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Emmanuel Macron must stop pandering to bigots and show strong moral leadership

Over 20 groups that bring young Europeans together call on the French president to stop stirring up hatred and embrace France's cherished principles of Egalité, Liberté, Fraternité
Emmanuel Macron. 'It is within your capacity to nurture understanding between people and to counter dangerous forms of polarisation within France and globally,' say 23 organisations to the president in a open letter (AFP)

As organisations that have spent decades building peace and bringing people together across Europe from various backgrounds, of all faiths and none, we would like to ask you and your government to reconsider the unilateral assault on Muslims, Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

The horrific murder of Samuel Paty and the heinous attack on a place of worship in Nice drew condemnation and empathy from people all over the world. This is a moment in which French citizens looked up to you to provide strong moral leadership.

Yet, unfortunately, there has been neither wisdom nor moral leadership in your response. Maligning Islam and your own Muslim citizens, closing mainstream mosques, Muslim and human rights organisations, and using this as an opportunity to stir up further hatred, has given further encouragement to racists and violent extremists.

Opportunistic behaviour

Your own words and actions go against the principle of laïcité, as well as the French Constitution of 1958, which states that “all citizens regardless of their origin, race or religion are treated as equals before the law and respecting all religious beliefs [or lack thereof]”.

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Your own words and actions go against the principle of laïcité, as well as the French Constitution of 1958

Your use of state mechanisms and the security services of the French state to spread unfounded defamatory accusations, raid civic organisations, close mosques and shut down legitimate organisations is symptomatic of the underlying malaise in France’s political institutions and goes against the fundamental principles of Egalité, Liberté and Fraternité. 

Indeed, this opportunistic behaviour undermines the principle of the rule of law by closing down associations based on political motivations and without sound legal procedures, and is a direct violation of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).

It is behaviour that is based on non-legal accusations and is being conducted with full impunity. Criminalising the work that is done to fight Islamophobia will set a dangerous precedent to cherry pick which religious and racialised groups to protect, and which ones to dehumanise and rob of their freedoms.

All of us in Europe know very well the horrendous consequences at mass scale that can lead from such actions targeting a religious minority. 

Adopting the policies of xenophobes

You appear to have forgotten that you came into office on the hopes and dreams of young French men and women who were looking for a fresh approach to race and faith relations. Adopting the policies of xenophobes and pandering to bigots serves only to further the divisions in France between communities and undermine her long-standing democracy. 

The moral high ground that we invite you to, is to reject hatred, marginalisation and divisive rhetoric and use your leadership to bring people together. It is within your capacity to nurture understanding between people and to counter dangerous forms of polarisation within France and globally.

The hand of friendship from European organisations, especially of youth and student movements, has long been extended. It would be a service to France and to its cherished principles, and to the rest of the world, if you took it.

List of signatories

• African Diaspora Youth Forum in Europe (ADYFE)
• Forumi Rinor Islami (FRI) North Macedonia
• Muslim Youth of Gibraltar
• Asociación de jóvenes musulmanes en Valencia (AJMV)
• Giovani Musulmani d'Italia (GMI)
• Muszlim Ifjúsagi Társaság (MIT) Hungary
• Association for Culture, Education and Sport (AKOS) Bosnia and Herzegovina
• Human Rights Education Youth Network (HREYN)
• Nuorten Muslimien Foorumi (NMF) Finland
• Associazione Studenti Musulmani Universitari (ASMU)
• MSA Nederland
• SPEAK (Muslim Women’s Collective) The Netherlands
• Etudiants Musulmans de France (EMF)
• Muslim Association of Britain Youth (MABY)
• Social Union ‘All-Ukrainian Association Alraid’
• European Muslim Scouts (EMS)
• Muslim Association of Ireland Youth (MAI Youth)
• Suomi-Marokko ystävyys-ja kumppanuusyhdistys ry
• Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) UK
• Muslim Student Association of Poland
• Norges Unge Muslimer (NUM)
• Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO)
• Muslim Union of Students and Youth in the Czech Republic

The views expressed in this article belong to the signatories and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

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