To be secured or securitized? The dynamical process of political securitization against the Islamic community in France and its contestants in the aftermath of ‘terrorist attacks’ between 2015 and 2021.
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Since 2015 the French Republic has experienced multiple violent ‘terrorist’ attacks on French soil, which has caused a rise in the intense political debate on the position of Muslims in the French society. Using the theoretical lens of securitization, this research analyses in what matter the French government is using a speech-act to justify extraordinary policy measures against the Islamic community in France, and how two sorts of non-state actors (Islamic organizations and human rights organizations) are contesting these developments. While there has been considerable attention in the academic world for the usage of securitization theory in investigating religious minorities in European democracies, the dynamics within and between processes of (de)securitization involving different actors have been mostly neglected. By using Benford & Snow’s analytical framework of framing processes of social movements the pillars of securitization theory are operationalized and it is investigated via document analysis how the core framing tasks of diagnostic and prognostic framing are executed by actors in the dynamic playing field of emergency politics. This research shows that the French government is increasingly using a speech-act to persuade the French population to accept new laws that grant the government more possibilities to control the population and to limit the public expression of religion. While these laws are not explicitly aimed at the Muslim minority in France, the two investigated non-state actors believe that the French Muslim community are unjustly and disproportionally targeted by these new laws and as a result contest these law-making processes. However, the field of actors criticizing the politics of the French government proves to be too ideologically and logistically scattered to form a relevant and powerful voice against the French government. Concluding, this research shows that actors involved in processes of (de)securitization are active agents in an ever-evolving dynamic field of security, where processes of securitization and desecuritization are intermingled. Further research should focus on how the referent subject in a process of securitization can be part of the audience and has its own agency, how the institutionalization of securitization becomes increasingly relevant, how (social) media plays a role as provider of core framing tasks and how actors who oppose a securitizing act can start one themselves.