Rayan Freschi describes how the latest Anti-Separatism Bill in France fits into the French state’s wider pattern of denying national minorities their rights, the narcissism that republican values have fostered in the country – and the challenges that await Muslims in France with the passage of the Bill.
This article is published as part of CAGE’s new series of expert essays ‘Perspectives on the War On Terror‘.
Since the announcement of the Anti-Separatism Bill in France, comments and critiques have flourished, trying to fully understand the different layers to the proposed reforms. Muslims and non-Muslims alike have tried to highlight its spirit and its consequences.
The global atmosphere, already depressed by the pandemic, darkened even more: the resentment towards this future injustice has fostered incomprehension amongst the Muslim community in France. Such a brumous environment prohibits an unclouding of the long view, nurturing angst and anger in the mind of Muslims.
To understand the issue, it is necessary to expose France’s political background, especially for non French citizens. Because of its remoteness, an external eye may fail to identify the true colours of the sinister picture that I will try to describe.
France’s Double Stance on Minorities
It is required here to highlight a significant yet little-known aspect of French governance.
Most Western states have acquired in their lexicon the term “minority” when addressing communities with linguistic, cultural, ethnic or religious specificities amongst their nations. Obviously these characteristics, whatever their nature is, differ from the main traits of the majority of the population.
It seems only natural then that any democratic state recognises this basic sociological fact both politically and legally; most do. This recognition has a positive and normative effect: it gives special legal protection to these minorities.
Why that kind of protection, could we ask ?
The answer to this genuine question doesn’t lie in a narcissistic willingness to be recognised as special, requiring more rights than others because of an imaginary natural superiority. The answer lies instead in the natural functioning of a democracy, which is based on the idea of majoritarian rule.
The majority, exclusive holder of the political power, can develop into a proper tyrant imposing its coercive and abusive will on a specific minority – a political phenomenon identified as “Tyranny of the Majority”.
European history bears witness to that phenomenon: it led to two genocides on its soil. The necessity of this protection is historically established and almost universally agreed upon.
France, however, does not recognise the political and legal existence of minorities on its soil. Based on the assumption that minorities do not exist on its territory, France therefore refused to sign the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. It refuses to apply article 27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (whilst having signed and ratified it), which states:
“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”
It also refuses to apply article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (which it also signed and ratified) :
“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practise his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.”
“This double stance means France refuses to acknowledge the idea that its governance can hurt any French minority group. This position only reflects a denial of their own historical atrocities, from their treatment of French Jews during WWII to its colonial history.”
United Nations Committees have frequently asked for a reform of France’s position1.
Hence, France refuses to grant these minorities the required specific legal protection (apart from the principle of equality and non-discrimination) they need as a theoretical guarantee of their survival.
Oddly, France believes its refusal does not imply a denial of its own cultural diversity: in their eyes, diversity exists but does not need a tailored normative protection.
Even more surprisingly, France actually recognises the existence of minorities abroad, going as far as proposing an Action Charter for the minorities in the Middle East to the UN Security Council back in 2015.
This double stance means France refuses to acknowledge the idea that its governance can hurt any French minority group. This position only reflects a denial of their own historical atrocities, from their treatment of French Jews during WWII to its colonial history.
Obviously, I am not arguing here this legal protection is enough to preserve any minorities. The overhaul answer requires a comprehensive and all-encompassing approach, not limited to its mere legal layers.
A minority’s existence isn’t exclusively correlated to its physical survival either: its entire way of life can be threatened by cultural, religious or linguistic assimilation to the majoritarian norm.
Death occurs slowly and painfully disguising itself as intellectual growth. It penetrates the minority’s mind with the idea that the majoritarian norms are superior, and naturally require to be holistically adopted so to achieve maturity.
A Governance based on and encouraging Collective Narcissism
Frantz Fanon, may God have mercy on his soul, beautifully demonstrated how being White was a form of Narcissism in his masterpiece Black Skin, White Masks.
This psychological feature leads to a willingness to dominate others, consistently regarded as inferiors, or children, to be taught and disciplined. This demonstration needs to be correlated to another phenomenon, Collective Narcissism, which could explain the current state of affairs and may help us identify future dangers.
Collective Narcissism is defined as “the belief and resentment that the in‐group’s exceptionality and entitlement to privilege is not recognized by others”. These two assumptions, superiority of the in-group and the insufficient recognition of it, become more and more obvious in the way the French State governs its Muslim minority.
Refusing to recognise minorities (or to even use the term “minority”!) is a way to render invisible entire communities, and to indirectly force them to assimilate.
Assimilation isn’t just a theoretical policy supported by the far-right. It actually is a specific legal requirement one must demonstrate if he wants to obtain French citizenship, and has been the only path France historically established for its immigrants to enter society.
The theorem is quite clear, binary, brutal and could be simplified in these words : “you either become like us and gain our privileges, or you stay the way you are and live beneath us”.
For Muslims, the complete abandonment of Islâm remains the first step towards assimilation. Here, through this lens, we can identify the first pillar of the collective narcissism we have mentioned: the inner belief of the in-group superiority.
But what about the second one, the insufficient recognition of the in-group superiority ?
🌍25 NGOs from 11 countries have today urged the @EU_Commission President @vonderleyen to investigate France at the European Court of Justice for systematic Islamophobia, rights violations against Muslims and imposition of discriminatory ‘Imam’s Charter’https://t.co/ZYQYuHdjaG
— CAGE (@UK_CAGE) March 8, 2021
When France’s Imam’s Charter was drafted, the actual Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, said the Laws of the Republic should be considered as superior to the Laws of God.
The Charter establishes such principle in its Preamble:
“We reaffirm from the outset that neither our religious convictions nor any other reason can override the principles on which the law and the Constitution of the Republic are based.”
