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Multicultural Dilemma in France: Can Nativism Provoke Insurgency?
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Failure of Multiculturalism

The republican state of France holds a strong attachment to the principle of laïcité. In French, this word refers to a secular state, which is expected to give no room to government and religious affair interference. Though, a relentless tension opposing a ‘liberal’ and an ‘interventionist’ interpretation of laïcité, emerged with the growing visibility of Islam in French society, especially during disputes about the wearing of hijab at school.[1]

France’s cherished value of secularism, asserts an egalitarian status with inclusive citizenship privileges regardless of gender, class, religion and ethnicity. Though, France is far from treating their citizens equally. The nations estimated 5 million Muslims have walked a delicate line in search of full acceptance and live with a falsely perceived model of multiculturalism. France’s distress to protect its Western identity, political system, and security, allude to Muslim minorities that this backlash against multiculturalism is really thinly veiled racism, bigotry, and Islamophobia.

The failure of multiculturalism produces social immobility, systemic racism and unemployment among the French Muslims. For example, many Muslims are trapped in social ghettos, plagued by poverty, crime, and gangs; in a polling 69% of French Muslims consider themselves ‘‘struggling.’’[2] This unsuccessful cultural integration is entrenched and reinforced in French politics. Right-wing political parties such as the National Front, (FN) strongly advocate French nationalism, strict immigration controls, and fostering xenophobia; these policies are shared among other parties.[3]

France’s desire to preserve a laïcité state, ignites a wave of violent discontent as seen in recent news. Last month, a schoolteacher was decapitated after showing caricatures of Prophet Muhammad published by the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which triggered a massacre by extremists in January 2015. Since their re-publication in September at the start of the enduring Paris trial over the massacre, France has witnessed three attacks blamed on Muslim extremists: one by a Pakistani refugee that injured two people outside the newspaper’s old headquarters, the murder of the schoolteacher, and deadly stabbing at a church last week.[4]

These latest events sparked outcry among fearful French xenophobics and protesting Muslims who refute France’s sacrilegious education. President Emmanuel Macron’s emphatic defense of the freedom of expression attack on "radical Islam" and "Islamist separatism" sparked ripples overseas. In Bangladesh, tens of thousands of Muslims marched chanting “Down with France” and “Boycott French Products” and burning effigies of Macron. In Tehran, Iranian authorities placed billboards naming Macron “the devil of Paris.” [5]

These killings underscore mounting challenges as France grows more diverse, and generations of Muslims struggle to integrate their culture into French society. The endless news outbreaks regarding this matter raise the questions: Can France’s multicultural failure lead to an insurgency? Is the growing anti-Islam sentiment cause strong enough to gain critical mass?

Nativism in Turkey

The Turkish Republic has also suffered from the same multicultural syndrome as it has also created a more privileged group of people with a predominantly Turkish-Sunni-Muslim identity at the expense of non-Muslims, non-Turks, and non-Sunnis.

For example, Turkey’s indiscreet nativism inter-locked in an intermittent insurgency waged by the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in hopes of winning civil rights and some autonomy. Kurds in Turkey are victims of sectarian assaults on their ethnic, cultural, religious identity and economic and political status by successive Turkish governments. Also, Erdogan’s AKP party explored potential multiculturalism fieldwork regarding Syrian refugee policies, though interlocuters raised concerns about the possible effects of Syrian culture on Turkish culture, expressing their fear for the radicalization of refugees.[6]

Yet though Turkey and France are two republican, secular states, their rejection of multiculturalism and glory of nativist policies may generate insurgent movements as proved throughout Turkish history.[7]

French Premise

As it was previously underlined, France and AKP’s rhetoric displays an insistence on national pride with policies privileging homogeneous people. However, disbarring minorities generates grievances that gain traction with sporadic violence, as seen recently in France; yet policymakers refuse to address the disparities created by distorted multiculturalism. So, what primes an insurgency? Can France’s political and social environment prompt an insurgency?

