Palestine, an identity marker for Muslims in France

Palestine, an identity marker for Muslims in France

Unanimous solidarity. In front of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Friday October 13, Muslims encountered by The cross all show their support for the Palestinians in the war declared between Israel and Hamas. “In Islam, all Muslims are brothers and sisters. If you touch a Muslim, it’s like touching a member of your family.” explains a 20-year-old girl to justify her sensitivity to the Palestinian cause, while affirming “banish the acts of Hamas, and those of the Israeli army which kills civilians”.

“If any human being is killed, we are outraged, adds Amine, in her twenties. But if we also share their religion, we say to ourselves that we could be in their place. » The student also admits to being exasperated by what he perceives as “global hypocrisy” : “That people are outraged by the Hamas attack is logical. But when there are Palestinian deaths, we don’t talk about it. »

Outrage on social media

This indignation resonates on Muslim social networks, where accounts share videos of the bombings in Gaza every day, sometimes accompanied by the quote from Surah 14, verse 42 of the Koran: And do not think that Allah is heedless of what the wrongdoers do. He will grant them a delay until the day their gaze freezes. » When others share invocations for Palestine.

Far from being one-off, this unfailing solidarity with the Palestinians seems to constitute a historical marker of the identity of Muslims in France. “Among a set of causes, yesterday Bosnia, today the fate of the civilian populations of Syria, including the Rohingyas of Burma, the Palestinian cause retains an undeniable aura among the Muslims of France, beyond the origins, the sensitivities and generations”, writes Franck Frégosi, specialist in the organization of Islam in France (1). Over the years, this solidarity has played on several strings, from identification with an oppressed people to religious solidarity.

Historically, the Palestinian cause has also mobilized the left and the far left. “But it is clear that it has lost its centrality because we are experiencing other conflicts, such as Ukraine or Nagorno-Karabakh, which have eclipsed the Palestinian question,” notes Franck Frégosi. And faced with this progressive neglect, the researcher observes that “the only components of the French population who now put it forward are Muslims and particularly young people.”

“Mirror cause”

For the researcher, the Palestinian question thus functions among young Muslims as a “mirror cause” : “They may have the feeling of sharing a sort of community of destiny between what they experience as young people from immigrant backgrounds living in France, with the feeling of being victims of discrimination, and what the Palestinians experience, as if these two situations of domination echoed each other, he analyzes. Failing to recognize themselves in society, some will find an implicit cause, that of Palestine. »

The feeling of being the subject of ” Two weights, two measures “ in the media and political treatment would thus contribute to strengthening this identification with a people who have been victims of injustice for years. “Even though the situation of young Muslims in France cannot be compared term for term with that of the Palestinians,” specifies the researcher.

Sensitivity to the Palestinian question by Muslims can also be explained by a resonance with Arab and postcolonial identity: “There is a form of Arab consensus on support for the Palestinian cause, explains Dominique Vidal, journalist and historian. Arab identity was deeply damaged during the defeats of 1948 and 1967, and it was also the last unresolved colonial conflict. »

However, this support for the Palestinians, present among the youth, is not traditionally relayed by the major Muslim federations, with the exception of Muslims of France (formerly UOIF, close to the Muslim Brotherhood). “They keep their distance from this cause because they fear putting themselves at odds with public authorities, plays Franck Frégosi. Any position that is too obvious for the Palestinian cause could be assimilated to an endorsement given to violent organizations like Hamas. »

In fact, since the attack on October 7, few officials have spoken, with the exception of Hassen Chalghoumi, imam of Drancy, or Tareq Oubrou, grand imam of Bordeaux. In the daily columns The Parisianon October 13, the latter also warned against any hasty identification between Muslims and Palestinians: “Hamas is not Palestine, nor the Muslims, nor even the Arabs! We absolutely must fight this shortcut,” he insisted. He also seemed to fear that the ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations would fuel the feeling among Muslims of experiencing the same injustice here and there.

In the Middle East, the progressive Islamization of this cause – originally very political – by organizations like Hamas has also been able to strengthen the religious dimension of solidarity. Today, many young believers invoke the link between Muslim believers all around the globe to justify their sensitivity to the Palestinian cause, without however taking into account the fact that not all Palestinians are Muslims.

Palestine in the hadith

In certain cases, religious arguments can be added to this community solidarity. “Palestine is very important for us Muslims,” insists Nader Abou Anas, a Muslim preacher influential among young people in a video on YouTube, recalling in particular the place of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Sunni Islam.

Following the tradition, “The prophet Mohammed is said to have made an air journey from Mecca to Jerusalem. Then, in Jerusalem, he would have made a celestial ascension where he would have met the prophets. deciphers Pierre Lory, professor at the Practical School of Advanced Studies, specialist in Muslim mysticism.

On social networks, these preachers also mention the “end times hadiths”, reported words of the Prophet – whose historical reliability is in doubt – which allude to Palestine. According to some of these ancient stories, without narrative unity, “two eschatological characters par excellence, the Mahdi and Jesus, will fight the antichrist Dajjal, the lying Christ”says Pierre Lory. “And it is Christ who will end up killing the antichrist with a spear, near the walls of Jerusalem. »

The historian recalls that the importance of these hadiths was never emphasized at the beginning of Islam. “They were revived at the time of the Crusades, then after 1948, with the creation of the State of Israel,” notes the researcher. And remobilized according to political events.

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