Turkey today condemned French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempt to rid France of “Islamic separatism”, saying his statements “encourage Islamophobia”.
Eighteen months before a French presidential election in which he is expected to face a challenge from the right, Macron called Islam a religion “in crisis” in the world on Friday.
Turkish President Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Macron’s “dangerous and provocative view” “encourages Islamophobia and anti-Muslim populism.”
The spokesman for the ruling AKP party, Omer Celik, added that “Macron’s speech on a ‘French Islam’ is a dictatorial approach and a total ignorance”.
French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech to present his anti-separatism strategy at Les Mureaux, near Paris, France on October 2. Turkey today condemned its attempt to “rid France of Islamic separatism”, saying its statements “encourage Islamophobia”
He said: “Macron’s point of view only provides ideological ammunition to terrorist groups like the Islamic State. “
Turkey’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that Macron’s initiative would have “serious consequences rather than solving France’s problems.”
Macron’s plan to “liberate Islam in France from foreign influence” adds to a growing list of disputes between the French leader and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkish officials frequently attack Macron, who said last year that NATO was showing signs of “brain death” by failing to resist Turkey’s unilateral military intervention in Syria.
Macron and Erdogan are currently fighting over maritime rights in the eastern Mediterranean, Libya, Syria and, more recently, the escalation of conflict in Azerbaijan’s breakaway Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Erdogan’s spokesperson (pictured right, with internationally renowned Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj in Istanbul, Turkey, yesterday) said in a tweet that Macron’s “dangerous and provocative vision” encourages the ‘Islamophobia and anti-Muslim populism’
Emmanuel Macron described Islam as “a religion in crisis around the world” by unveiling his proposal to fight Islamic radicalism, saying he had created a “parallel society” living outside French values.
In a keynote speech lasting over an hour, the French head of state said on Friday that Islam was in crisis due to an “extreme hardening” of positions in recent years.
He said the government would introduce a bill this year to strengthen secularism in France against what Macron called “Islamist separatism” in the country.
Macron insisted that no concessions would be made as part of a new campaign to push religion out of education and the public sector across the country.
He coined the term “separatism” to describe the underworld that thrives in parts of France where Muslims with radical views of their religion take control of the local population to instill their beliefs.
But members of the Muslim community of six million people – the largest in Western Europe – immediately accused him of stoking Islamophobic and racist sentiment in order to appeal to far-right voters ahead of the presidential elections.
Emmanuel Macron (pictured earlier today) described Islam as “a religion in crisis around the world” by unveiling a proposal to fight Islamic radicalism which had created a “parallel society” living outside French values .
In a speech broadcast live from Les Mureaux, north of Paris, Mr. Macron said: “We must fight against Islamist separatism” without “stigmatizing all Muslims”.
A new law will allow the dissolution of religious groups which “undermine the dignity of persons, using psychological or physical pressure, and shatter the values of France”.
There will also be an end to the system of “detached imams” which allows extremist clerics and other preachers to be trained abroad before settling in France.
“We ourselves are going to train our imams and chanters in France, and so we have to untie this link which is what is called consular Islam,” Macron said.
He said all French imams should now be certified and could be shut down at any time.
The equivalent of over £ 9.7million will be spent to work at the Fondation Islamique de France – a moderate organization that promotes traditional Muslim study in culture, history and science.
Macron said it would help ensure that the dominance of a religion “respects the values of the Republic.”
The head of state added that there would also be a more in-depth review of the curriculum in private schools and stricter limits on home schooling for reasons other than child health issues.
Some 1,700 private Muslim schools and colleges currently teach about 85,000 children in France.
Community associations receiving state subsidies will have to sign a contract attesting to their attachment to secularism and to the values of France.
The new measures will also include a ban on the wearing of religious symbols for employees of contractors providing public services, such as carriers.
The rule already applies to civil servants.
Macron said there had been growing reports of abuse by contract staff, including bus drivers denying women entry for wearing clothing deemed too revealing.
He stressed that it was necessary to “free Islam in France from foreign influences”, naming countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.
Macron stressed that the measures were not aimed at stigmatizing or alienating Muslims in France but at strengthening “our capacity to live together”.
Friday’s speech came as a trial continued in Paris after the murderous January 2015 attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo (above) and a kosher supermarket by a French-born Islamic extremist.
He called for a better understanding of Islam and said the problem of radicalization was in part a product of the “ghettoisation” of French cities where “we have built our own separatism”.
“We have concentrated populations according to their origins, we have not created enough diversity or ensured economic and social mobility in segregated areas,” he said.
Radical Islamists burst in, taking advantage of “our withdrawal, our cowardice”, he added.
But Macron was immediately criticized for stoking Islamophobic and racist sentiment to appeal to far-right voters ahead of the presidential elections.
Yassar Louati, a prominent Paris-based civil liberties activist, said: “The crackdown on Muslims has been a threat, now it’s a promise.
“In an hour-long speech, #Macron buried #laicite, emboldened far-right anti-Muslim leftists and threatened the lives of Muslim students by calling for drastic limits on homeschooling despite pandemic global. “
Rim-Sarah Alaoune, a French academic, also took to social media to say: “President Macron has described Islam as” a religion in crisis around the world today “. I don’t even know what to say.
“This remark is so stupid (sorry) that it does not need to be analyzed in more detail… I will not hide that I am worried.
“No mention of white supremacy even though we are the country that exported the racist and white supremacist theory of the ‘great replacement’ used by the terrorist who carried out the horrific #Christchurch massacre. “
Friday’s speech came as a trial was underway in Paris for the murderous January 2015 attacks on satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket by Islamic extremists of French descent.
Last week, a Pakistani stabbed two people near the former Charlie Hebdo offices in anger after the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.
Earlier this month, divisions were highlighted when MPs stepped out when a college student entered parliament with a headscarf.
And in January, a renewed debate over free speech erupted when a teenager received death threats for attacking Islam in an Instagram-laden rant.
Macron’s long-awaited speech came 18 months before the presidential elections where he is expected to face a challenge from the right, as public concern grows for security in France.
The bill is expected to be submitted to parliament for debate in the first part of next year.