Islam of France, “the logic of suspicion”

The authoritarian republic. Islam of France and republican illusion (2015-2022)


The Waterfront, 282 p., €18

The Republican narrative would therefore be in crisis. For the political scientist Haoues Seniguer, this crisis is revealed in a particularly salient way in the treatment reserved, in France, for Islam and Muslims. Claiming to be universalist, the republican narrative “dried up”according to the author, appears in front of them “culturalist”, “so wary of otherness that he wishes to melt all its components into a homogeneous mould”.

In an enlightening and vigorous essay, Haoues Seniguer develops the idea according to which the political and media discourses on Islam and Muslims that have punctuated the news since the attacks of 2015 have shifted into a “logic of suspicion”. Reading Haoues Seniguer challenges, sometimes upsets our common representations on the burning subjects of Islam, the veil or the use made of secularism. Criticizing the position of many political leaders on these subjects – in particular those in line with the Republican Spring – his remarks, coherent and always based on concrete examples, have the merit of questioning our gaze and making us think. .

Denounce “the excesses” of post-attack security policy

If he is severe with government policy, the researcher nevertheless deviates from the thesis of a “State Islamophobia”, defended by other academic figures. The concept, which implies an institutionalization of the exclusion of Muslims, does not correspond, according to him, to reality. This is evidenced by the policies practiced at the local level, which reflect, he says, “a great ability to listen and dialogue with Muslims”. Nevertheless, the researcher intends to denounce ” drifts “ security policy after the attacks, and the “moral panic” which ensued.

The victims are named: they are “Muslims, especially the most conservative and visible in the public space”and, collaterally, their “co-religionists”, associative or political activists. In its fight against terrorism, the government would thus have started from the postulate that there would be a “continuation” between religious conservatism, Islamism and jihadism, an idea nevertheless “very questionable empirically”, says the author. As a consequence of this postulate, the action of the government, which then took place in the fight against the “Islamic separatism”resulted, according to the political scientist, “both by a stigmatization, even a criminalization of the thought of Muslims”and by “administrative searches” targeting Muslims.

An additional moral requirement

In this process, the imperative imposed on Muslims, as on any citizen, to respect the law was coupled for them with a moral requirement, considers Haoues Seniguer, relying on the constant reference to “Values ​​of the Republic”. “From the point of view of the state, it is less and less a question of ensuring the compatibility of the discourse and practices of Muslims with established laws than of ensuring a kind of allegiance from their go “, he says. And in this shift, secularism would have become “a disciplinary tool”. It is the sign, for him, of a “political moralization”according to which it would be necessary ” constrain “ Muslims to integrate “the principle of moral progress and emancipation” ; “with the underlying idea that they would be too ritualistic, too fideistic, not reasonable enough, not distant enough in relation to their religion and its norms; in short, that they would be intolerant in view of the archaisms that are attributed to Islamic conservatism”.

However, the author insists: emancipation cannot be achieved without being desired by the first concerned. And particularly in democratic spaces where, he says “de facto several visions of the world reign”.

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