France’s hypocrisy allows it to talk about humanity while quietly suffocating people wherever found unguarded, writes Dr Farhan Chak.
What is the glory of France? Victor Hugo, in Mes fils (1874) audaciously describes it as the prodigious French burden: “servir la patrie est une moitié du devoir, servir l’humanité est l’autre moitié,”- serving the homeland is half of duty, serving humanity is the other half.
Others, such as De Gaulle, simply say it’s in their imagination: ‘France cannot be France without greatness.’ Therefore, every man, woman and child, must feign its greatness; if not, then its puny uproar and sanctimonious swagger.
Alas, is this the grandeur of France that De Gaulle spoke of? To pretend to talk about humanity, and quietly suffocate people wherever found unguarded.
Today, in France, there are nearly 580,000 cases of rape and sexual assault against women, and 197,000 against men, yearly. If the underage minor population is included, that averages around 13, 500 rapes per year. Together, that makes nearly for a catastrophic 2,165 cases of rape and sexual assault per day.
Is France, where the age of consent is a matter of debate, even as young as 11 years old, seriously trying to lecture the world on women’s rights – or rights of any kind?
No wonder French intellectuals are decrying the rape and socio-economic crises in France, but are blind to deep-seated colonial constructs of prejudice and hate that vilify Muslims and other visible minorities.
Now, instead of boldly confronting the myriad of crises in France, Macron decides to blame marginalised, impoverished communities in his final act of cowardice and politicking.
Liberté? Égalité? Fraternité? No more.
These grandiose, puffed-up and empty words fall on deaf ears. They prove hypocritical in today’s radicalised French communes or banlieues. All they seem to do is serve ambitious political purposes of white power and western exceptionalism, reminiscent of France’s colonial past.
It was, after all, Scott F. Fitzgerald who said “I like France, where everybody thinks he’s Napoleon…”
“As a result, systemic racism is flatly denied by merely sweeping entrenched racial prejudice and bias under the rug. This French colour-blind approach has failed miserably.”
These lofty ideals are instrumentalised to claim the moral high ground and usurp another’s rights.
There is no nastier tyranny than that perpetuated under the molested appellation of Liberté; no treachery more harmful than that under the shield of Égalité; and, no more grandiose personal ambition than that concealed in the moral, universal purposes of Fraternité.
Nowadays, France is in a steep economic crisis which is exacerbated by its systemic racism and ghettoisation of society, a failing education system, and fictitious claims of rising crime and social delinquency attributed to minorities and Muslims.
Pointing the blame at minorities
As Norimitsu Onishi and Constant Meheut write the sensationalising of crime “tends to be a proxy for debates about immigration, Islam, race, national identity and other combustible issues..” Unable to effectively tackle these challenges, it denies, deflects and demonises Muslims and other visible minorities.
And, the strategy it employs is plainly smoke and mirrors.
It enacts anti-terror laws that claim to safeguards its illusory freedom, but in reality reprimands choice. It punishes the most alienated people labouring on its cobblestone streets by stealing blankets from trembling refugees as they sleep under a cold Parisian sky.
It cruelly laughs at a distraught refugee woman while, allegedly, kicking her child in a stroller. It ignores the massive sexual molestation of refugee children in the notorious Calais camp. It conceals the secret collusion of France’s Lafarge with terrorists in Syria.
Now, it blames French Muslims for separatism and targets mosques throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This shocking hypocrisy has its origins in the purported invisibility of the ‘other,’ which occupies a central position in the French political and legal culture. The myth of France’s imagined ‘colour-blind’ community is intended to ensure equality before the law and, consequently, social life.
In reality, as Simon (2008) writes in The Choice of Ignorance: The Debate on Ethnic and Racial Statistics in France, the avowed indifference to differences leads to the deliberate choice of ignorance by removing any reference to ethnic or racial origin from policies or laws.
As a result, systemic racism is flatly denied by merely sweeping entrenched racial prejudice and bias under the rug. This French colour-blind approach has failed miserably.
Consequently, to compensate for that miserable policy failure that created segregated ethnic communes, it censures those same visible ethnic and religious minorities for not integrating.
All this brings us to the deteriorating current events in France.
Using the abhorrent crime of the murder of a French teacher to justify equally abhorrent Islamophobia is unacceptable.
Yet, Islamophobia in France has a long, deep history.
As Arundhati Roy eloquently states, France has been pursuing a ruthless form of Islamophobia that is directed especially at Muslim women.
“An attempt is made to coerce women out of the burqa rather than creating a situation in which a woman can choose what she wishes to do, it’s not about liberating her, but about unclothing her. It becomes an act of humiliation and cultural imperialism…”
This humiliation is perceived as magnanimity in the glaring blindness of Laicité – where freedom is constricted to what a small minority in France deem it to be.
Unfortunately, there is little indication that France will be courageous enough to self-remedy. Instead, it doubles-down and claims moral superiority.
“And thus I clothe my naked villainy, with odd old ends stolen out of Holy Writ, and seem a saint when most I play the devil.”
Dr. Farhan Chak is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Qatar University with interest in Islam and Politics, Leadership, Secularism, Epistemology, Fundamentalism.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Doha News, its editorial board or staff.