Head of a French Organization to Al-Estiklal: Muslims’ Vote for Macron Is Not a Blank Check
“The number of Muslims in France reaches 10 million out of 67 million, according to unofficial censuses.”
International jurist Dr. Kamel Laifi confirmed that Muslims in France were forced to elect Emmanuel Macron for a second presidential term, because they did not have a better option than him, indicating that this is a conditional election, not a blank check.
He added, in an exclusive interview with Al-Estiklal, that Macron, in the first term, took some measures against Muslims because he wanted to win over part of the far-right, while he is currently expected to back down from this policy because he cannot aspire to a third term according to the law.
“Muslims in France are a force to be reckoned with, as their number officially exceeds 7 million, while it reaches 10 million out of 67 million, according to unofficial censuses,” Dr. Laifi pointed out.
According to results announced by the French Interior Ministry, Macron won 58 percent of the vote in the second round of the presidential elections, compared to 42 percent for his far-right rival Marine Le Pen.
On the situation of Islamophobia after Macron's election, Dr. Laifi confirmed that Islamophobia is not related to authority, but rather to some entities that exist in society, and it will not change until the culture of acceptance of the other and true democracy prevail within society.
“The Ukrainian crisis embarrassed Europe and revealed how it deals with refugees with discrimination and discrimination, which caused great shock to the French, prompting many of them to review their positions with the refugees,” he also pointed out.
Dr. Kamel Laifi, a Tunisian who has lived in Paris since 2000, holds the position of head of the International Academy for Rights and Development (based in Paris) and has been a consultant to a group of international human rights organizations since 2005.
The Lesser of Two Evils
• For whom did French Muslims vote?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: Most, if not all, Muslims voted in favor of the lesser of two evils, that is, in favor of Macron.
All Muslims do not want to see Le Pen again in the political arena, because she is very extreme in everything related to Muslims in France.
• Macron courted Muslims in his battle with the far right. Does this prompt him to review his past mistakes against them?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: In fact, he did not court the Muslims until a very late stage; but contrary to his position, Macron chose a minister of the interior who is very bad with Muslims; although he is of Algerian Arab origin, he was very extremist against Muslims, and issued many bad administrative and ministerial decisions against them.
Among these decisions was the closure of a large number of Islamic societies, schools, and mosques, and the dismissal of a large number of imams from their jobs; but Macron recently had to court Muslims, after he learned that without Muslims voting for him, he would not win these elections.
This courtship of Muslims was reflected in his electoral battle and his debate with Le Pen, where he focused on her wanting to ban the veil in squares and public places, and this would - according to Macron - lead to discrimination among the members of French society, and discriminate against one group of people for the sake of another.
In fact, his position does not suffice him from assuming responsibility, and he knows very well that Muslims will elect him, but they will hold him accountable and will not give him a blank check.
• Was it easy for Muslims, after a difficult presidential term with Macron, to re-elect him again?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: Muslims, unfortunately, had no better choice than Macron, and had to choose him in the elections so that the far-right candidate would not win.
It is like a conditional election, and the conditions of Muslims were said in meetings, seminars, hearings, and conversations that took place in closed rooms with members of Macron's election campaign, and there are agreements between representatives of the Muslim community and Macron's electoral group.
• Did Muslims take advantage of this dangerous situation to their advantage?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: The situation is critical, not only in France but in all of Europe, which, unfortunately, has turned to the far right.
Also, the issue was not a matter of exploiting a circumstance, on the contrary, we Muslims do not want the French politicians to deal with us in a different way, but rather honestly and fairly. We are pressing in this direction so that they know that we have significant political weight.
Muslims in France are a large electoral bloc to be reckoned with; that is why we want the French politicians to understand that our role is important and that they should treat us fairly as they treat others.
• How do you expect Macron's second term with regard to the freedom and rights of Muslims?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: I see that Macron will back down a little on too many issues because he will not aspire to a third term according to the law.
As in the first term, he took some measures against Muslims because he wanted to win over part of the French far-right, but now he does not want to win over anyone. Perhaps he will take a more just and calm approach to the Muslims.
But if he acts in another way, Muslims have their way to respond to him in peaceful ways. If a mosque, an association, or a school is closed, dozens of mosques, associations, and schools will be opened.
I don't think Macron will tighten his policies any more than he did in his first term, because this contradicts the traditions of French policy in dealing with groups of society, and I see him falling back a lot from what he has been in the past.
• Will Islamophobia campaigns decline in Macron's second term?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: Cases of Islamophobia are not related to power, but to some entities in society, as well as linked to an important part of the French press, and an important part of French intellectuals.
The issue of Islamophobia does not end with a change of president or a change of government, but it changes when the culture of acceptance of the other, true democracy, and true participation prevail within society, and this is what we are working on.
In fact, many thinkers, intellectuals, artists, writers, philosophers, and actors began to feel this great embarrassment and began to work to change this situation.
Our role remains important not to show a bad image of Islam and Muslims because a number of Muslims contribute to this situation.
• How do you see the repercussions of France's policies towards foreign immigrants after the Ukraine crisis?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: France's policy towards foreign immigrants is an ebb and flow policy, linked to European policies in general, and linked to the number of refugees.
What happened in Ukraine will embarrass them very much and will force them to review many policies that they dealt with other immigrants.
Le Pen even had to admit that she was wrong in her treatment of Syrian immigrants when she found herself forced to speak positively of Ukrainian refugees.
Indeed, the Ukrainian crisis greatly embarrassed Europe and revealed how it deals with refugees with discrimination, and this caused a very big shock in important circles of French society, which made many of them review their positions in dealing with refugees.
• What would France look like if Le Pen won?
Dr. Kamel Laifi: If Le Pen had won, France would have entered a very bad phase, not with Muslims, but with the various segments of French society.
She was going to work to get out of the European Union, separating French people of European descent from those of non-European descent.
She also has very bad economic policies that distinguish one section of the people from others, which would have brought France into a very difficult stage that is unimaginable.