by N. Peter Kramer
President Macron’s Minister of Higher Education, Frederique Vidal, has caused consternation in the French academic world by ordering an investigation into ‘Islamo-gauchism’ (Islamist-leftism), which she said is spreading like ‘wildfire’ through French universities. Vidal wants to get a better picture of ‘what falls under the heading of academic research and what falls under militantism or opinion’. The minister’s statement came in the week that the French parliament passed the law on separatism, with which President Macron wants to cut off political Islam in France.
The term ‘Islamo-gauchism’ refers to an alleged collaboration between the radical left and political Islam. The French Islam expert Gilles Kepel describes the Islamo-gauchists as ‘intellectuals paralysed by post-colonial guilt.’ Philosopher Marcel Gauchet speaks of ‘an extreme left that has never understood religion and that has discovered a new proletariat in the Muslims.’
There is no shortage of accusations and Vidal’s request for an investigation does not come out of the blue either. On October 22 last year, a week after the decapitation of teacher Samuel Paty by a Muslim-extremist, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer rang the bell by saying in a radio interview that ‘what is called Islamo-gauchism is wreaking havoc on our universities.’ Blanquer was supported by hundred academics who published a manifesto in the daily Le Monde that was signed by Kepel and philosopher and former Minister of Education Luc Ferry, among others.
‘We academics cannot but agree with Jean-Michel Blanquer,’ says the text of the manifesto, that speaks of a Islamo-gauchist discourse that, ‘ is indeed very present in our universities. It fuels a hatred of the whites and of France. And at times violent activism attacks anyone who still dares to go against anti-Western ideas and multicultural preaching.’ The text also mentioned North American campuses, pointing at the Black Lives Matter protests of last summer. Some commentators are afraid that the US ‘woke’ activism and ‘cancel culture’ are gaining a foothold in France.
The EMF, the association of Muslim students in France, is often the main target. ‘The EMF is an antenna of the French Muslim Brothers,’ Le Figaro, another French daily, quoted secularist activist Naem Fileji, ‘this organisation was created by political Islamists to take over the universities.’ It looks like a scenario from the famous novel Soumission (Submission) by the successful author Michel Houellebecq, in which a Muslim Brother becomes President of France thanks to the support of the Socialists and the universities are the first to be purged.