It was the 34th annual convention of France's Muslims at the weekend in le Bourget, just north of Paris, and the main topic of conversation was the upcoming presidential election. Five years ago, when François Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy to become president, the Socialist candidate benefited from 86 per cent of the Muslim vote. That won't happen in 2017. Jérôme Fourquet, director of IFOP, the international polling organisation, said recently that in the wake of the 2012 election 'the left committed the error of believing that they had acquired this [Muslim] electorate permanently'. And yet in Benoît Hamon, who hopes to succeed Hollande as the next president from the Socialist Party, Islam has a friend.
Derided by his critics as an 'Islamo-Gauchiste', Hamon is the MP for Trappes, a heartland of conservative Islam described last year by a high-ranking policeman as France's answer to Molenbeek, the Brussels' suburb known for its extremism. In December, Hamon defended an Islamic cafe in northern Paris that refused to serve women, by saying that 'historically, in workers' cafes, there haven't been women'.