Emmanuel Macron could become European poster boy for India's right-wing

Angshuman Choudhury
·6-min read

Earlier in April, a fairly popular right-wing, pro-Hindutva website in India, The Frustrated Indian (TFI), published an article with the following title: 'Won't let Islamist separatism threaten France: Liberal Icon Macron goes all Attila The Hun on Political Islam'

In the piece, the author, Yash Joshi, argues that "Macron has done a complete volte face when it comes to tackling the illegal immigrants." From a liberal leader who is soft on so-called "illegal immigrants", Macron was now hitting out after seeing France "succumb to radical Islamists."

"Indeed, the French President's politics has aged like a fine wine," the piece declares with not-so-sublime mirth.

Another TFI article from September asks in its headline: 'What turned Macron from a left-wing politician to a supremely right-wing leader?'

The piece, authored by regular contributor, Abhinav Singh, speculates in its blurb, "Was he always a closet right-winger?"

Resentfully complaining about how "radical Islamist thought in many regions of French cities" was threatening the "very idea of the French nation", the author notes that French president Emmanuel Macron was gradually "drifting to the 'right' side." He may not be completely mistaken, but more on that later.

A month later, TFI published another piece that stated: "We at TFI had predicted this long ago that Macron was preparing to throw the kitchen sink on the radical Islamists which threatened to damage France through terror and separatism. In doing so, he has sent a stern message to the rest of Europe that tooting the horn of liberalism is going to pay no dividends as radical Islamists continue their onslaught in the continent."

The author also recalls Macron's "Islam is in crisis all over the world" comment made recently during a speech in the immigrant-dominated town of Les Mureaux outside Paris. OpIndia, another popular right-wing website, called it "one of the most consequential speeches of his career."

A regular author for OpIndia, Abhishek Banerjee, ends his flattering piece for Macron with the lyrics of the French National Anthem La Marseillaise.

He evocatively notes how people all over France recently sung the anthem to register their protest against the murder of French schoolteacher, Samuel Paty, by one Abdullah Anzorov in a Parisian suburb.

Banerjee also gives a nod to Macron's Les Mureaux speech, spiritedly arguing that it "completely changes the way France (and potentially the rest of Europe and even the West) looks at Islam."

In a reference to the Macron administration's recent decision to ban homeschooling to prevent 'indoctrination', an OpIndia piece from 3 October notes how "when the world is suffering from the increasing menace of radical Islam, France [had] decided to bring in a law to tackle the issue."

"French govt won't take sh! [sic]. They will retaliate n [sic] deport all those who take law in their hand," a comment on the Facebook share of another OpIndia article about Macron's refusal to give in to Islamist terror. A comment on the Facebook share of a TFI video about Macron says, "France is no longer a civilisation!! It has already been destroyed by Muslims just as same as India's cultural health wealth destroyed. Cancer can't be cured."

Commentator and columnist, Tavleen Singh, recently wrote in her regular column for The Indian Express while comparing "Hindutva fanatics and Islamists" in India:

"At the risk of being called Islamophobic, I believe that the jihadist threat is more organised and more dangerous."

She remorsefully notes that Indian leaders do not make their opposition to "primitive concepts like blasphemy and apostasy" as clear as the French president.

Beyond these disparate writings, certain right-wing outfits have put their support for Macron on record. On 27 October, Hindu Sena, a prominent Hindutva outfit, declared its solidarity with France.

Vishnu Gupta, founder and national president of Hindu Sena, declared in a tweet:

This comes a day after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan lashed out at Macron for "encouraging Islamophobia" and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged his French counterpart to get "mental help." The right-wing here has also found direct congruence between the killings of Samuel Paty and a controversial former leader of the Hindu Mahasabha, Kamlesh Tiwari, who was brutally murdered by unidentified gunmen last year October in Lucknow's Khurshed Bagh area, allegedly in retaliation to an incendiary speech that he delivered in 2015 where he disparaged Prophet Muhammad. Well-known right wing commentator, Anand Ranganathan, recently compared Paty and Tiwari in a Times Now debate.

A recent article in OpIndia by regular contributor, K Bhattacharjee, complained about how condemnation seen after Paty's beheading was missing during the Tiwari murder. According to the author, Indian "liberals" condemned the Paty killing only because they are "enamoured" by the colour of the White skin and "feel the pain when someone pricks the skin of their western counterparts".

All of these point to one thing: The Hindu Right likes the Macron way of dealing with Islam. To them, it is unapologetic and outcome-oriented. They like it so much that they don't even mind paying homage to laïcité (French secularism) and the "idea of the French nation." It is yet another story that back home, they couldn't be less bothered about secularism.

Despite its rhetorical overload and leaps of faith, this support has some credence in the current political realities of France. Macron has indeed moved to the Right as his first tenure progressed.

Recently, he undertook a sweeping Cabinet reshuffle, which according to Euronews, confirms a "shift to the Centre-Right of his La République en Marche (LREM) movement." In July, he replaced Edouard Philippe with Jean Castex as the country's prime minister. Castex, until now, was a member of the right-wing Les Républicains party.

According to Vincent Martigny, professor of political science at the University of Nice and Ecole Polytechnique, the new appointments confirm that "La République en Marche is a Centre-Right party."

This is in glaring contrast to the centrist and anti-populist political platform on which Macron won the elections in 2017. According to observers, his right-ward shift is motivated by electoral ambitions for 2022.

Macron certainly doesn't want right-wing parties, such as Marine Le Pen's National Rally, to threaten his re-election. Le Pen's party had anyway made dramatic gains in the 2017 polls, finishing a close second to Macron's.

By integrating career conservatives into the government and posturing aggressively against Islam, Macron hopes to occupy the national right-wing space before it's too late.

This "solidarity" for Macron in India shows the transcendental potency of anti-Islamic right-wing thought. In many ways, it forebodes a reframing of Muslims, in the post-9/11 context, as the common cultural enemy of a whole spectrum of political groups around the world, from majoritarian populists to classical secularists.

Views expressed are personal

Also See: Turkey and Pakistan must be ostracised for dim view of Freedom of Expression, not France

Liberal silence on global free speech conflict has killed India's intellectual life

France star Paul Pogba rubbishes international retirement rumours as 'fake news'

Read more on India by Firstpost.