Former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe calls for new law to 'regulate' France's Muslims
The mayor of Le Havre, former prime minister and current leading candidate of the French right to challenge Emmanuel Macron for the presidency has said in a new autobiographical book that Islam might require a new law and state body to regulate it in France, according to a report by the magazine L'Obs on Sunday.
Edouard Philippe, who served as prime minister under Macron from 2017-2020, wrote in his newly released book Des Lieux Qui Disent (Places That Speak) that it may be necessary to create “a law and a specific organisation for Muslims”.
As observed by L’Obs, this is the first time someone of Philippe’s political stature has advocated what would essentially be a separate law regarding French secularism that targets only Muslims.
Even Philippe’s suggestion marks yet another dangerous escalation in the French state’s increasingly uneasy relationship with its Muslim community.
In an interview on Inter, Philippe further explained his views, saying France’s 1905 law, which enshrines secularism, “is perhaps not capable of dealing with the specificities of Islam”, as reported L’Obs.
Philippe went on to say that one day the question of an organisation “with particular obligations imposed on the faithful and those responsible for Muslim communities” will be asked.
He said that proposing some form of concordat, which is to say some special agreement for regulating the behaviour of Muslims within French society, ought to be on the table.
It has long been argued that France’s extreme emphasis on secularism already singles out Islam and ties into France’s recent history of colonialism in the Muslim world, with it being accused of treating its significant Muslim minority as colonial subjects alien to France rather than fully integrated citizens.
The ban on the abaya, a modest dress worn by some Muslim women, introduced in French schools this month has been cited as one recent example of this.
Muslims left with little room to move amid hostile French political scene
Not only do critics of French state policy against Muslims, which also includes ‘anti-separatism bill’, see it as Islamophobic and racist, but they also say it violates the original intentions of secularism.
For example, Philippe references the 1905 secularism law, which enshrines the separation of religion from every facet of the French state, but by advocating a state-run organisation to impose itself on Muslims, Philippe is violating the part of the law that also enshrines freedom of religion - but only for Muslims.
Critics have said that laws that single out religious or ethnoreligious minorities for regulation by the state have scarcely been seen in Europe since the Nazis introduced the Nuremberg Laws against German Jews in 1935.
Philippe is a member of the centre-right Horizons party and is being talked up as a serious contender to replace Macron in the Elysee.
Though his political ideology is not far-right per se, he has said he is not “running against the far-right” and he has been accused of pandering to them to build a coalition to unseat Macron.
With Macron also considered to be appealing to the far-right, and with the far-right Islamophobe Marine Le Pen facing off against Macron in the last two elections, Philippe’s emergence as the frontrunner against Macron could be seen as leaving French Muslims with little room to move in an increasingly hostile political environment.