You think life is bad for Muslims in Trump’s America? Spare a thought for the Muslims of France.
Over the past few years, they have been collectively blamed, and punished, for a series of horrific terror attacks carried out in France by so-called “jihadists.” The latest, a knife attack in Paris by a man shouting “Allahu Akbar,” killed one person and injured four others last weekend.
While anti-Muslim bigotry has become a hallmark of the Republican right in America, in France it is a truly bipartisan affair. Islamophobia is peddled by left and right alike, with both socialists and conservatives falling over one another to defend French secularism, or laïcité, by demonizing French Muslims.
Consider: Successive French governments have criminalized the face veil and banned the headscarf in schools. French mayors have targeted Muslim women who want to cover up at the beach and Muslim schoolkids who try to have a pork-free lunch. The French president — and new liberal hearthrob — Emmanuel Macron has introduced draconian counter-terror legislation that United Nations human rights experts have warned could have a discriminatory impact on Muslims in particular.
And the latest big idea? To go after the Quran. On April 21, the Le Parisien newspaper published a manifesto “against the new anti-Semitism” signed by 300 public figures — ranging from former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Manuel Valls to actor Gérard Depardieu and singer Charles Aznavour. According to the Atlantic, the manifesto states that “11 Jews have been assassinated — and some tortured — by radical Islamists” in France, and demands that “the verses of the Quran calling for murder and punishment of Jews, Christians, and nonbelievers be struck to obsolescence by religious authorities,” so that “no believer can refer to a sacred text to commit a crime.”
Such rhetoric is a reflection both of Gallic bigotry and sheer stupidity; a toxic combination of ignorance and privilege.
First, where are these Muslim “religious authorities” who would be willing to do to the Quran what Thomas Jefferson did to the Bible? Establishment-friendly French imams such as Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, and Tareq Oubrou, imam of Bordeaux’s Grand Mosque, have denounced the manifesto as “unbelievable and unfair” and “nearly blasphemous.” And were such mainstream figures to even agree to edit the Quran — believed by Muslims to be the literal word of God! — does anyone