On October 5, 2016 during a phone-in on Non-Stop Politics, a talk show on the French radio network RTL, a Muslim listener asked presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron if he considered Islam to be incompatible with the French Republic.
“Not for a second”, he replied. “In France, there is no monotheistic religion that poses a problem.”
This position was at odds with the results of a September 2016 poll in which 56% of French people considered Islam as “incompatible with the values of French society.”
One year later in a speech at the inauguration of the Louvre museum in Abu Dhabi, he asserted that “those who would have us believe that Islam prospered by destroying other monotheistic religions are liars and traitors.”
Today, President Macron talks about the need for an “Islam of France.” He has promised to “lay the groundwork for the entire reorganization of Islam in France.”
The plan, details of which are slated to be announced in six month’s time, will “fight fundamentalism” as well as “preserve national cohesion.”
All this suggests that Macron now considers that Islam per se is a problem. One can only speculate as to why a religion that transcends national boundaries needs to be reformed or regulated within France.
Does this mean that the Quran and other doctrinal texts need to be revised and edited? If so, this would involve removing those passages that render Islam incompatible with life in contemporary France. One might start by deleting all the bellicose passages, as well as those advocating misogyny and intolerance of Jews, Christians, homosexuals and apostates.
To borrow a phrase from Charles de Gaulle, this is a “vast project” that is unlikely to enlist the support of French Muslims, particularly the generation that is about to come of age.
A 2016 survey of pupils in 182 high schools led by Sebastien Roché, director of research at the CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research), provided some alarming insights into the views of French Muslim adolescents.
- 62% consider their religion as very important (compared to 6% for Catholics)
- In North Marseilles schools, 47% of pupils claim obeying the police is not a duty
- 75% believe one should adhere to the religion of one’s parents
- 72% reject science (e.g. the theory of evolution) when it is in conflict with Islamic doctrine
- 68% place Islamic law above secular law
- 53% are in favor of banning books that criticize Islam
- 23% say their teachers say things that are false
- 36% are opposed to gender equality
- 54% say the state should pay a salary to imams
Such extreme opinions are not new. Back in a 2004 report by Jean-Pierre Obin, a senior civil servant at the Ministry of Education, came to similar conclusions.
In an interview published 10 years later, Obin remarked:
“In fact, a section of youth was in the process of seceding from the French nation. The signs were evident in the school system. It took several forms: dress (headscarf or full Islamic dress), dietary demands in the canteens, massive truancy during religious feasts. In some cases, pupils brought prayer mats to school and claimed the right to prayer rooms on school premises. Periods of fasting were the occasion of proselytizing by some groups who sought to impose a radical vision of Islam. Refusal to mix with pupils of the opposite sex was also observed during sports classes. I recall the principal of a rural junior high school telling me how pupils on a school bus had cheered Bin Laden.”
Obin’s report was corroborated by another CNRS poll of 7,000 high school students after the Islamic terror attacks in 2015 and 2016. This survey revealed that 32% of Muslim students believe Islamic doctrine is superior to scientific fact, while 33% condone violence and social deviance. The researchers estimate that 12% of students polled hold outright radical views.
If the results of these surveys are representative of the mindset of the next generation of French, adult Muslims, President Macron’s plan for a regulated Islam of France that will resolve the grave social and political upheaval and national security threat facing policymakers is likely to meet with a flat-out rejection from those it most concerns: French Muslims.