Press Release: Call for Tolerance, Respect and UnityAssima Alam
From: The undersigned consortium of Muslim organisations
Date: 25th November 2020
Subject: Joint Mosques Statement – Call for Tolerance, Respect and Unity
We, the undersigned mosques, have joined together to voice our concerns regarding the current situation in France and the treatment of French Muslims.
On November 18th 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron gave the French Council of the Muslim Faith a 15-day ultimatum to accept a ’charter of republican values’. The charter will reject political Islam and forbid any form of foreign interference. Further restrictions and punishments will be put in place for home-schooling, and children will now be given identification numbers to ensure that they are in school. These sanctions have been put in place following the intensifying discord in the country following the horrifying murder of school teacher Samuel Paty on October 16th last month. As representatives of the British Muslim community, we have always and unequivocally condemned all actions of violence, terror and hatred against innocent parties.
The discord between the Muslim world and the French government is now reaching worrying heights and we are deeply concerned by the government’s actions against its Muslim population. We respect France in its mission to enact justice and protect its citizens, but we are now witnessing a reaction to this brutal act, which is divisive and heavy-handed.
The closure of over 70 mosques, the banning of the hijab for public servants and in educational institutes, raids of Muslim homes, the intention to dissolve Muslim organisations and the promotion of offensive caricatures are shocking heights of discrimination that French Muslim citizens are faced with. Such actions are perceived as a continuous campaign of hostility directed towards this minority
The ongoing vilification of Muslims in both public and private spheres is increasing and leading to national and global frustration. We fear that such actions will fuel the cycle of hate to spin more viciously and only sow further hostility, rather than peace.
President Macron tweeted last month:
“We respect all differences in a spirit of peace. We do not accept hate speech and defend reasonable debate. We will always be on the side of human dignity and universal values.”
We support the President’s advocacy for human dignity and universal values. However, projecting offensive cartoons of a religious figure who is revered by billions of Muslims worldwide is not a representation of a ‘spirit of peace’, nor an act of ‘reasonable debate.’ This act epitomises the hate speech that we seek to eradicate. Such acts do not, in any capacity, comply with any form of universal values but will instead encourage further discord and division.
The discord between the French government and its Muslim population did not start with Samuel Paty or Charlie Ebdo. The seeds of hate were sown many centuries ago. The echoes of France’s colonial past continue to ripple through the country and overshadow the reception of its current Muslim community.
During the French colonisation of Algeria, France, in a markedly orientalist fashion sought to ‘liberate’ its women – an extension of which we still see today under the faltering guise of secularism. In fact, many orientalist tropes are still being clung tightly onto; Islam is seen as a monolithic ‘Arab’ religion. When two Muslim women were repeatedly stabbed beneath the Eiffel tower earlier this month, their attackers racially profiled them as ‘dirty Arabs.’ Such slurs point to the prevalent ignorance of the diversity and rich global culture that Islam belongs to. Islam is not a religion that has a single ethnic basis or geographical location. Additionally, Muslims are consistently labelled as inherently fanatical, unable to reason and in need of civilisation, and are thus stripped of their dignity. It is undeniable that Muslims occupy a lower socio-economic position in France and are swiftly becoming second class citizens.
France is in a precarious place in its history with a deteriorating picture. It requires a paradigm shift to move away from this instilled discord. It will take true leadership to reel in the rhetoric, reverse the tide of hate and bring reconciliation between communities.
It is the responsibility of leaders to educate their people. The fact that people feel indifferent to the display of such crude caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shows an urgent need to re-evaluate the foundations and integrity of terms such as ‘hate-speech’ and ‘freedom of speech.’ The government would do well in educating its public on the true values of Islam and those of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
As organisations that have been calling people to God and the true values of Islam for decades, we recognise that intolerance lies at the heart of the extremist’s narrative. We all have a duty to condemn intolerance, or else we collectively suffer the consequences. We must dampen the flames of hate that are rising on both sides. We call everyone to the universal values of respect and tolerance, and we call on the French Government to treat its Muslim citizens with dignity. Hostility must be replaced with peaceful dialogue, discussion and debate.
France could benefit from looking to the UK, where minorities and their contribution to the country are more respected and where the role of faith, and faith institutes in helping to solve social issues is celebrated and encouraged.
‘And We have not sent you, (O Muhammad), except as a mercy to the worlds.’
- Green Lane Mosque and Community Centre, Small Heath, Birmingham
- Arrahma Islamic Centre, Small Heath, Birmingham
- Bahu Trust, Birmingham
- Birmingham Central Mosque, Highgate, Birmingham
- Eidgah Academy, Perry Barr, Birmingham
- Birmingham Council of Mosques
- Handsworth Jam-E Masjid & Islamic Centre, Handsworth, Birmingham
- Jami Mosque and Islamic Centre, Small Heath, Birmingham
- Kowneyn Community Center & Masjid Attarbiya, Nechells, Birmingham
- KSIMC of Birmingham, Balsall Heath, Birmingham
- Mahmud Sabir Masjid (Al Furqan), Tyseley, Birmingham
- Masjid Al Falaah, Handsworth, Birmingham
- Masjid Esa ibn Maryam, Hall Green, Birmingham
- Masjid Ali Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, Aston, Birmingham
- Minhajul Quran International, Alum Rock, Birmingham
- Mohammadi Masjid, Alum Rock, Birmingham
- Paigham-E-Islam Mosque Trust, Sparkhill, Birmingham
- Quba Islamic Centre, Nechells, Birmingham
- Wisdom Islamic Cultural Centre, Nechells, Birmingham
- Witton Islamic Centre, Aston, Birmingham
- Zia ul Quran Masjid, Alum Rock, Birmingham