Muslim Ministers in French Governments (2012-2017)
At the beginning of the 21st century, the French Republic was home to the largest Muslim community in the West, numbering 5-6 million people. E. Macron’s initiatives aimed at defending the principle of secularism and combating ‘Islamist separatism’ provoked outrage in the Islamic world. The republic was blamed for systematic discrimination against Muslims and the lack of opportunities for self-realization of community members. Therefore, the analysis of the state of representation of Muslim politicians in the highest echelons of power is relevant.
The goal of the paper is to analyze the composition of French governments during the presidency of Francois Hollande and to trace the role played by Muslims in them, using a variety of sources (official state press, Senate and National Assembly reports, transcripts of speeches, interviews, and memoirs).
The concurrence of government was conceptual for F. Hollande. Therefore, three of the four Muslim politicians (Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, Myriam El Khomri, Kader Arif) were members of the pro-presidential Socialist Party. And formally non-party Yamina Benguigui gravitated to the Left. F. Hollande repeated, initiated by N. Sarkozy, the precedent of appointing Muslims as full-fledged ministers, not just delegated ministers or secretaries of state. If in the first case it was a matter of such a prestigious department as the Ministry of Justice, in the second it was about the ideologically important Ministry of National Education, Higher Education and Research. At the same time, the appointment of Kader Arif as Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs parallels with the appointment of Jacques Chirac to the same position in 2002-2007.
Three of the four politicians (K. Arif, N. Vallaud-Belkacem, and M. El Khomri) were not born in France. Two (N. Vallaud-Belkacem and M. El Khomri) retained dual citizenship. Therefore, in their rhetoric, they appealed to the cultural, religious and ethnic diversity of the Republic. And the issues of history, the politics of memory, secularism, the fight against all forms of discrimination were of top priority for them. Periodically trying to protect Islamic culture and the Muslim community from grievances, all three politicians violated one of the basic rules of fiqh, marrying a non-Muslim: Najat Vallaud-Belkacem and Myriam El Khomri married Christians, and Yamina Benguigui married the Jew of Algerian descent. And if to compare this with the fact that they all were activists of the women’s movement, it looks like they tried to receive the maximum dividends from the Republic. That would be impossible in a traditional Muslim society. At the same time, they appealed to the need to protect universal Islamic values. And they postulated themselves as ‘secular Muslims’, which is a priori impossible for classical Islam.
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