France one-sided Liberalism- a new tide of Islamophobia

It seems as if the liberal values and liberal political culture in France is only for the certain factions of the society. In the West, it seems like people are totally free like a bird to live their life according to their own terms. They are not controlled, not questioned, not judged by the French people. Every community has free will and equal rights to enjoy freedom. There is nothing like Middle East or conservatism. But stop; let me take you on a reality tour. Charlie Hebdo a newspaper agency published cartoonist sketches of Prophet Muhammad PBUH in 2014. They were trialed for this and later released. Now the same newspaper agency has decided to reprint and publish those cartoon images showing least concern and respect for the sentiments of Muslim living in the whole world. The more saddening part is that the editor of the Charlie Hebdo Magazine considered reprinting “essential” and considering as their legal right to do what they want. On the other hand the French authorizes have hid behind the curtain of “freedom of expression”. The whole of this scenario shows the radicalism and hatred in the French society for the Muslims. This extremism is hurting the sentiments of Muslims. If one community does not wants to publish such controversial topics and images then why there is still need to reprint and republish those images and content? Why these people are making the lives of Muslims more miserable? Is Liberalism only for the French?

The decision by the magazine was fully endorsed and supported by the French President Macron. This is even more disappointing. He said that, “In France, there’s also a freedom to blaspheme that is linked to the freedom of conscience,” “So, from where I stand, I’m there to protect all those freedoms. So I don’t have to comment on a journalist’s choice. I just have to say that, in France, one can criticize people who are governing and one can blaspheme.”

While reviewing all this situations a question come into the mind that if democracies is the custodian of liberty and freedom of the people then why the western custodians of democracy do not allow people of diverse culture to protect their culture and practice it? Why does democracy promotes homogeneity instead of accepting the uniqueness of all other cultures? Why the custodians of democracy aim to remove the concept of religion from people life? Let’s take the example of France who declares itself as “secular and a democratic state” but Muslims women faced the “veil controversy” in a democratic state. The French authorities and its people shamelessly remove the headscarf from the head of Muslim women without their consent. The question arises that why a “democratic and a secular” nation is so feared by a piece of cloth? Why the French liberal society is not willing to accept the hijab of Muslim women and are not letting them enjoy their “right of freedom and liberty”? The summer of 2016 was marked by an epidemic of “anti-burkini decrees”, with mayors across the country trying to ban Muslim women from wearing swimsuits that cover their bodies completely. It began with the cancellation of a “burkini” event at a water theme park in Marseilles. Then the Riviera town of Cannes banned the full-body swimsuit on its public beaches. The then Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his support for the bans, saying the swimsuit represents what he calls a “provocation” and “an archaic vision” Later, photographs have emerged of armed French police confronting a woman on a beach in Nice and forcing her to remove some of her clothing to make her comply with the “burkini ban”. This also posed a question on the intellect level of French society on the whole and its politician that were not providing the right to Muslim women to take control of their body. As they give right to western women and liberty to dress the way they want to. This also supports the argument that democracy is a culture and amalgamation of Western cultures its values and thoughts that can never fit in Islamic societies or societies that contradict western thoughts.

Democratic values are not unique in itself, these values exist in every religion particularly Islam. It’s a religion that gave women their rights for the first time. At that time women in western societies never even thought of acquiring their rights given to them at the time of birth. On the other hand in historic perspective, Muslim leaders and warriors protected the rights of non-Muslims whenever the conquered a new place that was under the control of Christians. And the non-Muslims were never forced to revert and leave their culture, values and accept the culture of the ruler. The example of Sultan Muhammad Fateh and Sallahudn Ayubi are best to explain this argument. In my opinion the democracy and so-called liberalism is merely a set of western thoughts that is damaging the Muslim society and creating confusion among people about their identity for example Pakistan. Pakistan is neither now an Islamic state nor a truly democratic state.

Democracy is the new face of imperialism that is ruling the developing countries that were former colonies to their masters. Now reimaging the whole scenario, what if a Muslim newspaper or a Muslim scholar would have done the same and published some controversial cartoons about Christians and Jews or Hindus. Would the French authorize consider it as their legal right or will the whole Muslim community living in France will be publicly trialed for being “Radical Jihadist” and “Extremists”. The French obsession with Muslims and Islamic values is turning into radicalism for the Muslims community without any foundation. The whole scenario shows how biased the entire system is.

And we live in an unfair world. It’s a different world for you and a different world for me.

Sojla Sahar
Sojla Sahar
The writer is a student of Peace and Conflict Studies at NDU Islamabad. She has been writing for various newspapers and has keen interests in Middle East affairs, Afghanistan, religious and ethnic conflicts, Foreign policy of Pakistan and Conflict resolution/ Management.