French Muslims struggle with Macron-Le Pen runoff

STORY: Ever since Lisa Troadec converted to Islam and began wearing a hijab almost a decade ago, the Frenchwoman says she has been subjected to verbal abuse, dirty stares and tripped in the street.

She worries the alienation she feels will only deepen if far-right leader Marine Le Pen wins Sunday's presidential vote.

Le Pen wants to ban Muslim women from wearing the Islamic headscarf in public spaces but not other religious symbols such as the Jewish kippa. She promises to fight "Islamist ideologies" that she calls "totalitarian."

In the hope of keeping Le Pen out of power, Troadec says will vote for Macron - but only begrudgingly.

"Clearly, my identity is being instrumentalized in the public space. People apply a political logic to something that is not political at all, that is intimate, that is personal. Wearing the veil really is a very personal choice and it is at no time a political choice."

The president's track-record on Islam has left her deeply disillusioned and convinced that anti-Muslim sentiment is on the rise in France.

Data supports how she feels.

Interior ministry figures show a sharp increase in anti-Muslim discriminatory and other acts in 2021, even as other faiths saw a decline.

Troadec describes voting for Le Pen or Macron as president as "a choice between Islamophobia and Islamophobia."

Something masters student Sherazade Rouibah agrees with.

"It's like, oh, for five years you're against us and now you again want to be president and now you're interested in our votes? And the worst is that we're actually going to vote for him because Le Pen is worse than him."

Macron says he will keep fighting what he calls "Islamist separatism" and defend French secularism, which he says allows every citizen to freely practice their faith.

He says he's against banning religious symbols in public space.

Polls show that a Le Pen win on Sunday is improbable, but not impossible.

In 2017, when both candidates faced each other, Macron beat Le Pen with 66.1% of the votes.

However, many Muslims have said they will not vote as a unified block for Macron.

Perceptions that Macron has adopted right-wing policies on identity politics and the economy, is a "president of the rich" and aloof from the people will lead some to vote for Le Pen, and many more to abstain from the vote altogether.

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