ACORN’s French Affiliate Attacked for Supporting Muslim Women

darmanin, ACORN France, Alliance CitoyenneApril 7, 2021

New Orleans      ACORN is an inclusive organization, and as a membership-led and supported organization, our mandate is to support and represent our members. The Alliance Citoyenne is our affiliate in France and has been over the last number of years as it has grown from its original base in Grenoble to organize thousands across the country in the Paris suburbs, Lyon, and elsewhere.

Our membership includes families of all religious faiths in France, as it does in globally wherever we organize. Predictably, that includes Muslims of course. One action after another in the polarized politics of France around secularism and cultural traditions that mandate homogeneity have been designed to particularly discriminate against Muslim women, especially those whose religious practice includes wearing a veil. Initially, veiled Muslim women were restricted from any direct public employment. President Macron and his party controlling the government have now also extended that ban to block their employment in any company or enterprise that receives any government money as well. Their access to public venues including sports, swimming pools, bowling alleys, and other facilities like training centers, public health and daycare centers is also restricted. It goes without saying that all of this is a huge denial of their human rights.

Muslim women members of ACORN have pushed back. In the summer of 2019, actions where ACORN members sought to use public swimming pools wearing what were called burkinis attracted national and international attention. In some cases, pools were closed. The Alliance was attacked for its stance, but the governing bodies of all of our chapters, debated the issue fully, and stood strong. In fact, women throughout France approached us about organizing a separate women’s sports league that would allow Muslim women to participate.

Answering a call from the European Commission, the Alliance applied for support in its efforts to organize a union of Muslim women within the organization. The proposal was successfully awarded a multi-year grant. Since November, the final papers have not been signed though because of political interference by the French Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin, who claims the grant would be a “political project of rupture under the guise of anti-racism”. His opposition has ignited a firestorm of publicity and debate in Paris and throughout the country, including vicious and public attacks against the Alliance. We were almost evicted from our offices in Lyon for example. The EU is also caught up in this maelstrom between its stated convictions and political pressure.

In a press statement, the Alliance Citoyenne responded factually to the government attack:

This is a lie when the demands of the Citizen Alliance are aimed at inclusion, diversity and tolerance. As the Observatory of Associative Freedoms has shown in many other cases, discretionary intervention, disinformation, disqualification and amalgamation are all processes used by the executive power to delegitimize and hinder citizens who hold critical voices. Despite the deceptive attacks by Mr. Darmanin, the Alliance Citoyenne and its members will continue to defend the rights of minorities, the freedom of Muslim women, the rights of poorly housed families, people with disabilities and all citizens affected by injustices. It calls on the European Commission to resist the pressure exerted by the Minister of the Interior and to have confidence in its teams and its procedures for selecting projects against racism and discrimination.

The French government, like so many others, including perhaps the European Union, is going to be forced to learn that this is ACORN, and ACORN members don’t back down in fights against injustice.


Macron Protests Too Much on Anti-Islamic Actions

New Orleans     Ben Smith, formerly of Politico, joined the New York Times over the last year as their media columnist and has quickly become a must-read in my book.  His sources are amazing, his scoops unique, and his perspective wide-ranging and invaluable.  The Times seems to know this, not only because they give him more space in the paper every Monday than any other columnists gets, except perhaps the Hollywood and Los Angeles specials that Maureen Dowd writes from time to time.  He’s even allowed to write inside-stories on the Times, both ringing their bell on internal conflicts and a recent fanboy column on Trump political writer Maggie Haberman. He probably won’t win a Pulitzer prize until he has a full year on the job, but he has already earned it in my book, and I’d take a bet right now that he’s in line.

I know this already sounds like too much inside-baseball to many of you, who are now wishing I would get to the point, whatever that might be, so let’s do that.  Ben Smith has carved out enough of a position already as the independent arbiter of media insight and criticism that the President of France Emmanuel Macron called him the other day to complain about the coverage he and his country are getting over their anti-Muslim policies.  This is the same Macron who Smith notes has never been willing to give an interview to the Times’ Paris Bureau.  Other than President Trump calling his buddies, formerly his BFFs at Fox and other outlets, who does that?  Macron and more to come perhaps?

Macron’s beef is that we don’t get France.  His brief is that race, religion, and ethnicity have no meaning in France compared to the universal concept of being a citizen dating back to the French Revolution.  Identity politics do not matter for the French according to Macron, and their policies around their Muslim citizens are a reaction to the death toll they have experienced from “Islamist” terrorism and separation of the church and state.  Everybody must assimilate the same, because they don’t go for this diversity mess of the United States.

ACORN’s French affiliate, the Alliance Citoyenne, has faced a different experience than Macron describes.  The government’s campaign against Muslim dress codes for women including the hijab face coverings are both anti-Muslim and misogynist.  In 2019, we led a campaign in Grenoble, Lyon and elsewhere to gain access for our Muslim members and their children in public pools, as our members jumped in the water in their burkinis.  We have more recently been trying to get Muslim women equal access to sports teams.

Make no mistake, Macron’s complaints to the contrary, his policies are sweeping.  Muslim women in hijab have been banned from public transportation and public employment.  More recently, Macron expanded that ban to exclude Muslim women in hijab from working for any private company, nonprofit or for profit, that receives any public money or support.

It’s hard to not see Macron’s position as purely political as another French election faceoff with the far-right, anti-immigrant party of LePen’s looms again.  No women have been arrested or linked directly to any of the terrorism that has afflicted the French, yet the policies seem specifically directed at Muslim women.  Something is wrong here, and Macron is protesting too much, despite his savvy call to Smith and his complaint that he is an unhappy reader of the New York Times, making him one of many along with the rest of us.