PARIS — France’s finance minister on Friday accused some mayors of giving in to “political Islam” because they allow women-only hours at local swimming pools, underscoring a harsher tone in the aftermath of a schoolteacher’s beheading.
“There is terrorism, yes — the crime that must be judged and condemned,” Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio. “And there is the ideology that is at the root of terrorism and which is more insidious — political Islam, which has had its accomplices for years in France.”
Referring to differentiated hours at municipal pools, which are acused of being discriminatory, he called such moves “cowardice, small renunciations and unreasonable accommodations” which “constantly fuel political Islam.”
The comments fit in with members of President Emmanuel Macron’s government who have been speaking out more harshly against radical Islam and so-called “separatism” by religious groups in the wake of the attack — including Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin’s complaint earlier this week about religious food aisles in supermarkets.
In a separate interview granted to conservative newspaper Le Figaro, Le Maire called on business leaders to help grapple with religious separatism.
“The project of political Islam is simple: to destroy the French nation, destroy its values, sully our national memory and undermine our history,” Le Maire said. “For years, political Islam has engaged in a continuous harassment of our nation.”
He also urged “business leaders to realize that they, too, can contribute to public peace and to the fact that separatism can be fought against.”
It’s not just conservative ministers in Macron’s cabinet who are speaking out. Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, who comes from the left, has also criticized so-called “leftist Islamism” — an expression often used in far-right circles to accuse progressive advocates of bowing to radical islam.
In early October, Macron gave a long-awaited speech on what he described as the ways radical Islamism infiltrates French society.
But the recent murder of Samuel Paty, a history teacher beheaded for showing caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad, forced him to adopt an harder stance — especially as his political opponent from the far-right, Marine Le Pen, seeks a political opening.
In the aftermath of Paty’s death, police carried out dozens of raids, a mosque was shuttered and a few associations accused of connections to radical Islam have been dismantled. Far-right magazine Valeurs Actuelles called for a “war” against radical Islam on its cover this week.
On Sunday, two veiled women were stabbed by the Eiffel Tower after racist insults were hurled at them.