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Muslims in Europe: analysis of growing pressure, focus on the situation in France

In an increasingly polarized Europe, the specter of the far right, characterized by Islamophobic discourse, seems to be gaining ground, a phenomenon that is attracting attention in several countries, including Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Denmark, Lithuania, Ireland and Poland. However, it is in France that this trend recently reached a peak during the 2022 legislative elections, marked by a significant breakthrough by the National Front, which managed to win 82 seats in Parliament. This is an unprecedented event in the Fifth French Republic.

Indeed, this worrying rise of the far right, accompanied by Islamophobic discourse, is generating deep concerns among Muslims established in France. Members of this community express entirely justified concern about the rise of extremism and the spread of this discriminatory discourse. This situation raises fundamental questions regarding peaceful coexistence and inclusion within French society.

There is a focus on issues affecting Muslims, covering virtually every aspect of daily life, from dress and food to sports and private schools. This trend fuels ongoing controversy and creates a climate of persistent division, which recently culminated in the abaya controversy. Currently, a new controversy of unprecedented scale has erupted this past week, this time sparked by the possibility of creating specific legislation “for a specific right and organization for Muslims”, a proposal which has been raised by the former French Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe.

This proposal, widely criticized and seen as humiliating, goes beyond what would previously have been considered insurmountable limits. It was initially presented under the pretext of fighting terrorism, separatism, radicalism, fanaticism and political Islam, but also allegedly in the name of the specificity of the Muslim religion.

In addition, to intensify these attacks, other means are deployed in this Islamophobic campaign. Social networks play an essential role in the propagation of this propaganda. Social media have been diverted from their initial objective, which was normally sociability, to become real platforms for spreading messages full of hatred and contempt towards others. This propaganda is often accompanied by the dissemination of false information and the exploitation of any subject likely to arouse interest, whatever its content, as long as it fuels tensions against minorities.

This dynamic, with its elaborate mechanisms and carefully planned strategies, seems clearly aimed at marginalizing, subjecting to increased surveillance or even intimidating or even punishing Muslims in France, thus worsening an already tense and potentially polarized atmosphere.

This situation leads us to question the reasons why Muslims and Islam are the subject of particular attention in France, or even in Europe. Can this increased focus be explained by elements such as colonial heritage, an ongoing identity crisis, or even economic and social problems? Or is it simply an attempt to divert attention from the multiple failures of integration policy and to place the burden of these failures on the Muslim community?

In this deleterious climate, more than ever, the voices of certain political, associative and intellectual actors resonate, signaling a significant turning point in the nature of public discussions. This ideological drift is exacerbated, even amplified, by the dominant media belonging to private groups. This context highlights an atmosphere where moderation seems to take a back seat, giving way to more radical and hateful speech, which has been particularly harmful for a community throughout the year.

However, any attempt to protest and resist is likely to be subject to sanctions, including measures such as expulsion or dissolution of associations. The CCIF (Collective Against Islamophobia in France) and Barakat Cité are striking examples, having been dissolved by the authorities. It seems that the slightest opposition is sometimes quickly labeled, associating Muslims with conspiracy theories or fanatical and victimizing discourse.

The question that arises from this reality, what are the identifiable limits of these media-political assaults against Muslims living in France? Is it plausible that these repeated interventions go beyond polemics to infiltrate even more personal areas? Are Muslims in France and Europe safe from possible large-scale violence in the future?

It is crucial to remember that these political and media pressures have led to numerous bitter departures from France, observed within several Muslim families, most of whom were born in France. Some even go so far as to film themselves on social media platforms such as TikTok to celebrate their departure from the country. This mainly concerns people with the capacity and means to leave this country. As for those who cannot, they find themselves faced with two options: struggle and resistance or assimilation. How long will this situation continue?

At this moment, the situation of Muslims in France and in Europe in general, can be symbolically compared to a mother giving birth to children, some being pampered and supported, while others are neglected and abandoned. This raises the question of coherence between the slogans of liberty, fraternity and equality often promoted by French politicians and the reality experienced by Muslims.