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Pascal Boniface on Islam and France's popularity Pascal Boniface on Islam and France's popularity

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Pascal Boniface : “The stigmatization of Islam has given France an image of intolerance”

In his book « Je t’aimais bien tu sais ! Le monde et la France : le désamour ? » ( Max Milo editions), Pascal Boniface the director of the Institut de Relations Internationales et Stratégiques (IRIS), stated the following : ” how did france, one of the most popular countries in the Muslim world, become so hated.”

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LeMuslimPost: The title of your book sounds more  like a love disappointment…

Pascal Boniface : Yes, that is exactly the case. France used to be extremely popular before, It is still, but to a lesser degree. My book is not about “I don’t love you anymore” it is more about how “I love you less than I did before”.  There is indeed a loss of France’s popularity, It is not total, but it is still tangible. This book, is more of a warning call to request from the next president to regain control and take the needed actions for France to recover its worldwide popularity. A popularity that is fading out and gradually disappearing.

You are hoping for a president who regains control over France ? At the first glance, it sounds that it had a rather bad start…

We will have to see that, because, for the time being, there is no, to little talks on the international level. We have this impression that most of the debates that took place between presidential candidates have only focused on terrorism in the determinant of the Euro or the position of France in the world. We can actually say, that for the moment beinng, the current debates have not addressed the question of sovereignty. We need a president that revives people’s will to live together on the national level and who will adopt a more independent and emblematic foreign policy on the international level.

“The image of France is deteriorating”

Could the politicians’ obsession with Islam cause harm to France ?

I noticed that france’s image has deteriorated over the years. From one side, we find that the French diplomacy is not as flamboyant as it used to be. On the other side, the the internal debates on Islam -which are considered stigmatizing debates- gave our country an image of intolerance, while much of France’s prestige was attributed to its image of openness and tolerance. We are living in a globalized world where internal debates have international repercussions. Since debates on Islam are caricatural and excessive, we are giving a wrong image of an intolerant and closed country.

However, Islam may still be at the heart of the presidential campaigns…

It was even worse during the primaries. Several candidates made Islam a major issue and we note that the candidates who have done it, such as Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean-François Copé, Manuel Valls, have lost the primaries. For the presidential election, we noted that the debates are more political with a minor negative focus on Islam. Media seems to be more obsessed with this matter than politicians. In my book, I made a review of the magazine covers that stigmatized Muslims. The current atmosphere is not that surprising, once we go through the headlines and most of the televised debates that are carried in a caricatural way.  

“Many politicians thought that an anti-Muslim speech would help them increase their popularity”

Politicians or Media, who is more responsible ?

The responsibility is equally shared in this case. There are many politicians who embarked on this theme, thinking that an anti-Muslims speech would help them increase their popularity. But once again, those who played this card failed to win the primaries.

France has recently sought to have a mediating role for peace in the Near East. Was the summit doomed to fail? 

The purpose of this conference was to find a diplomatic solution way to settle the conflict. In case of failure, Laurent Fabius admitted that there will be an automatic recognition of Palestine. However, François Hollande who was committed to this matter by the end of 2012, failed to deliver. The conference took place and Israel refused to participate.  François Hollande reiterated that the recognition is not taking place. Here again, France lost its popularity, as it was one of the fewest western countries to defend the rights of Palestinians. The fact that we have abandoned this case, because of our political cowardness, have contributed, in a way, to the decline of our popularity.

Is France still considered the country of Human Rights  ?

France is defending them even less than it used to be on the outside, as the state of emergency could be problematic inside the country.

Are there any solutions for France to regain its prestige ?

From one side, they should be willing to -really and not just verbally- fight discrimination against Muslims on the national political level. On the other side, work must be carried to restore some of France’s flamboyance by adopting a reliable foreign policy.

There is a lot of talk about the Palestinian conflict, while the situation of Rohingya is somehow ignored. Why do we tend to adopt a variable geometry in our indignations ?

It is mainly because, the Near East is closer to us.  We have a history with this region: in France, there is  an important community of Jews and Muslims. It is true that Rohingya seems more distant to us, still there is a lot of  violations that have been committed there. The fact that it is taking place thousands of kilometers away and that there is no immediate historical proximity, makes it difficult to stir debates in France.

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