Manuel Valls

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Manuel Valls at the SPD Bundesparteitag in Berlin, 12 December 2015. credit: Olaf Kosinsky

Manuel Valls is a French politician who has been the prime minister of France since 31 March 2014. He was previously minister of the interior from 2012 to 2014, and is a member of the Socialist Party. He is regarded as sharing common orientations with Scandinavian-style social democracy and Blairism.

His views and actions towards Islam and so-called French 'secularism' (laïcité) have been deemed controversial by many.

Views

On secularism

In 2014, he declared himself to be a 'demanding secularist' ("Je soutiens une laïcité exigeante ") in 2014 [1]. In September 2016, he defined secularism as: 'the right of each person to believe or not to believe: the freedom to practice their religion on the condition not to impose its practices or beliefs on others'. [2] However, the original concept of 'laïcité' is a promise of non-interference from the part of the State in religious affairs. The 'laïcité' law of 1905, often referred to by Mr.Valls, was originally created against state funding of Christian churches, schools and other institutions, as well as against the interference of the church into state affairs. One could argue that his concept of secularism closely resembles that of Pierre Cassen from Riposte Laïque, which, according to Nicolas Gavrilenko, 'completely banishes any trace of religion within civil society' -i.e. the public sphere ("Sa conception de la laïcité bannit toute trace de religion dans la société civile"). [3]

On the veil

As parliamentarian and interior minister, he supported crackdowns on the wearing of niqābs in public, on the veil in schools and defended a nursery which sacked an employee for demanding to wear the niqāb at work.

In 2013, Valls had stated that 'the veil, which forbids women to be who they are, must continue to be an essential fight for the Republic' (« le voile, qui interdit aux femmes d'être ce qu'elles sont, doit rester pour la République un combat essentiel »). [1].

In 2016 he reiterated his wish to see the veil banned in universities. Such views are very similar to those of right-wing politicians such as Eric Ciotti, who submitted a proposal to ban the veil from the public sphere in 2015. [4]

On Halal supermarkets

In 2002, as mayor of Évry, he opposed a branch of the national grocery store chain Franprix, located in a predominately Muslim neighborhood, deciding to sell only halal-certified meat/products and products that do not contain alcohol. He called the attempt 'communitarian'. [5]

On the burkini

In August 2016, Valls defended the 'burkini ban' by stating that 'the burkini is not compatible with French values', i.e. gender equality and secularism. [6]

He opposes the burkini, describing it as a symbol of the 'servitude of women' - 'as if a woman in a public space were indecent and in need of being covered'. He believes that wearing the veil (and not only a burkini or the integral veil) is a 'political act', a 'claim by political islam to push back the Republic'. When asked by an interviewer why not let women wear what they wanted, he answered that in periods of trouble, one must 'fight with determination against radical islam, against these symbols that seek to occupy the public sphere'.

His views have been deemed close to those of Nicolas Sarkozy, the former right-wing president of the Republic (2007-2012) who is running as a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. Sarkozy too, sees the wearing of a burkini as a 'political, militant, provocative act'. [7]

When Muslim women, interviewed for an article in the New York Times, called out the stigmatisation of their religion by the French state and society, Valls wrote an article as a response. In it, he implied that the interviewed women identified with 'an ultra-vigorous vision of Islam', and suggested that women who claimed the veil was 'empowering' had simply internalised patriarchal values ('[i]t’s masculine domination that has been completely integrated here!'), for his ban had only seemed to help free Muslim women from sexism. [2]

On Islam in general

In July 2016, he wrote in Le JDD, a journal owned by the right-wing Europe 1 station (Owned and operated by Lagardère Active, a subsidiary of the Lagardère Group), to express his views and 'plans' for Islam in France. He claimed that Islamic State was mostly attacking France for its values such as gender equality and its role in the founding of secularism, not for its military interventions in the Middle East and Sahel.

Moreover, he stated: 'Not all salafists are jihadists... but almost all jihadists are salafists' (Tous les salafistes ne sont pas des djihadistes… mais presque tous les djihadistes sont des salafistes.) and that, while public institutions were to deploy massive resources for 'counterterrorist' and 'deradicalisation' efforts, 'Muslims have a great responsibility to bare as well', as 'the real question regards the construction of a French Islam' that is 'compatible with French values'. Indeed, he believes that a 'poison' has spread spread throughout French society, by outside influence and the rise of 'communitarianism', which developed a 'counter-model' for society against the Republic and its values. Valls adds that 'many Muslims have been taken hostage by fundamentalism, Salafism, the Muslim Brotherhood'. His recommended solutions include to slash foreign funding for mosques and make sure that preachers were trained domestically so sermons were 'compatible with democracy'.[8]

On non-white spaces

Mr. Valls called the 'decolonization summer camp' (a camp organised for non-white voices to speak about the racist and colonialist state oppressed that they experience) 'scandalous' as 'people with white skin' were banned from it. He claimed that its goal was 'to bring together all the supporters of communalism, all those opposed to the mixture of 'white' and 'non-white' people'. [2]

On Judaism

Stephanie Le Bars, journalist for Le Monde, claims that

'M. Valls does not hide his proximity to Jewish French, willingly putting forward his wife's Jewish origins and his 'links with Israel'. He also tirelessly denounces a 'new antisemitism that hides under a facade of antisionism", present in [French] 'neighborhoods'. In this context, his firmness against the polemical Dieudonné that lead to the banning of his shows was particularly appreciated, as well as his regular defense of Jewish traditions and rituals: 'wearing the kippa, eating kosher and circumcision'. [1].

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Stéphanie Le Bars, Manuel Valls, partisan d'une « laïcité exigent », Le Monde, 01 April 2014, accessed 16 September 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Manuel Valls, In France, Women Are Free, The Huffington Post, 05 September 2016. Accessed 22 September 2016.
  3. 'Ce qu’est vraiment Riposte Laïque?', Le Monde, 05 September 2010. Accessed 16 September 2016.
  4. Eric Nunès, Valls relance le débat sur le port du voile à l’université, Le Monde, 13 April 2016. Accessed 22 September 2016.
  5. A Evry, le maire contre le Franprix halal, Bledi, 9 December 2002. Accessed 22 September 2016.
  6. 'France: Manuel Valls «comprend» les maires qui interdisent le burkini', Radio France Internationale, 17 August 2016. Accessed 16 September 2016.
  7. Sylvain Chazot, Manuel Valls voit dans le port du voile islamique "une revendication politique", 25 August 2016. Accessed 22 September 2016.
  8. Manuel Valls, Manuel Valls : "Reconstruire l'islam de France", le JDD, 31 July 2016. Accessed 22 September 2016.