The likelihood of a popular insurgency rising in Europe is extremely slim, though, with a strategic cause, insurgents have a formidable, lasting asset that may draw supporters and progressively transform into concrete strength.[8] In the case of France, persistent Islamophobia and socioeconomic discrimination fulfill the criteria for a strategic and resilient cause that appeals to alienated Muslim youth. Radicalization can also be fed by a minority of foreign militants, imams and political activists, who take advantage of freedoms of speech and spew their theologies of hate, condemning French society, and calling for violence.[9]

These resentments eventually gain outside support. As seen in France, the international Muslim community provided moral and political support as they propagated against Macron to reinforce public sympathy and halted trade and diplomatic relations.[10] Still, the idea that Muslim countries may provide technical, financial or even military support should not be dismissed. These outside actors may provide political advice, weaponry or direct intervention.[11]

For example, Turkey’s PKK began as a small clandestine cell, and is now one of the most prominent insurgencies. How? The denial of Kurdish identity and ideological framing of grievances gained public support. Fine-tuning propaganda also lured recruits from Kurdish diaspora in Europe. The PKK is dependent on manpower (sympathizers, fighters, voters) and media to disseminate its propaganda than it is on financial support from foreign states. Though, PKK weapons originated in Sweden, Russia, Serbia, Czech Republic and United States.[12] Similar support could be given throughout France if terrorist attacks and ignorant government responses continue to spiral.

Nonetheless, the emergence of an insurgency is determined by the resoluteness of counterinsurgency leadership and the control of the population in France.[13] Although Macron’s launch of a nationwide crackdown on so-called ‘radical Islam’ makes French secularism vulnerable to systemic change as laïcité presents an unwillingness to accommodate the religiously based demands of Muslims.

Overall, despite the fact that France and Turkey are two distinct countries with very different political discourses, a fundamental feature is shared in both republics: the weaponizing culture of civilizationism and nativism and its threat to Islam.

Carlie Chiesa is a senior at American University studying Foreign Policy and National Security. Her interests include the geopolitics of the Middle East and Religious Conflict. She has published work with International Christian Concern (ICC) and The Borgen Project analyzing global poverty atrocities and persecuted religious minorities. 

 

 

Taspinar, Ömer. What the West is Getting Wrong about the Middle East (p. 35). Bloomsbury

Publishing. Kindle Edition.

David Galula, : Theory and Practice, (1956) Chapter 2 “The Prerequisites for a Successful

Insurgency,” Praeger Security International, London

Kaya, Robert. “Populism in Turkey and France: Nativism, Multiculturalism and

Euroskepticism.” Turkish studies 21, no. 3 (May 26, 2020): 361–391.

Esposito, and Esposito, John L.. The Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press USA –

OSO, 2013. Accessed November 9, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

Davis, Paul K., Eric V. Larson, Zachary Haldeman, Mustafa Oguz, and Yashodhara Rana. "Public

Support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey." In Understanding and Influencing Public Support for Insurgency and Terrorism, 99-118. RAND Corporation, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg1122osd.12.

Hinnant | AP, Lori. “French Schools Reopen in Mourning after Beheading of Teacher.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 2, 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/french-schools-reopen-in-mourning-after-beheading-of-teacher/2020/11/02/50435ade-1ced-11eb-ad53-4c1fda49907d_story.html.

Onishi, Norimitsu, and Constant Méheut. “A Teacher, His Killer and the Failure of French Integration.” The New York Times. The New York Times, October 26, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/26/world/europe/france-beheading-teacher.html.

Wike, Richard, Jacob Poushter, Laura Silver, Kat Devlin, Janell Fetterolf, Alexandra Castillo, and Christine Huang. “Views on Political Parties across Europe.” Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center, October 27, 2020. https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2019/10/14/political-parties/.

 


[1] Kaya, Robert. “Populism in Turkey and France: Nativism, Multiculturalism and

Euroskepticism.” Turkish studies 21, no. 3 (May 26, 2020): 361–391.

[2] Esposito, and Esposito, John L.. The Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press USA –

OSO, 2013. Accessed November 9, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[3] Wike, Richard, “Views on Political Parties across Europe.” Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Pew Research Center, October 27, 2020.

[4] Hinnant | AP, Lori. “French Schools Reopen in Mourning after Beheading of Teacher.” The Washington Post. WP Company, November 2, 2020.

[5] Hinnant | AP, Lori.

[6] Kaya, Robert. “Populism in Turkey and France: Nativism, Multiculturalism and

Euroskepticism.” Turkish studies 21, no. 3 (May 26, 2020): 361–391.

[7] Kaya, Robert.

[8] David Galula, : Theory and Practice, (1956) Chapter 2 “The Prerequisites for a Successful

Insurgency,” Praeger Security International, London

[9] Esposito, and Esposito, John L.. The Future of Islam. Oxford: Oxford University Press USA –

OSO, 2013. Accessed November 9, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.

[10] David Galula.

 

[11] David Galula.

[12] Davis, Paul K., Eric V. Larson, Zachary Haldeman, Mustafa Oguz, and Yashodhara Rana. "Public

Support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey." In Understanding and Influencing Public Support for Insurgency and Terrorism, 99-118. RAND Corporation, 2012. Accessed November 9, 2020

[13] David Galula.

 

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