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FRANCE: FEMYSO statement on attack of Muslim youth by French government officials

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Statement published by FEMYSO on 23/11/2021

FEMYSO is deeply disappointed to observe that French government officials have spent their political capital and platforms to attack and delegitimise our fully volunteer-led pan-European youth and students organisation, instead of trying to pass effective policies to support local communities in the recovery from this devastating pandemic.

FEMYSO President Hande Taner said: “This must not be seen in a vacuum. With upcoming elections in France, we view this unjustified attack as nothing more than a method to legitimise the right-wing credentials of these individuals in order to appease racist far right idealogues who intend to divide our societies.

This directed targeting of FEMYSO is nothing less than an active contribution to the shrinking of civic space as well as an attack on human rights defenders. A free civic space means that criticism can be directed at public figures and institutions without fearing repercussions, as happens under autocratic regimes.

One of the many accusations our organisation was slandered with was that our rhetoric was not befitting of European values. This is laughable. Over the last 25 years our organisation has manifested European values of tolerance and investing in youth, through trainings and campaigns on various topics such as climate justice, human rights education, advocacy and policymaking, meaningful youth participation and mental health awareness. Our campaign in 2019 to encourage minority youth to vote in the European elections in a context where democratic turnout was low, as well as our campaign in 2020 Outbreak of Generosity to instil solidarity amongst youth to support those in need are only examples of our values and fully volunteer-led efforts.

A recent example of can also be seen through the two workshops our volunteers contributed with during the European Youth Event, as well as our moderation of an anti-discrimination panel by our President at the European Youth Event, this panel focused on the importance of inclusivity, the full recording of this moderation can be watched here.

Our detractors cite Lorenzo Vidino as the main source of the “research” that supposedly exposes our “real intentions”. Mr Vidino is treated by no one as a credible source and has allowed his personal grievances to transform into a multi-year vendetta that isn’t far from blaming FEMYSO for bad weather at this point. Mr Vidino is nothing but a prejudiced man masquerading as an intellectual. It is quite shameful that he spends his time trying to justify his political positions through his biased research with the sole aim of conducting a witch-hunt against Muslims.

He must be seen as an unreliable source, whose research focuses on spreading Islamophobic conspiracy theories. Mr Vidino is affiliated with numerous far-right think tanks in the US and is part of a worldwide network of Islamophobic organizations and bloggers (source).

We would like to offer the ability for dialogue for our detractors in the form of a private or public meeting to discuss specific accusations. Furthermore, our easily available FAQ page can provide a clarification on matters that are currently being discussed online amidst a mass disinformation campaign.

At FEMYSO we will continue to participate proactively in the public debate by protecting human and fundamental rights, by organising trainings and campaigns, and by standing in solidarity with our civil society partners as well as human rights defenders against all forms of oppression.

Notes:

  1. FEMYSO (est. 1996) is a network organisation for 33 Muslim youth and student organisations across 20 European countries, and is the leading voice for European Muslim youth, developing and empowering them, and working to build a more diverse, cohesive and vibrant Europe.
  2. For more media-related information or requests please email media@femyso.org.
  3. More information on Lorezo Vidino can be found here.