is to the idea that if there is unemployment, it is not because of neoliberal policies. It is not because of a lack of public investments in infrastructure. But the very presence of Arabs in France is the problem. How can we claim that the far right has a monopoly on these issues? The reason why I mentioning this in a podcast focused on the latest amendments on the separatism bill in 2021. It’s because many people tend to have a cognitive dissonance between how they view France and how France behaves if I can say, and I really individually, sometimes get frustrated and lose patience, if I can say, when I hear people speaking of France as the country of human rights. There was never a liberal democracy in France, never. The advent of the Republic following the French Revolution in 1789, never gave birth to an institution that upheld the very values it promotes liberty, equality, brotherhood, separation of powers, equality before the law, equality between men and women. Now, it was always a colonial Republic, with all this systemic racism, consequences that come with it. So 1981 1988 we have a new election fasab meto makes it again, and is reelected for seven more years. Back then the President was elected for seven years. And the National Front continues to rise. And the more France sees an explosion in unemployment, and the growing gap between the the haves and the have nots, the more Arabs blacks, non whites are held accountable, for it are accused of being at the core of the problem, and that their very presence is a threat to the national economy. For the 1980s and 90s. Islamophobia was not really framed as such, there was a kind of curious approach towards local Muslim communities. But the prevalent expression of racism was against Arabs and blacks. Now 1995 jack shock is elected. He makes it to the first mandate, and the National Front continues to make headlines and continues to grow. There is a tipping point in 2002 when the National Front makes it to the second round of the presidential election. Now in France, the presidential election is held in two rounds through the direct universal suffrage In the first round all parties, or more specifically, all candidates from political parties, or not, for that matter, as long as they secure, the minimum number of endorsements can run for election. And the number one and the number two, make it to the second round. And the winner between the two becomes president now in 2002. Xiomara pen makes it to the second round, and faces is actually now the conditions for jamahiriya pens, making it to the second round are directly attributed to the biased media coverage on the volume and blacks and Arabs in those ethnic neighborhoods, that they are behind the rise in violence. And that the that the security of the French, or the sense of insecurity of most French people should be at the center of this election. And the media gave a platform to Shama Hill upenn. And he made it to the second round, it’s a historic event there is there are mass mobilizations against his very presence. And all of a sudden the media establishment finds itself burnt by the fire it was playing with. But there is no coming back from that. Because now officially, the far right party can make it to the election. And Rama Hill opens defeat in 2002. Never meant a defeat for his ideas. To the contrary, his ideas became mainstream. And most political elites ended up thinking that well, in order not for Maharaja mahila Pena, to make it to power, we have to embrace his ideas in order to keep him out of power. And that’s exactly what happened. We see that those racist, anti muslim, anti immigrant, authoritarian, Pro Stock Market policies are embraced by most political parties and all of the major political parties in France, the Socialist Party, lira biblical, the Conservative Party, and on the questions of identity, all of them agree. You can listen to my podcast on this very topic, the consensus around Islamophobia, and I hope you get the proper answers to and to understand why Islamophobia is the point of balance of French politics. Now, let’s fast forward to this day and speak of the issues at stake. We saw that two Muslim organizations have been shut down. And again, civil liberties activists warned, including myself that if you accept it when it comes to Muslims, you’re addressed next? It’s not a question of if it’s a question of when, because maybe political marketing would make you feel that a law would be only applicable against those people or is only meant against a specific group of people. But don’t be short sighted. Once the law is passed, it applies to everyone. Once you create a precedent, and you make it acceptable, it becomes acceptable against everybody. Now, the shutting down of two Muslim organizations has paved the way for new courts to shut down other organizations. Now, people clapped about the shutting down of identity generation, the far right militant group known for beating down immigrants at the border and chasing them, known for its occupation of mosques known for its connections with the Christ Church terrorists known for chartering a boat to prevent the saving of African immigrants and Syrian immigrants in the Mediterranean. That group has been shut down in fact, because the government could not turn a blind eye on the hate speech or the established and prove the hate speech of that organization. And do nothing about it.
