After the mayor of a small French city called this week for France to ban Islam, at least one French Muslim political activist was rejoicing.
Mayor Robert Chardon of the Southern French city of Venelles tweeted multiple times on Thursday that “the religion of Islam will be banned in France on Oct. 18, 2027.”
Mehdi Meftah, founder of Parti des Indigènes de la République (PIR), a political party representing the interests of people from many of France’s predominantly Muslim former colonies in Africa and elsewhere, called the mayor's calls to outlaw Islam “absurd.”
"We are interpreting this as a great thing," Meftah said. The comments, he added, show that French Muslims have developed enough political power in France to fluster their adversaries. "We, [French Muslims] are more and more visible. We have our mobilizations. We have our visions of what France should be," he said.
Chardon was not immediately available for comment.
A spokesman for Chardon's party, the center-right UMP of former French President Nicholas Sarkozy, told Al Jazeera that they are considering banning Chardon from the party.
“We condemn this but have yet to issue a formal comment on the issue,” UMP spokesman Pierre-Albert Mazars said. “We have begun procedures to look into removing [Chardon from the Party].”
Mazars said the party had no idea why Chardon had chosen the date of Oct. 18, 2027.
Meftah said Chardon’s tweets reveal that French politics “are in a state of disarray” and undermine the legitimacy of Islamophobia as a political platform.
French politicians "see [Muslims] as a threat," Meftah said, a sign that French Muslims are gaining power as a political entity.
Unlike in the past, when French Muslims were marginalized, they now have their own movements like the PIR and can push back against what Meftah calls the "white political establishment."
While the political future of France's most anti-immigrant politicians remains uncertain, Meftah says French Muslims are standing their ground.
“We are here for good,” he said, “Nothing will change that reality, except for genocide or something to that effect.”
France has laws against racist speech that are often not applied, and it remains unclear whether authorities will take action against Chardon for his comments.
A United Nations panel in Geneva on Friday criticized France for growing hate speech and, in particular, racism against the nation’s Roma, who have suffered violent hate crimes in recent years, including the savage beating of a 16-year-old Roma boy last June, Agence France-Presse news agency reported. France deported 13,000 Roma in 2013.