Islamo-leftism versus Islamophobia : The ideological polarization of French Academia

After the attacks on “Islamo-leftism” in French University , comes the fight against Islamophobic scholars.

On March 4 2021, two professors of the Political Science Institute of Grenoble were targeted by accusations of “Islamophobia” and “fascism” . The professors’ names were anonymously posted at the main entrance of the Institute with the slogans “fascists are in our amphitheaters” and “Islamophobia kills”[1] while asking for the resignation of K. and T. (the two professors). The local affair has then been nationally debated and covered by French main media.

The controversy started between two professors, as they were jointly planning a conference  “Racism, Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism”. For K., presenting Islamophobia on an equal footing with Anti-Semitism and Racism was not acceptable since he did not consider the former as a legitimate academic concept. K.’s insistence – he notably sent emails to explain his strong opposition to the use of this term – led one of his colleagues to finally drop out the term Islamophobia from the conference program. 

One of the local students organizations took up the case and sided against K. A second professor, T., has also been targeted by this campaign, after he expressed his support to K. T threatened to exclude some of his students because of their affiliation to a trade union that previously warned on the content of his teachings and accused him of disseminating Islamophobic content during his classes.

This internal quarrel then turned into a public debate at the national level, with the poster campaign on the Institute’s walls. The local branch of a leftist students union republished the picture of the poster on its social media triggering a social media chain reaction. While T. did not publicly react, K. made a media tour and vehemently defended his position by denouncing the rise of “Islamo-leftism” and ‘censorship’ among French scholars. He received strong political support from the presidential political majority and from right wing parties that portrayed him as a victim of “Islamo-leftism” and of the “one track thinking”. The administration of the Institute of Political Science was initially silent and then condemned K when he made the controversy nation wide. 

A juridical investigation has been opened for public insult and diffamation. Vidal, the Minister of Higher Education, vehemently condemned the pressures on the two professors who have been put under police protection[2].

The case illustrates the highly polarized political context surrounding Islam in France and how ideology is deeply affecting the scholars working on this sensitive topic.



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