The inner reasoning of this assumption is logically absurd: God is, by definition, superior to another entity. Hence, His Laws are naturally superior to any others, without any possible comparison.
It highlights the idea that French governance believes Muslims do not sufficiently value the belief system established by the Republic (the “Laws” of the Republic), and do not recognise its supposed innate superiority towards their own.
In other words Muslims, because of their beliefs, do not sufficiently recognise the exceptional status of the in-group.
Collective narcissism affecting governors and becoming more and more pervasive in the anti-Islâm and anti-Muslim narrative, it will (or indeed already has) affect the entire population, which will encourage deep hostility and resentment towards Muslims.
A Threat to Islâm’s Transmission
Most analysts have commented on the anti-Separatism Bill with precision.
They correctly highlighted how it was an attempt to promote a secularised version of Islâm, and a quest to obtain the complete allegiance from the Muslim community (the Republican charter is another proof of these objectives). In no way, shape or form Islâm can question (let alone critique!) the Republic’s governance, nor its philosophical foundations.
An apolitical, invisible, submissive and assimilated “Islâm” is the only one seen as being compatible with Republican values. In their eyes, we must desire to resemble them and continuously seek their eternally out-of-reach approval by constantly praising their superiority.
If we choose complete independence instead, we must then be severely punished, for a self freed slave must not inspire others to follow his path.
Yet, one aspect of the Republican project has been quite overlooked. It is nevertheless a fundamental feature of the Bill, and may be one of the most vicious and long-lasting ones.
The future Law will largely restrain home schooling, no longer based on free choice, but on a restrictive authorisation regime.
It is necessary to recall some sociological facts here, to understand why we have to focus on these points. The Islamic educational system is under-developed in France, counting only 70 schools for a community of 6 to 7 million. In contrast, 300 Jewish schools and more than 9000 Catholic schools exist on French soil ( the Jewish community consists of 600,000 people; the Catholic community of 40 million).
Moreover, since the voting of the Gatel Law 2018, which allows the Educational Minister to refuse the opening of a private school for national security reasons, and the “Systematic Hindrance” administrative policy, which aim is to close down any “radicalised” site, this number will probably drastically decrease.
For most Muslim parents, conscious of the necessity to educate their children in an Islamic fashion so to enable them to fully blossom in their faith and to be prepared to face the intellectual challenges of their time (be it, secularisation, ignorance and oppression), home schooling was the only other option to private Islamic schools.
By restraining it and by diminishing the already insufficiant number of Islamic schools, the state forces Muslim parents to send their children through the Republican educational system.
Through it, the French state will be able to educate these young Muslim minds to its own values, its own philosophy, its own vision of history. In other words, it will try to plant the seed of its own perception of reality.
Their reasoning is the following: if traditional Islâm is the way of life causing violence and social instability, then the correct answer to that challenge is to reshape its teachings and to raise a new generation of “Muslims”, fostered by the Secular Republican ideology.
Islamic knowledge and belief will be corrupted, without the new generation being even aware of it. French governance requires and will try to nurture a new breed of Muslims blind to their own slavery.
Alija Izetbegovic, may God have mercy on his soul, proved this point decades ago:
“Iron chains are no longer necessary to keep our peoples in submission. The silken cords of this “alien” education have the same power, paralyzing the minds and will of the educated. (…)
Instead of being a source of rebellion and resistance, this system of education is their best ally.”2
This is why education based on a correct vision, an Islamic vision, is such a key component of Muslim’s future survival and success. School isn’t exclusively a place where children acquire knowledge : it’s also a place in which they develop a sense of belonging to that specific knowledge.
Therefore, an Islamic educational system could provide two essential ingredients of their future growth: correct knowledge, which will enable them to discriminate between right and wrong, truth and falsehood, and an attachment to that knowledge, which will cultivate the drive to protect it and relay it.
Good education is their best chance to spiritually and intellectually free themselves from the chains of a corrupt authority and attain true independence, becoming the slaves of the only real Master, God Almighty.
“Assimilation isn’t just a theoretical policy supported by the far-right. It actually is a specific legal requirement one must demonstrate if he wants to obtain French citizenship, and has been the only path France historically established for its immigrants to enter society.”
Protecting children’s light
The previous description does not aim at inspiring discouragement. Islâm is a religion of hope, not despair; but it is also the one of reality, not illusions.
Challenges arise constantly. After all, there is nothing new here: the targeting of a community and its children by a tyrant reminds any believer of the story of Prophet Musa, on him be peace, and Pharaoh.
The will of a tyrant, as determined as he may be, is irrelevant when compared to the will of God.
If this Bill was to become Law (which is almost certain), then Muslim parents will have to be extremely cautious and close to their children, for education based on uncorrupted knowledge is the surest path to true success.
They will have to constantly stimulate their critical mind, so to distance themselves from an education which is designed for them to fail in both lives.
They will have to teach them our history, the colonial past of the country they live in, and the denial of it.
Parent’s goal must be the strengthening of their children’s self-love (not narcissism!) preventing the endemic psychological issues minorities face, from cognitive bias to internalised dominance and imposter syndrome.
But most importantly, they will have to explain how knowledge is always correlated to spirituality, both nourishing themselves, so to avoid intellectual and spiritual sterility which are pervasive in French and Western societies.
Creation is nothing but a mirror: its in-depth and sincere observation proves the existence of God and emphasises His Attributes.
Hardships should not weaken our hope for a better future, but rather strengthen our belief and willingness to struggle for a just society.
When afflicted by a clouded and dark future, facing the challenge and inspiring our youth to protect our heritage is the best way to establish the lasting sparkling light necessary to remove the shadows of confusion and oppression.
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