A major Islamic center in Paris is urging French Muslims to unite against xenophobia in the second round of the country’s presidential elections in May.
Sunday’s election narrowed the pool down to two candidates ― independent Emmanuel Macron and far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. Macron and Le Pen will face each other in the runoff on May 7.
On Monday, the president of the Grand Mosque of Paris released a statement urging French Muslims to vote en masse for Macron, as the “threat of division and fragmentation” faces French society.
Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker who founded his own political party and promotes a global, multicultural France, “embodies the path of hope and trust in the spiritual and citizen forces of the nation,” wrote Grand Mosque mufti Dalil Boubakeur.
French political reporter Tristan Quinault Maupoil shared a copy of Boubakeur’s statement on Twitter:
Macron’s opponent espouses a staunchly anti-immigrant, anti-European Union platform. The 48-year-old Le Pen has denounced what she calls “Islamic fundamentalism,” though she’s spoken out against Muslim identity in general, too.
“I’m opposed to wearing headscarves in public places. That’s not France,” she told Anderson Cooper in March. The National Front leader conflated Muslim identity with immigrant status, adding: “There’s something I just don’t understand: The people who come to France, why would they want to change France, to live in France the same way they lived back home?”
Le Pen at other times has vowed to fight for the “soul of France” by imposing restrictions on halal meat, banning religious clothing in public, and putting a stop to “burkinis,” which are highly controversial in the country.
Macron has expressed more conciliatory views toward France’s Muslim population. “No religion is a problem in France today,” he said during a rally last fall. “If the state should be neutral, which is at the heart of secularism, we have a duty to let everybody practice their religion with dignity.”
The May 7 election, Boubakeur wrote, will determine “the destiny for France and for its religious minorities.”