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the problem is, is that the people of that organization have been embraced by the National rally headed by marine lepen. Which means that yes, they shut down a, an organization, by the individuals composing it have not be prosecuted, and they are now running for election and waving their membership cards of an established political party. Talking about white privilege right now, the next in line is the UNICEF in your national desire to join the force or the National Union of French students established in 1907. And it has in the past been accused of subversion and was threatened by the government. But what is striking here is that the unit is not a radical organization. When I was in college. We used to laugh at them, we used to accuse them of being too soft of being the socialist parties are puppets, when there were demonstrations and mobilizations. They used to call us out. And they always longed to respectability from the political parties in place and posing as the voices of reason. Now, of course, he I’m not calling out the unit, we have grown up. We have led battles together. And most importantly, the unit has evolved and matured politically, and has indeed evolved. As the student population in France evolved. They elected representatives from non white minorities, they have a national representative who wears a headscarf and is known for her student activism, Maryam Pushtu and she bravely oppose the islamophobes have the left and the right back in 2017 and 2018. So the organization has evolved in this organization, the unit is now in the crosshairs of the government. Why, because of this evolution, because the unit today on this are at least many of its representatives understand what systemic racism means. Some of them are the national level have grasped the threat posed by Islamophobia against Muslim students, but also against fresh democracy. If such a thing does exist, and for that, they are now threatened of being shut down by the government. And this comes in the aftermath of the national hysteria on the so called notion of Islamic leftism, you can again listen to my previous podcasts on that. Even the one I made with Maryam Everton, the hidden various another institution this time is directly threatened by the government. And at the time of recording today, Sunday fourth of April, the observatory of ICT will come to an end, the observatory of ICT was set up under false alarm, and was meant to promote ICT in France and protected from ideological manipulations. Now. The observatory of ICT stuck to the core definition of ICT as it was passed into law in 1905, meaning separation of church and state and not state activism for newborn atheism. If I can say absolutely not. There refused to see ICD used as an excuse or an ideological tool to promote Islamophobia to prevent Muslims from existing in the public space to protect the foundations of ICT, which is first the separation of church and state but also the right for religion to exist in in the public space, provided that they do not violate the law. The problem is the observatory of ICT has been under assault from day one by the secular fundamentalists who come from the left and who use Lycee To promote Islamophobia and they do not do so by just referring to the text of the law there reinterpret ly city as, quote unquote, the absence of religious visibility in the public space. Now, many would say, Well, at least they are fair they are targeting all religions. No. They are specifically targeting Muslims. And this new life city has brought together not only the secular fundamentalists of the left, but also the conservatives on the right side of the political spectrum. In 2003, a conservative leader Francois bawa published a report called Paulina nouvelle Lai city or for a new lazy day. And in that report, he promotes a new definition of ICT and new targets of ICT namely, the presence of Muslims in the public space. And I’m quoting him from his own report, that after winning the struggle against the Catholic faith, we have now to turn or steer our struggle towards the rising communitarianism, Muslim communitarianism or Muslim communitarianism. In other words, Muslim withdrawing from French society. And even though there is no definition for it, he concludes his report by saying, again, quote, unquote, at some point, like ICT and human rights are incompatible. So here we have a national political figure, mayor of the town of tois, who is potentially a presidential candidate, writing a report calling for a new definition of life city, and to new and to use it for new ideological objectives. And today 18 years after that we bought, we can see that the new ICT or the new liability has prevailed because it has been embraced by the whole or almost the entirety of the French political spectrum, and has been praised by the main political parties in turn. The only official organization that protected the real life city, the original life city law is now being shut down by the Emmanuel Macron. Government. As the bill on separatism is being debated, and we’ll be replaced by another organization that will promote you guessed it, this new life city that is used not to separate church and state and stick to that not to promote religious liberties, but to crack down on Muslim religious liberties. This is where we are heading today that there is an ongoing witch hunt in France and that the French government under the so called liberal liberal, Emmanuel Macron Miko organizations are being shut down, because they are ideological differences between the executive branch of power and civil society. As you can see now, the separatism bill is meant to pass a series of measures to crackdown on the right of Muslims to exist and organize as citizens to deny them the right to organize when needs be, and to push for a more equitable society. And the series of amendments passed by the Senate, which again have to be confirmed and voted for in the National Assembly, which is the lower house of legislation, those amendments despite being ridiculous, despite being disconnected from the priorities of the French population, despite being out of touch with our reality, they are only an expression of the deepest levels of the hatred towards Muslims in France. There is no sugarcoating it, when the state apparatus is mobilized to crack down for decades against a specific minority, because it exists as such, and because it’s children are grown up adults today, and only asking for their right to exist for their right to enjoy a fully fledged citizenship. The state says no, because the state the French state is deeply racist, do not come with any sugarcoating or explanation or diplomatic expression to minimize what is going on today in France, you cannot have a republic born from the ashes of the colonial empire that allows both chambers of Parliament that allows the president to come after a specific minority, and hold it accountable for the very failures of this government. Muslims through the past four decades have been framed as a triple threat forest a threat to the national economy, and rapidly they evolve to become on top of that a threat to national identity and a threat to national security. And in the name of the laughter the anti separatism bill is