France intends to investigate universities to root out “Islamo-leftist” teaching and ideas that are fracturing French society as the government seeks to cut down on what officials say is American influence on French universities.
The French government announced the probe earlier this week following months of rhetoric from top French officials and leading academics warning against ideas coming to France from American universities.
French minister of higher education Frédérique Vidal told Parliament on Tuesday that the National Center for Scientific Research, a state-run research organization, would carry out an investigation into the “totality of research underway in our country,” according to The New York Times. This is the first time the French government has taken concrete steps to clamp down on what officials have referred to as “Islamo-leftist” ideas.
The Times notes other remarks Vidal made in a recent interview in which she slammed “Islamo-leftist” ideas focused on spreading division:
In an earlier television interview, Ms. Vidal said the investigation would focus on “Islamo-leftist” — a controversial term embraced by some of Mr. Macron’s leading ministers to accuse left-leaning intellectuals of justifying Islamism and even terrorism.
“Islamo-leftism corrupts all of society and universities are not impervious,” Ms. Vidal said, adding that some scholars were advancing “radical” and “activist” ideas. Referring also to scholars of race and gender, Ms. Vidal accused them of “always looking at everything through the prism of their will to divide, to fracture, to pinpoint the enemy.”
The announcement spurred opposition from many French academics worried about the investigation’s impact on university culture. As The New York Times reported:
News of the investigation immediately caused a fierce backlash among university presidents and scholars, deepening fears of a crackdown on academic freedom — especially on studies of race, gender, post-colonial studies and other fields that the French government says have been imported from American universities and contribute to undermining French society.
French President Emmanuel Macron warned of “certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States” in a speech last year calling for a reinvestment in French education and culture.
“And in so doing, we have left the intellectual debate to others, to those outside of the Republic by ideologizing it, sometimes yielding to other academic traditions,” Macron said. “I am thinking of Anglo-Saxon traditions based on a different history, which is not ours. And when I see certain social science theories entirely imported from the United States, with their problems, which I respect and which exist, but which are just added to ours, I say to myself that it is reasonable to make this choice. And so we must, very clearly, re-invest, on a massive scale, in the field of social sciences, history, understanding of civilizations by creating posts, by stepping up dialogue, academic and scientific debate in order not to allow the knowledge, the understanding of Islam as a religion, of the civilization it underpins and its contribution to our country and our continent to become ideological and exclusively political debates.”