A Muslim conference, which was to be held in the south of France near Avignon, has been cancelled as of January 7th after vigorous pressure from the national Right as well as the French Council of the Muslim Faith.
The conference had been scheduled since November at the initiative of the association D’clic, which presents itself as being a “humanist, humanitarian, social and cultural” project. At the time, Rassemblement National asked the local administration from the Vaucluse department to ban the conference because the organising association highlighted another association on its poster: ‘Barakacity,’ dissolved in 2020 by the authorities and known for hateful, violent, and discriminatory statements. The Rassemblement National, therefore, saw the conference proposed by D’clic as an “Islamist meeting.”
Violane Démaret, the prefect of Vaucluse, requested the cancellation of the conference, on the grounds that it was likely to create public disorder. D’Clic then claimed a “graphic error,” withdrew the poster, and decided to move the conference to January 8th in a secret location, while accusing the Rassemblement National of stirring up “hatred towards minorities.”
However, the Rassemblement National once again applied to the prefecture to request the cancellation of the conference because of the presence of three controversial speakers. One of the expected speakers, Imam Ismaïl, who preaches in Marseilles, encourages polygamy and prohibits “simple discussion” between men and women as well as the dissemination of photos of non-veiled women on social networks. He has also stated in the past that “abandoning prayer is more serious than killing hundreds of people.”
The RN deputies from Vaucluse went so far as to write to Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin, but their efforts were in vain.
The prefect considered that this time, it was a meeting “in a private setting,” and that freedom of expression and assembly should not be infringed upon. According to Démaret, there was no risk of disturbing public order.
Things could have ended there, but the French Council of the Muslim Faith (Conseil Français du Culte Musulman) took up the matter and denounced the conference and its speakers as being close to the Salafist movement. Éric Zemmour’s party Reconquête took it upon itself to amplify the matter. The movement’s youth leader and unsuccessful deputy candidate in Vaucluse, Stanislas Rigault, launched an online petition to have the conference banned. Éric Zemmour added his voice by writing personally to the prefect of Vaucluse.
Faced with pressure, D’Clic finally gave up organising the conference. According to the regional newspaper La Provence, the owner of the intended venue decided to no longer make it available in the face of the outcry and the risks: “I don’t want problems with anyone, too many crazy people have called me!”
The organisers, for their part, claimed that the influx of people was the main reason for the cancellation and that the “security of the imams was not guaranteed.”
The president of the association denounced “the publicity of the fachosphere [a French neologism composed of ‘facho’—fascist—and ‘sphere’, meaning social media or the online world].” It is suggested that the conference would only be postponed—not cancelled—since he concluded his post “See you soon in an even bigger place!”
Likely, the same forces will again mobilise to prevent the conference from taking place.