France’s New President: Does He Have a Stand on Radical Islam?

A victorious Emmanuel Macron speaks to supporters following his election as President of France. (Photo: ERIC FEFERBERG/Getty Images)

Emmanuel Macron, the 39-year-old new president of France has not yet articulated a coherent strategy for defeating radical Islam within France.

However, his previous statements on the topic suggest he will prioritize openness and tolerance rather than a more robust policy.

After a terrorist attack in November 2015, Macron said France should “share of responsibility” for jihadism.

In a speech in October 2016, he called on France to uphold the rights of Muslims. “No religion is a problem in France today. If the state should be neutral, which is at the heart of secularism, we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.”

His election rival Marine Le Pen’s hardline nationalism could well have exacerbated a great many divisions within French society. In defending France’s enlightenment values from Islamism it is important that French leaders do not throw away those same values in order to inflict more damage onto Islamists. Furthermore, winning over Muslims to be robust in opposing extremism will also be a lot harder if their religious rights are not respected and they feel targeted for their faith.

It seems likely that Macron, hitherto largely an outsider, will now receive briefings from senior intelligence officials who will reveal to him the true extent of the terrorist threat.

That information will seriously impact his calculations about the appropriate course of action.

Only then will we see what kind of a strategy France’s new president intends to pursue.