Australian state bans public display of Nazi swastikas

LONDON: Anti-Muslim rhetoric fears intensify in France after significant right-wing successes in the government’s majority in the National Assembly in Sunday’s elections.

Despite a comfortable victory in the April presidential election, Emmanuel Macron saw his governing centrist party ensemble drop from 350 to 245 seats, well short of the 289 needed to form a majority, including those carried by right-wing and left-wing parties. There were major benefits.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left-Green coalition may have won 131 seats, but it was Marine Le Pen’s jump from seven to 89 of the far-right national rally that stunned commentators.

Paul Smith, associate professor and section lead in French and Francophone Studies, Modern Languages ​​and Cultures at the University of Nottingham, said the right would be where Macron wants to form a governing coalition.

“Macron needs 40 seats to win a majority, and I think it’s likely that he won’t seek that support,” he told Arab News.

“He was meeting with party leaders to discuss his priorities, and the parties he is closest to are part of the UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents) and Les Republicans.

“His election campaigns focused on cost of living, but were fueled by identity politics – and a lack of concern in terms of collaborating with the far right.”

Emmanuel Godin, principal lecturer at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature, agreed with Smith, telling Arab News: “Macron is more likely to work with the left than the right.”

In playing to the right, Smith believes it will perpetuate a style of politics that has dominated France in recent years with the generalization of anti-Muslim sentiment.

“Islamophobia dressed up as secularism will not go off the surface,” he said. “We saw this with the recent backlash to the decision to allow the use of burkini in public swimming pools in Grenoble.

“People should be allowed to float however they like, but this rhetoric of ‘secularism’ goes beyond actual legislative action, and throws everything completely out of proportion, rather than speaking to reality.

“And that reality is that if secularism goes well, it has strong support from Muslims because it means that they can live their lives without being molested.”

A survey by the French Institute of Public Opinion supports Smith’s analysis, with 44 percent of Muslims supporting secularism, compared with 43 percent of those who vote without a religion and 42 percent of Catholics.

Citing the survey, Godin described the reality of French Muslim opinion as “far from the often satirical representation of the issue in some media”.

In Sunday’s legislative elections, Muslim turnout was crucial to the success of leftist candidates.

“In the first round of the presidential election, ninety-nine percent of Muslims voted for Melenchon, and their main reasons were socioeconomic,” Godin said. “Socioeconomically speaking, most French Muslims are working class.”

Asked whether it meant Macron had lost France’s Muslim community, Smith questioned whether the president had ever supported it.

He said that part of Macron’s problem when dealing with Islam and France’s Muslim population is his inability to think of anything other than a historical remnant of French colonialism in North Africa. “I suspect Macron will ignore Milnchon’s widespread support from Muslims,” ​​Smith said.