In Brief

French academics clash with minister over ‘Islamo-leftism’ inquiry

Row over allegations of extremism in universities stokes growing culture war

More than 600 academics have called for France’s higher education minister to resign after she ordered an inquiry into claims that “woke” activists were helping to promote “Islamo-leftism” in universities.

The academics, who include top economist Thomas Piketty, have accused Frederique Vidal “of slandering the country’s intellectuals”, The Times reports. In an open letter published in Le Monde newspaperthey also compare the minister’s stance to those of populist leaders such as Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro, Hungary’s Viktor Orban and Poland’s Andrzej Duda

What is ‘Islamo-leftism’?

Vidal has claimed that universities are being influenced by the “gangrene” of Islamo-leftism - her term to describe left-wing people who she claims excuse Islamist extremism because Muslims are a persecuted minority in France.

After asking the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) to investigate the alleged influence of Islamo-leftism in universities, Vidal told Sunday paper Le Journal du Dimanche that her aim was to distinguish between genuine research and “those who use this work to carry an ideology and to nourish activism”.

She also argued on French TV channel CNews that left-wing academics are “always looking at everything through the prism of their will to divide, to fracture, to pinpoint the enemy”.

Her comments have been met with “plenty of criticism” from universities and left-wing parties, reports Politico.

And even Vidal has acknowledged that the inquiry poses challenges. “Islamo-leftism has no scientific definition,” she told Le Journal du Dimanche, “but it corresponds to a feeling of our fellow citizens, first of all, and to a certain number of facts, too.”

What will happen next?

Despite being tasked with leading the investigation, the CNRS has also described the term Islamo-leftism as a “political slogan that fits no scientific reality”.

But while the inquiry may prove to be a non-starter, the “seemingly esoteric fight over social science theories” points to “a larger culture war in France”, says The New York Times.

As the paper notes, “France that has been punctuated in the past year by mass protests over racism and police violence, competing visions of feminism, and explosive debates over Islam and Islamism”.

President Emmanuel Macron also triggered fury and boycotts of French products across the Muslim world last year by pushing for a crackdown on radical Islam following the beheading of Samuel Paty. The teacher was murdered near his school in Paris after showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed to pupils during a class about freedom of speech.

Vidal argues that Islamo-leftism represents an “attack on academic freedom and freedom of expression in general” and that “we can’t let that go, even if it’s very much a minority”.

Recommended

Belarusian sprinter seeking asylum after refusing to return to Minsk
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya (left) alongside Beth Dobbin of Team GB
In Depth

Belarusian sprinter seeking asylum after refusing to return to Minsk

Why England is dropping isolation for EU and US tourists
Border Force staff
Behind the scenes

Why England is dropping isolation for EU and US tourists

Infection rise prompts European crackdown on vaccine refuseniks
Anti-vaccination sign at protest
Getting to grips with . . .

Infection rise prompts European crackdown on vaccine refuseniks

Germany strikes US deal on controversial Russia pipeline
Angela Merkel and Joe Biden at the White House
Behind the scenes

Germany strikes US deal on controversial Russia pipeline

Popular articles

Why your AstraZeneca vaccine may mean no European holidays
Boris Johnson receives his second dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Getting to grips with . . .

Why your AstraZeneca vaccine may mean no European holidays

‘Wobbling’ Moon will cause worldwide flooding, Nasa warns
Flooding in Florida after Hurricane Irma hit in 2017
Why we’re talking about . . .

‘Wobbling’ Moon will cause worldwide flooding, Nasa warns

What next as homes raided in search for Hancock affair whistle-blower?
Matt Hancock leaving No. 10 with Gina Coladangelo in May 2020
The latest on . . .

What next as homes raided in search for Hancock affair whistle-blower?

The Week Footer Banner