Under the name of “Islamo-Gauchisme”, the French right wing has found a new battleground which brings two of their bogeymen together: Muslims and the Left. The debate about a so-called “Islamo-Gauchisme” is related to a new law against separatism, which is above all aimed against Muslims.
The French government has implemented the bill “to strengthen respect for the principles of the Republic”. There was resistance to the bill from both Left and Right. While the Fascist Party Rassemblement National criticized that the danger of Islamism had not been sufficiently confronted, the Communist Party, and in particular La France Insoumise, made the criticism that the law stigmatizes all Muslims, as the chair of La France Insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon declared.
In this context, it is illuminating that the French interior minister Darmanin accused Rassemblement National of being soft, because they said that Islam could be united with the French state. This shows very clearly what the aim of the law is: namely to brand Islam as anti-French.
Shortly after the bill was passed in parliament, French finance minister Frédérique Vidal, who is on the ring wing of the French government, commented that “Left Islamists would poison the French Universities”. She demanded an “investigation into the devastating influence of Islamo-Gauchisme” and declared that “Certain academics – surely a minority – use their title and their aura to promote the radical and militant ideas of Islamo-Gauchisme, by regarding everything according to their desire to divide, to fragment and to name enemies”. She went on to criticize the influence of post-colonial researchers who also endangered freedom of expression.
Her comments rightly led to outrage that it would endanger free science if the State were to decide which research is acceptable. It led to sharp criticism from the Universities. Among others, the President of the Sorbonne, Jean Chambaz, warned that with such measures, France threatened to align itself with Hungary, Poland and Brazil. A statement from the conference of University Heads was similarly damning: “Islamo-Gauchisme is not a concept but a pseudo-term, of which we can hope in vain for only the start of a scientific definition”.
The political Left also judged the debate to be an attack on freedom of opinion and research, as well as being a method of defaming the Left and Muslims.
Left Solidarity with Muslims is Necessary
The French Left’s rejection of the law, and the ministers’ accusations is fully correct, as is the engagement of La France Insoumise, which took part in several protests against Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism. In 2019, anti-Muslim racism in France led to 798 reported crimes, from insults via threats to actual attacks.
The French – and the German – Left have the task of standing together with the victims of racism, following both right wing attacks and attempts at criminalisation by the government. Our task is to act together against anti-Muslim racism and to resolutely oppose the growing propaganda against minorities.
For the real danger to democracy in France, as in Germany, comes from the Right, not from the religious minority of Muslims.
Christine Buchholz is the religious political speaker of the LINKE fraction in the German parliament, a member of the Bundestag defence committee and a deputy member in the human rights committee. This article first appeared in German on the freiheitsliebe Website. Translation: Phil Butland. Reproduced with the author’s permission