In multiethnic societies such as France, it is important to uphold the principle of law, the sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says. Anything else would undermine the rights of socially excluded groups.
DW: You do not use the term “radical Islam,” but you speak of the “Muslim far right.” Why?
Marieme Helie Lucas: I seek to emphasize not the religion itself, but the political stance of reactionary groups – which by the way have a lot in common with fascism and national socialism. They share the belief of superiority based not on race, but on religion. As with the Nazis, this supposed superiority is based on the fiction of a glorious past. By pointing to that past, they feel justified and even obliged to physically destroy what they call “subhumans.” And, as the Nazis propagated “children, church and kitchen” as the rightful place of women, the Muslim far right sees home and mosque as the proper place for women in society.
Are there correlations between the European far right and the Muslim far right?
They have many strong commonalities. Both groups work toward confrontation and seek to engineer bloodbaths in order to radicalize and recruit new members. The extreme right in Europe, which refers to its “white” or “Christian” roots, is not fighting against Islam as an ideological and philosophical-religious belief system. It is much more prone to attacking citizens who may be defined as “Muslims” simply because of their origins, without giving any thought to the principles of freedom of religion or conscience. We cannot play down the dangers represented by the European far right any more than their significant growth.
That is why we must protect the rights of all of those people that the far right simply labels as Muslims. Even more so because of the fact that those people also represent a minority in society. We have to defend them on the basis of human rights. Yet we must not do this by defending Islam as such – and certainly not by defending the Muslim far right.
What is the appropriate response to extremist ideologies?
The European left, liberals and humanists who fail to comprehend this terminological difference are decidedly harming progressive and humanist resistance movements within Muslim countries. Ultimately, they are aiding those who murder progressive forces in those countries. Therefore, the fight must be carried out on two fronts: against the Muslim far right and against the traditional right-wing extremists and racists in the West. One must do so in the name of universal human rights.
In your view just how endangered is the idea of the republic?
If one allows various groups to refer to different public authorities, ultimately you have a situation in which not all citizens of the state enjoy the same rights. That stands in direct opposition to the basic tenets of democracy. For instance, a divorced British woman fighting for alimony, child custody and the equitable division of shared property will not have the same rights before a religious court that she would have before a court of the state. The same applies to inheritance law: In a religious court, a daughter is only entitled to half of what a son is. Adopted children have no inheritance rights whatsoever. There are many examples to illustrate the fact that people appearing before different courts are also treated differently.
So in that sense the republic is the only authority that can guarantee the rights of socially excluded people?
Yes. It would be pointless to claim that people would freely submit to the authority of religious courts. To accept that claim is to ignore the fact of social pressure put upon women that the state no longer defends. The law that applies to all citizens is the same for everyone. In that way, it defends those who cannot defend themselves against reactionary forces in their own communities.