Power of the ‘Boycott’: Let France Know

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Dr M Ali Hamza

Unfortunately, the French government chose to follow an extreme version of secularism or laicity. Islamin crises or not is debatable. But moral, humanitarian, and constructive image of French president and westerns’ political elite is indeed in crises? Crises occur when leadership leaves behind the golden values of conduct and starts disregarding the efforts of predecessors. Macron’s statement is sheer disrespect to article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that is observed in entire Europe, says ‘blasphemy is a limitation to free speech’. He and his supporters are also either ignorant or an insult to‘harm principle’ and ‘offense principle’ that lay down the principles for free speech. These principles are result of evolution in social-cognition of homo-sapiens.  As a consequence of more than two millenniums ofhuman learning, today even in secular countries publicly vilifying an act or object of religious worship is a crime, but Macron disgraces human learning. Standing withCharlie Hebdo’s profanity reveals the ill-bred political attempt of French president, because coming to power as a moderate and having no established party, ideology or tradition, Emmanuel Macron was free to govern France avoiding populist fanaticism, which is rapidly spreading across Europe and beyond. He was viewed as the one liberal, democratic politician who could curtail the tide of populism sweeping the globe. However, on the contrary, he has become the most populist leader in Europe.Today, self-proclaimed-seculars’ hatred towards Muslims has become a part of everyday speech for the French government as well as its media. Stigmatizing French Muslims as terrorists and separatists, branding Muslims of the world as radical, and labeling ‘Islam in crises’ is on top agenda of French government in particular and  western powers in general. How should Muslim world respond to such malicious, detrimental and unpropitious narrative built by Islamophobes?

Aggression and anger is not going to help-out.More the Muslims show aggression, the more they will be defamed as intolerant community. This does not meanto embrace silence and accept the absurdity instead we need to look for a better choice of action. Muslims are lucky enough to have the other option, the option of ‘economic boycott’. A boycott is an act of nonviolent, voluntary and intentional abstention from using, buying, or dealing with a person, organization, or country as an expression of protest, usually for moral, social, political, or environmental reasons. The purpose of a boycott is to inflict some economic loss on the target, or to indicate a moral outrage, to try to compel the target to alter an objectionable behavior.Few notable boycotts in recent history include: 1790s boycott against abolition of the slave trade in Britain advocated boycotting slave-produced sugar, the American boycott of British goods at the time of the American Revolution, Montgomery Bus Boycott and stores & businesses that discriminated against blacks were boycotted during American civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, 1980s disinvestment movement in South Africa in opposition to country’s apartheid regime, Chinese boycott of American products to protest the extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1905 , the boycott of Japanese products in China after the May Fourth Movement , crude oil embargo against the West by Arab countries in 1973.

Looking into the business Muslim majority countries offer to western world; in this case to France, can make us realize our strength on negotiation table. According to an annual report of United Nations COMTRADE Database on International Trade 2019, Pakistan imports from France were of US$420.09 Million,  Malaysia US$2.62 billion, Turkey US$7.41 billion, Dubai US$450 million,  Saudi Arabia US$4.59 billion, Qatar US$1.7 billion, Iran US$ 1.58 billion. Only 7 out of 50 Muslim majority countries’ annual import from France is more than US$16 billion. You can imagine the magnitude of dent Muslim world can cause to French economy, just through a steady consumer boycott. Besides some: though in fact there is none,  un-substitutable products, the substitutable consumer goods imported from France include beverages, dairy products, leather articles, perfumes and cosmetics, pharmaceutical products, medical apparatus, iron & steel, plastic etc. The products offered by France are not unique or indispensable.These all products are not bound to geographical constraints, neither France have monopoly in these and nor these products are impossible to reverse engineer.  So what is that restricting Muslim states to boycott these goods, nothing but the will, noting but absence of collective belief in one’s own abilities, and above all nothing but the deficiency of true love with the Prophet Muhammad  (Peace be Upon Him).

Today, boycotts are much easier to successfully initiate due to the Internet.Though to stretch the meaning and dig-out the potential power of the boycott, an organized consumer boycottis needed. A consumer boycott requires focus on long-term change of buying habits, and so fit into part of a larger political program, with many techniques that include a longer structural commitment by the governments to reform commodity markets, andpeople commitment to moral purchasing.Shouting, yelling, protesting, and raising slogans have temporary effects. Now is a time for Muslim world to call a firm boycott of French products against French profanity, for a permanent impact.  It is not just a state decision but a decision of individuals moral purchasing. To start with, there are around 40 French brands working in Pakistan, i.e LU Biscuits, Total Petroleum, BIC Manufacturing Company, Garnier, L’Oréal, Michelin etc. now it’s your call.