France's 'Islamo-leftism' row: Uproar over minister's probe into academic research


Smack in the middle of a pandemic comes a culture war, with the first shot fired by Emmanuel Macron's own government. Some 600 French academics have signed an open letter calling for the resignation of the junior minister for higher education. Why did Frédérique Vidal call for the national scientific research centre to probe the impact of "Islamo-leftism" on intellectual circles? What even is "Islamo-leftism"? 


We ask about the timing: after a fresh wave of terror attacks, during a pandemic and ahead of next year's presidential elections. After the recent row over the right to blaspheme and the republication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the French are again debating free speech, groupthink and critical thinking. 

The actual term "Islamo-leftism" was first employed by a left-wing British activist and this new controversy lays bare a long-simmering divide inside the French left over whether it is about classe or race, class struggle or race relations. When the French president himself accuses ideas imported from US campuses of undermining secular France's social fabric, both sides accuse the other of excusing the morally inexcusable.

Produced by Yi Song, Juliette Laurain and Imen Mellaz. 

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