The Union of French Muslim Democrats (UDMF) has said it hopes to field candidates in eight cities in French elections next month, a modest objective for a young party with big ambitions.
The UDMF this week filed applications to run two candidates in the Parisian suburb of Bobigny as part of local elections in March, French media reported on Thursday. The relatively new political party said it planned to do the same in seven other ballot races, including in Marseille, Lyon and Nice.
Famed French author Michel Houellebecq’s latest novel “Submission,” which envisions France ruled by a Muslim party in 2022, sparked a media storm when it hit bookshelves this year.
The Charlie Hebdo massacre, incredibly, took place on the same day as the novel’s release in France. Speaking to France Inter radio about his best-selling novel, Houellebecq admitted that Muslims were dangerously unrepresented in mainstream politics.
The controversial writer Houellebecq had been found not guilty of inciting racism in 2002 by calling Islam “the stupidest religion”.
A panel of three judges acquitted Houellebecq of the charges of provoking racial hatred in remarks made in an interview with the literary magazine Lire.
The charges had been brought by France’s Human Rights League, the Mecca-based World Islamic League and the mosques of Paris and Lyon in a trial reminiscent of Britain’s Salman Rushdie affair.
The case also pitted leftwingers against Christians at a time of rising public concern about Islam in France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim community.
Najib Azergui, who founded the UDMF in 2012, told the daily Le Parisian that his group wanted to give a voice to the country’s sizeable Muslim community, which struggles to find itself represented in the country’s mainstream parties.
Hocine Hebbali, 32, became the party’s first – and so far only – member elected to public office, winning a seat as a city councilor in Bobigny last year.
The UDMF says it supports using Islamic banking practices to decrease France’s bloated public debt and says the country should invest in the halal food industry as a way to create jobs.
The party wants to repeal France’s 11-year-old ban on headscarves in schools and backs Turkey’s bid to join the European Union, according to the group’s website.