going to make it impossible for Muslims to exist and coexist with other Islam in this country. So let’s see the amendments passed and voted for in the Senate. banning the burqini in public swimming pools, banning foreign flags in weddings, making it harder to build mosques. banning of headscarves for minors under 18. And on top of it, you have the Minister of Interior who gives an interview to luthier home and says in reference to the abomination that the Grand Mosque of Paris came up with called the charter of imams. Please listen to my previous podcasts on the topic. Jihad dominant the Minister of Interior who is himself under a un a series of investigations for sexual violence against women for monetizing his power with weak and precarious women. offering them public housing in exchange for six a disgusting more Already bankrupt individual is today France’s Minister of Interior. And the government allows this man to be ahead of the police while he is himself under investigation, and that individual called Jihad Domino, says Tula figure hold open the quotation marks that certain associations did not wish to sign the charter of Imams, it lifts the veil on the shadow Theatre of foreign interference, and extremist movements, which operate on our soil. That means when Muslims stick to life city, and keep the state at bay, and prevent it from meddling in religious affairs, they are called agents of foreign governments and extremist organizations gehele dominar continuous, there is nothing to negotiate with these people. And we will mobilize all the levers of the state to prevent the installation of those who have not signed the charter. Let’s keep going with this Minister of Interior. This also applies to religious educational associations or schools or private schools. It would be only imaginable that the latter could claim approvals. Without having ratified the charter, the controls will be very intense. If this is not a declaration of administrative war against Muslims and their organizations, then I don’t know what is. Jihad dominum. Back in October 2020, ordered dozens of raids I guess, Muslim organizations, associations, mosques, and homes, just like it had been ordered in the past between 2015 and 2017. Under the force of law and government. Those raids have brought nothing. They again terrorize of families, humiliated communities. In one example, the police shows up in a mosque in the 11th hour on the small of Paris, the Omar mosque, and asked children are taking their classes. The cops marched through the classrooms and their prayer room. And the only thing they come up with and there was even an official declaration by V. Perfect to you, which is the administration supervising the police, and they come up with Oh, well, there weren’t enough fire extinguishers in the building. And one gentleman who was interviewed the next morning, he said, legally speaking, we have nothing on those people, we are just sending a message. Now what does it say about a country when a handful of men can mobilize the coercive means of the state, to send a message to Muslims, frame them as the enemy within legislate in consequence, and justify it by saying we are fighting the enemy within. Islamophobia has become a dogma in France, it is no longer an ideology monopolized by the far right. And Muslims are in danger today. And if you are listening from abroad, I urge you to stand with French Muslims. Because whether you are in the US, or in the UK, or in Australia, or elsewhere on continental Europe, France is the Laboratory of Islamophobia. And because France has such an influence, a declining influence or give you that, as a matter of fact, because that influence is declining. France has become ever more racist at home, as I said, in the beginning of this podcast, but France is still used as an example, by many repressive regimes by many racist regimes abroad. And many of them will tell you if France can do it. So can we or in I can cite my experience in the US and I send my warmest regards to the activists who have welcomed me with open arms in the Midwest on the west coast. If anything happens to the in France, it will be exported to you do not think it is a problem for French Muslims alone. Because many of the anti muslim activists that you have in your country, they come here in Europe, in the band with the anti muslim activists here that we are dealing with. The most notorious example is Steve Bannon when he came to Europe, right after Donald Trump got elected in the US. And His goal was to pump money into the far right Nebula and bring the European forwards together into a common ecosystem. If they can band together, how can we can’t? How can we still operate in silos? How can journalists abroad still think that it does not matter when journalists are prosecuted today, through bills that were passed against Muslims? Remember that when revelations were remade on France’s involvement in the war in Yemen, by selling weapons, to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the journalists who made the investigations and the revelations ended up being summoned according for interrogation by our domestic intelligence, and that they had been threatened by the state in order to stop making revelations. If you are an academic, wherever you are, and you see academics being criminalized in France, don’t you think that the criminalization of intellectuals in France might inspire the most repressive forces in your country? How many times I heard that lawyer is in public events coming from abroad, from North America, from Latin America, from Africa, from Asia, from the Pacific. And all of them come back and say, we have been defending or representing local activists facing the brutality of dictatorships. And those lawyers were extremely worried by the legitimization of France has given to the most repressive ideologies, the most repressive practices. So yes, Muslims are in danger today. And it does not help to use social media as a platform only to create a buzz around the tweet or a Facebook post. It is necessary. But I hope that more people on social media would share their platforms share their resources, give an echo chamber to people struggling in France. And even if, again, those amendments will not make it through the National Assembly. And even if they do, chances are they will be blocked by the Constitutional Council. But what is even more worrisome is that people who were elected to represent the people to stand by the democratic ideals that the French Republic supposedly upholds those people who have used their power to unleash at tsunami of hate speech and tsunami of sexist discourse, to make it impossible for Muslims, again, to exist as such. We even had a couple of months ago, the former secretary of the Constitutional Council, declaring on the far right weekly magazine, quote, unquote, we need to stop this human rights absolutism. Meaning that we need to stop having or seeing human rights imposed as a limit to how far we can legislate. What does it say about France? What does it say about our political life? What does it say about our intellectual life? What does it say about our future? This was Yasser Louati speaking to you from the south side of module. Thank you for listening.
Music credit: “Ironsky”, Hanto beatmaker, Kalu Beats