France: Would-Be Presidential Candidate Calls For Ban On Muslim Names

Eric Zemmour, a far-right polemicist, who’s described by right groups as a “prophet of pessimism” and a “salesman of the apocalypse”, has been vocal about his anti-Muslim and even anti-Arab stances. Earlier this week, Zemmour said if he wins the Presidential elections, he would restore a law — proposed by Napoleon Bonaparte and abolished by socialist President Francois Mitterrand in 1993—which permitted Christian names only in Paris. Zemmour made a name in politics with his religious bigotry and controversial thoughts. He said it explicitly that names, such as Muhammad should be banned. He even asked Muslims in France to adopt French customs and culture. Equally concerning, he warned the French citizens that France might turn into an “Islamic Republic” in the not-too-distant future.

Over the past decade, his books — which securitize migrants and Muslims—have been on the list of best-selling books. In 2010, Zemmour was convicted for racial hatred after he made a racist commentary that equated dealers to Muslims and Arabs. Eric’s racist thoughts sparked fierce debate and controversy over the extent to which France applies freedom of speech and belief.

Eric Zemmour’s racist commentaries, nevertheless, are just the tip of the iceberg. In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo’s terrorist attack, policymakers had seized the pathological fear of the French citizens to promote their bigotry-driven agendas. They even cited Samuel P. Huntington’s analysis, which states that religious and cultural differences will be the primary source of conflicts in the near future. Interestingly enough, US Secretary John Kerry said that terrorist attacks are not outcomes of a clash of civilizations, but a clash between those who are “civilized and those who are not”. The majority of policymakers continue to rely on this master narrative, which has resulted in the devastation of the Muslim world while doing little or nothing to end terrorism.

Arab scholars like Tariq Ramadan, on the other hand, called on the French authorities to shift this naive narrative. Western scholars and journalists as well called on the authorities to avoid George W. Bush’s “shoot first and ask questions later” philosophy. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek argues that the so-called War on terror ushered a global state of emergency that put into question the viability of state sovereignty in times of civil crises. In a very interesting article, Professor Jamil Khader argues that the rise of such counter-discourse does not only aim to trivialize the role of ideology, but also “to serve as a reason to shirk any responsibility for the unimaginable death and destruction waged in the name of this clash of civilizations.”

In a concise statement, 200 Muslim scholars made six demands, including the halt of the botched War on Terror; as well as the reparations for victims’ families. “Twenty years have passed since leaders of the United States declared a worldwide war without any borders or any time limit. The so-called ‘war on terror’ was announced after the events of 9/11 but the aggression against Muslim people began before this time: Iraq war of 1991 and subsequent sanctions, invasion of Somalia, support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine; support for brutal dictatorships in Muslim countries.”

Zemmour’s racist commentaries are outcomes of a prolonged islamophobic discourse that dominated media outlets post 9/11. Indeed, such racist rhetoric is not only disingenuous but also prompts far-right extremism, which at the end of the day increases the rate of terrorism. It additionally fuels the so-called clash of civilization that they claim is the reason behind fundamentalist terrorism. We can’t blame Western citizens for their Islamophobic ideologies because they would not have been there without the presence of the so-called war on Islamic fundamentalism.

Leave a Reply