Source: The Guardian
The incumbent president has made life harder for Muslims in France, but most will vote for him reluctantly
Like clockwork, Muslim women have once again become a central topic in French politics, as people prepare to vote in the second round of the presidential election on Sunday. “For me, the question of the headscarf is not an obsession,” Emmanuel Macron said last week, signalling that he was happy with the status quo – headscarves are currently not allowed in schools – but also suggesting his far-right rival Marine Le Pen’s plan to ban them entirely was beyond the pale.
There are between 5 and 6 million Muslims in France, and they overwhelmingly voted for the far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon (69%) in the first round. However, many are still undecided or have decided to abstain in this second round. This is despite several imams, including the head of the great mosque of Paris, encouraging worshippers to vote for Macron to prevent Le Pen from becoming president.
Their worry is understandable. Many voters harbour deep resentment against Macron after years of disappointing policies and stances on issues affecting Muslims. It may be an uphill battle to convince people to vote tactically for him, even considering the still-worse positions of his opponent.
Despite her success in softening her image, Le Pen remains an authoritarian head of the far-right anti-immigration, antisemitic and Islamophobic Rassemblement National party. She’s previously said that the headscarf could not be viewed as a sign of a person’s religious belief but was an “Islamist uniform”. She also compared Muslims praying on a street in 2010 to the Nazi occupation.
This is Le Pen’s third run, and she has never been closer to the French presidential office – a recent poll had her at 48.5% compared with 33.9% in 2017 and 17.9% in 2012. While Macron is now inching ahead in the polls, this election still remains close enough to be uncertain. Le Pen’s manifesto includes an allusion to the far-right “great replacement” theory, as she wants to change the constitution to prevent a level of immigration that would “change the composition and identity” of the French people. She also wants to cut aid to unaccompanied minors arriving in the country and distinguish between native French and others in access to social aid. Research by Hope not Hate details how she has sown division during the 2022 election campaign, and how her party is no longer viewed as being as toxic as it once was.