On 2 March 2022, 31 international academics published an open letter urging French President Emmanuel Macron to stop his government’s alleged “institutionalization of Islamophobia.” According to a post on the website of the Collectif contre l’islamophobie en Europe (CCIE):
Mr. President, We, scholars from around the world specializing in Islamic studies, French and Francophone studies, religious studies, history, sociology, anthropology, political science and more, would like to express our deep shock at the worsening institutionalized Islamophobia that has characterized your mandate. In 2017, you were elected on the promise of an inclusive and open society far from the declinism and anti-Muslim bigotry of Marine Le Pen. Unfortunately, as soon as you took office, we saw the exact opposite of your promises. [Translated from French original using Google]
Read the rest here.
The academics further alleged that due to its policies, Macron’s government was in “almost permanent violation” of the 1905 law on the separation of church and state, adding that France now increasingly renounced its rule of law and freedom of belief. The group also alleged Macron himself was “much more dangerous to French freedoms” than potential Islamists, separatists, and jihadists that his “paranoid government” saw behind every hijab or Salafist beard.
Following the October 2020 beheading of a French geography teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in class, the French government ordered a crackdown on groups accused of radicalism, carrying out dozens of raids and temporarily shutting down mosques. In a much-noticed speech announcing a tougher stance against Islamism, President Macron also proposed comprehensive legislation to combat the favoring of religious rules over republican laws among the country’s growing Muslim population. Other government proposals included stricter control over foreign funding of mosques as well as requirements that imams be trained and certified in France.
The letter’s list of signatories, which also included prominent Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, featured several individuals who are known to have ties to the Global Muslim Brotherhood (GMB) in Europe and the United States and/or the international Hamas support infrastructure, including:
- John Esposito, a founding director of Georgetown University’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding and a former US State Department advisor. Esposito has at least a dozen past and/or present affiliations with GMB and Hamas organizations and is known to have espoused views consistent with Brotherhood doctrine.
- Farid Hafez, a prominent Austrian Islamophobia researcher with Muslim Brotherhood ties and a senior researcher at the Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, headed by John Esposito.
- Charles E. Butterworth, a Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, College Park, and a consulting editor for the Journal of the United Studies and Research, an early part of the Hamas infrastructure in the US. Butterworth has also been a member of the Advisory Boards of the American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences, Minaret of Freedom, and the School for Islamic and Social Sciences, all tied to the US Muslim Brotherhood.
French political scientist François Burgat, another letter co-signatory, has incorrectly characterized the Muslim Brotherhood’s position on armed violence. Burgat is a contributor to the online media outlet Middle East Eye, a publication linked to the GMB. The list also included British researcher Salman Sayyid, who co-edited a book with Arzu Merali, the co-founder of the UK Iranian front group Islamic Human Rights Commission.
In November 2020, the Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) reported that, as part of its crackdown on groups accused of radicalism, the French interior minister dissolved CCIE’s predecessor, the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France, an Islamist influence operation with multiple relationships to organizations part of the GMB in Europe.
In February 2021, the GIOR reported that a coalition of 36 NGOs, including several with GMB ties, had taken action against France at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) over its alleged systemic discrimination of Muslims. In April 2021, the GIOR reported that the International Union of Muslim Scholars, an international body of Muslim theologians whose leadership is closely tied to the GMB, had called on the French government to stop interfering with the “privacy of Islam,” rejecting a new French Charter of Republican Values aiming to curtail foreign influence over Muslim groups and mosques.