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In wake of attacks, one French Muslim asks: does my country love me?

By: Reuters Editorial | 5 November 2020

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In the wake of recent attacks across the country, devout Muslim Naouelle Garnoussi grapples with the reality of Islam in modern day France. Emer McCarthy reports.

In the northern suburbs of Paris, Naouelle Garnoussi, like many, is working from home.

A devout Muslim, the 36-year-old was brought up in France, identifies as French, and prays five times a day.

But in the aftermath of a spate of Islamist attacks she has begun to feel increasingly alienated in her own country.

“That’s why it hurts me so much because I was born in France, I am French, my grandmother is French, my grandmother’s name is Annick, my great-grandmother’s name was Antoinette – it can’t be more French than that. But sometimes, I feel like I am not French anymore, only a Muslim. And that’s not easy to live with.”

In response to the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty last month and the victims in Nice days later, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to crack down on what some public officials have called “the enemy within.”

It has shut down a mosque on the edge of Paris, dismantled at least three Muslim associations suspected of fomenting extremist views, and vowed to accelerate legislation to counter Islamic behavior that runs against the Republic’s values.

His comments has angered some Muslims around the globe by describing Islam as “a religion in crisis all over the world” and defending free speech that some deem blasphemous or inflammatory.

The president has also spoken of creating a so called “Islam of France,” or what he has more recently termed an “enlightened Islam” that is compatible with his country’s secular values.

But that concept makes little sense to Garnoussi.

“There isn’t only one form of Islam from France, as they (government) like to say, or an Islam from Japan or an Islam from Germany. It’s a big mistake to say that, and I feel that is very presumptuous of France to say that because whether I’m in Japan, in Papua New Guinea or in France, I think I would pray in the same way, only that the prayer mat will be placed differently in the direction of Mecca. Today, it’s not difficult to live Islam in France, but it hurts.”

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