Friday, May 11, 2012

Decisive Muslim Voting in France

The Muslim Observer

President Sarkozy Voted out, 93% of Muslims vote for Hollande
By Karin Friedemann, TMO
Outgoing French President Nicolas Sarkozy (R) and newly-elected President Francois Hollande attend a ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe to commemorate the end of World War II in Paris May 8, 2012.
REUTERS/Lionel Bonaventure/Pool
France: Via La Vie:According to a poll by Opinion Way and Fiducial for Le Figaro, 93% of Muslims voted for Hollande.  7% voted for Sarkozy.
The poll was conducted May 6th among 1000 voters. According to the polling agency, there are about 2 million Muslim voters. 59% of Muslims voted for Hollande in the first round.  23% voted for  Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Front) and 7% voted for Fran├žois Bayrou (Democratic Movement).  Sarkozy got 4% of the Muslim vote in the first round.
Socialist challenger Francois Hollande defeated incumbent Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy by a relatively narrow margin on Sunday, May 6 to become the next French president for a five-year term. It was the first election where French Muslims, who comprise over 5% of the population, were called out to vote. Therefore, it is assumed that Sarkozy’s anti-Muslim rhetoric cost him the election. Hollande got 51.8 percent of votes compared with 48.2 percent for Sarkozy. Hollande’s election campaign bears similarities to the Obama election campaign in the US, where the winning candidate shrugged off Muslim support while antagonists painted him with sinister accusations of being in league with Muslims.
Tareq Ramadan, an imam in Geneva, Switzerland, became a topic of debate for his opinion on the French elections, and was accused of influencing the Muslim vote. Ramadan replied: “When I attack Nicolas Sarkozy, I’m taking on the government, the establishment. As for the Socialist Party, I also regret that it has abandoned its ideals. I hold both the mainstream French political parties responsible for the rise of the National Front.
”Canada’s Globe and Mail reports: “Imams and Islamic associations are calling on Muslims to do their duty as citizens and go to the polls.
And while they’re not officially endorsing anyone, the call itself is a bold move in a country where statistics on religious affiliation are formally banned and where secularism is enshrined in the constitution.
Experts say that Muslims in poor neighborhoods and Muslim youth tend to vote for the left. But the Muslim vote is diverse, and Muslims have tended in the past to avoid politics. Kamel Kabtane, the rector of the Lyon mosque, who was among a group of imams at some 30 mosques in southeast France pressing Muslims to vote, said, “By this initiative, we want to show that Muslims aren’t citizens of the second zone … They can vote for whom they want but be present in the voting booth.”
“I want to condemn the conniving and irresponsible attitude of the Socialist Party and its candidate after religious leaders belonging to a network of 700 mosques called on followers to vote for Francois Hollande,” Eric Ciotti, lawmaker of Sarkozy’s Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) party, said in a press release cited by The National newspaper on Sunday, April 29. In the first round of elections, the most extreme right-wing candidate, the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, won over 25% of the vote, “sending shock-waves around France.” The National Front platform is comparable to the American Tea Party, with its platform against globalism, immigrants, and government social services. Incumbent President Nicholas Sarkozy adopted these right-wing attitudes in an effort to win NF votes for his re-election but was perceived as hypocritical by the truly conservative. Therefore Sarkozy won neither the left nor right, but he did win the hearts of the Israelis. 92.8% of French Jews in Israel with dual citizenship voted for Sarkozy.
The whole concept of Muslims voting as a block was so inflammatory that the head of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur said such calls to vote are dangerous because they risk dragging a religion into politics, and “I refuse it.” However, other Paris imams encouraged Muslims to vote, including Mohamed Saleh Hamza who heads the northern Paris mosque where, until last fall, the faithful spilled into the street to pray because crowds had grown too big to fit inside. Muslims “have a tendency not to vote. Now, we’re telling them that they are full citizens,” Mr. Hamza said.“ They’re not organized yet, but that will come.”The election was highly contentious and often bitter, but the newSocialist president is expected to take office May 15. Hollande says he will make the rich pay more tax and will improve the lot for workers and the less well-off. He also says he will take initiatives on a number of social issues, but it is still unclear how far he can go and how these will be financed. The new president has also vowed to withdraw French troops from Afghanistan before the end of 2012.
Policy in the Middle East is unlikely to change radically with Hollande, as this is an area where there are no major disagreements between right and left. Like the Conservatives, the Socialists have close ties with Israel and these are likely to be unaffected by the new regime. By American standards, Hollande is unlikely to be perceived as minority-friendly. He says he would not allow separate menus in public cafeterias or separate hours in swimming pools for men and women to satisfy demands of the Muslim community. Hollande had said that if he is elected president, “I will apply the law” on face veils. In a country where horse pate is standard fair in supermarkets, the French indignation against halal meat may seem extreme to the casual observer.
Americans may take note of the drama and decide for themselves, but in general,  American norms of civil rights and religious freedom far exceed the existing situation for Muslims in France.

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