After French President Emmanuel Macron used the term 'Islamic separatism' late last year, another term has garnered much attention in the past several days. The term 'Islamo Leftism' shot into the limelight when French higher education minister Frederique Vidal said the government will probe the conspiratorial links between the far left and radical Islam in French universities.
The minister announced in parliament the government's intent to investigate the depth and breadth of Islamo leftism (Islamo-gauchisme in French) in the research and academic work conducted in French universities. The move was denounced by a section of French scholars while political analysts observed that Macron and his party are moving closer to the views held by the far right party National Front and its leader Marine Le Pen.
The Scientific Research National Center (CNRS) of France said the government was raising a new political slogan. It added that the government was trying to use the spectre of Islamo-leftism for stifling academic freedom.
Vidal is not the first minister in Macron's cabinet to use the term in recent times. In November, French Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer called a French-Iranian sociologist an "Islamo-leftist" and accused him of spreading intellectual radicalism.
However, Vidal has been more vocal about the threat of Islamo Leftism, ever since President Macron raised the issue of 'Islamic Separatism' in the country and proposed a a whole gamut of measures to contain the spread of radical Islam.
"I think that Islamo-leftism is eating away at our society as a whole, and universities are not immune and are part of our society," Vidal said on national television recently.
What is Islamo Leftism?
The term Islamo-leftism first appeared in 2002 when sociologist Pierre-André Taguieff used it in his book The New Judeophobia. Basically, the term was used to describe a link between the extreme left in France and the radical elements among the French Muslims.
The term was made in the context of the pro-Palestinian protests that took place Paris in the early 2000s. Taguieff observed that neo-leftists collaborated with the Islamists and those who supported the elimination of Israel. By extension, those who believe in the existence of Islamo Leftism say there is a conspiratorial alliance between the left and radical Islam to 'bring down' France.
Why is this Relevant Now?
In an unprecedented move in October, Macron unveiled plans to confront 'Islamist separatism' in the secular nation. The most crucial steps France would take are curtailing the 'foreign influence' on Islam and enforcing more oversight on the operations and financing of mosques. Macron's historic speech came in the backdrop of the perception that Islam is increasingly becoming a threat to France's core values.
In recent years, France has seen brazen Islamist attacks against the French ideals of secularism and freedom of expression. As many as 130 people were killed in the Paris terror attack in November 2015, which were claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis). Earlier that year in February, the Islamist terror attack on satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo killed 12 people including many journalists.
Macron's speech fanned another wave of Islamist attacks in France, culminating in the beheading of school teacher Samuel Paty, who had displayed a Charlie Hebdo cartoon depicting Prophet Mohammed in the classroom. Macron stated in his speech that radical Islam was a danger to France as it sought to hold its own laws above the state laws and tried creating 'counter-society'.
French Values Under Attack?
The rise of radical Islam in France and the increasing frequency of Islamist-inspired terror attacks have jolted French society so much so that the centrist Macron and his government have come under the imperative of listening to the far right voices in the country. Marine Le Pen is increasingly becoming a tough opponent for Macron in the next year's presidential elections.
Moreover, the George Floyd protests in the United States last year had resonated in France as well. Tensions between French police and the large immigrant populations, which have been common in the last few decades, exasperated in the wake of the Floyd protests. While the French far left decried the lack of equality in French society, radical Islam poured oil in the fire, resulting in mass protests against racism, discrimination and colonialism.
While the connections between the left and radical Islam were not lost on the government, Macron's ministers have now brought academia under the shadow of suspicion. The government appears to have come around to believing that a section of intellectuals in French universities is fomenting a movement that undercuts the French state and its cultural values.