Forslagene til utvalget er mange. Forslagene skal visstnok ”anerkjenne rikdommen ved multiple identiteter”, og derfor bør det franske forbudet mot prangende religiøse og politiske symboler i skolen avvikles slik at hijaben igjen trer inn i klasserommene. Likeledes ønsker utvalget en større anerkjennelse av den visstnok ”arabisk-orientale dimensjonen” ved den franske nasjonale identiteten. Dette innebærer eksempelvis nye navn på gater og torg, oppdatering av skolefag som historie og å opprette en ny merkedag for å hedre innvandrerkulturers bidrag til det franske samfunnet.
Kanskje enda mer oppsiktsvekkende er det at utvalget mener at myndigheter og media bør forbys å referere til folks nasjonalitet, religion eller etnisitet. Utvalget vil også at det innføres en ny lovparagraf som gjør ”trakassering” på bakgrunn av rase straffbart (det ville jeg trodd allerede eksisterende diskrimineringslovverk dekket, som i Norge).
De kontroversielle forslagene om å skape en “inkluderende sekularisme” er publisert i en serie på fem dokument og har skapt en opphetet debatt, skriver Soeren Kern. Lederen av det største opposisjonspartiet, Jean-François Copé i UMP, kaller forslagene for “eksplosive og uansvarlige”. Han sier videre at rapportens mål er “å gjøre multikulturalisme til Frankrikes nye modell”: ”Det vil ikke lenger være opp til innvandrere å adaptere franske kultur, men for Frankrike å oppgi dets egen kultur, språk, historie og identitet for å adaptere andre folks kulturer.” Copé peker på at rapportskriverne har nevnt ”plikter” kun 13 ganger, mens ”rettigheter” er nevnt 440 ganger. Copé mener videre at rapporten vil få en enda større velgerskare til å omfavne Nasjonal Front.
Marine Le Pen har, ikke overraskende, grepet rapporten begjærlig og kaller den for en ”krigserklæring mot det franske folket”.
Med tanke på den voldsomme motstanden i Frankrike mot islam, kunne man kanskje forventet litt mer fintfølende/jordnære tiltaksforslag?
Copé also accused the government of using the report to deliberately drive voters towards the anti-immigration National Front (FN) party in order to weaken the UMP.
The leader of the FN, Marine Le Pen—who has attained record-breaking popularity due to her criticism of runaway immigration—said the report’s recommendations are «a very grave provocation» and implementing them would be tantamount to «a declaration of war on the French people.»
The negative reaction to the report has put the ruling Socialists on the defensive.
French President François Hollande—the most unpopular French president on record, with approval ratings well below 30%—has distanced himself from some of the more explosive recommendations contained in the report, which he says do «not at all represent the government’s position.» Hollande also denies that the ban on Islamic veils in schools will be reversed.
Ayrault, who originally commissioned the report in July 2013 to recommend ways to «get the republican model of integration working again because it has broken down,» said there are no plans to drop the headscarf ban. «Just because I receive a report does not make it government policy,» he said.
Nevertheless, the report’s recommendations are supposed to form the basis of future reforms ostensibly aimed at better integrating Muslim immigrants. These reforms will eventually be put to a vote in the French Parliament sometime during 2014.
In the face of public outcry, however, Ayrault cancelled a public seminar that had been planned to discuss the report’s recommendations, which will now be debated in a closed-door meeting tentatively set for January 9, 2014.
Other key Socialists have also distanced themselves from the recommendations, including Thierry Mandon, the spokesman for the Socialist group in the National Assembly, the lower house of the French Parliament.
«I do not envision that we will return to the law on the veil,» said Mandon, who compared Hollande and Ayrault to over-eager students who go too far and end up with «extremist» formulas that will lead to the «de-Republicanization» of France.
In any event, the report has opened yet another chapter in the long-running debate over multiculturalism in France, which has the largest Muslim population in Western Europe.
The debate pits the Socialist supporters of multiculturalism in France against the Conservative republican camp, which is concerned about the steady disintegration of French society due to mass immigration, and which is calling for the return to the traditional values of the French Republic.
Opinion polls show that a majority of people in France believe that multiculturalism has gone too far.
According to a poll published by Le Figaro in October 2012, 60% of French people believe that Islam has become «too visible and influential» in France and 43% consider the presence of Muslim immigrants to be a threat to French national identity, compared to just 17% who say it enriches society.
In addition, 68% of people in France blame the problems associated with Muslim integration on immigrants who refuse to integrate, and 52% blame it on cultural differences. The poll also shows a growing resistance to the symbols of Islam. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of French people say they are opposed to Muslim women wearing the veil or Islamic headscarves in public, and only 18% say they support the building of new mosques in France.
France has a long tradition of secularism in public institutions, especially in public schools where the absence of religion has long been considered essential to the country’s ideals of equality and freedom of conscience.
In September 2013, the government introduced a «secularism charter» for schools. The document—which is to appear in a prominent location in all of the 55,000 public schools in France—would serve to remind students and teachers of a list of secular principles underpinning the separation of mosque and state.
Although the initiative has enjoyed a generally positive reception, many observers say they doubt Hollande has the political will actually to enforce secular principles in French schools, with or without a charter.
This skepticism stems from the circumstance that Muslim children constitute an increasingly large proportion of the 10 million students in the French public school system—and because Muslim parents make up an increasingly important voting bloc in French politics. Muslims, in fact, cast the deciding vote that thrust Hollande into the Elysée Palace in May 2012.
With major municipal elections in France coming up in March 2014 and European parliamentary ballots in May, speculation is rife that the flailing Hollande is seeking to leverage the debate over multiculturalism to further endear himself to Muslim voters.
But the French philosopher and essayist Alain Finkielkraut says multiculturalism and runway Muslim immigration are responsible for the destruction of French national identity.
In a politically incorrect interview with the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on December 6 to discuss his latest book, «L’identité malheureuse» [The Unhappy Identity], Finkielkraut says European elites have consistently misrepresented multiculturalism as the model for the future. Instead, he says, «mistrust prevails, communitarianism is rampant—parallel societies are forming that continuously distance themselves from each other.»
According to Finkielkraut:
«Immigration used to go hand-in-hand with integration into French culture. That was the rule of the game. Many of the new arrivals no longer want to play by that rule. If the immigrants are in the majority in their neighborhoods, how can we integrate them? … Many Muslims in Europe are re-Islamizing themselves. … The left does not want to accept that there is a clash of civilizations.»
Finkielkraut sums it up: «I am of the opinion that our generation’s task is not to recreate the world, but to prevent its decline. … I become sad and feel a growing sense of anxiety. Optimism would seem a bit ridiculous these days. I wish the politicians were able to speak the truth and look reality in the face. Then, I believe, France would be capable of a true awakening—of contemplating a policy of civilization.»