I once read a fantasy novel series called the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen Donaldson. In these six novels the main character is a leper. He is bitter about his disease, which makes him an outcast in the local community. Then he is transported into a fantasy world comparable to J.R.R. Tolkein’s Middle Earth, where he finds he has magic powers which he uses to do battle with a Dark Lord. For years he defines himself as ”Thomas Covenant, Leper”. Gradually, as a result of his adventures, he overcomes his bitterness, sees the world around him more clearly and accepts that he is more than just a leper.
How do you define yourself? For example, as a Finn? A Christian? A Lutheran? A Keravan? I sometimes define myself as a Keravan, a Christian and an Arsenal supporter. My national identities (English, British, Finnish) are rather distant from my everyday life. I emphasise my Christianity more than the church denomination I belong too, although being a Lutheran is also important to me. I am also white, male, heterosexual and middle-class, but I do not feel the need to emphasise these things, presumably because whites, males, heterosexuals and the middle-class do not constitute minorities here.
A member of a minority possibly feels more need to emphasise that aspect of their identity exactly because they are in that minority: they do not want people to assume the wrong thing about them, and they may feel threatened or rejected by the majority. Belonging to a specific group can bring a sense of solidarity and strength.
I have seen headlines in recent weeks about the Black Lives Matter movement, French Muslims and LGBT+ masses (sateenkaarimessut). I hope I will live to see the day when there is no Black Lives Matter movement nor an LGBT+ movement. Because I hope that one day people will be able to accept other people simply for what they are, that there will be no discrimination and that therefore the members of the minority will feel no need to emphasise their identity in terms or that minority. They will define themselves as Milwaukeans, New York Rangers fans, engineers, Christians or Agnostics.
As for French Muslims, there are British, German, American and Finnish Muslims, so I do not see why being a Muslim in a non-Muslim state like France should be an issue at all. Whatever issues there are in France at the moment, I do not believe mainstream Islam is one of them. I hope the French authorities can view them as ordinary French people with much the same worries as any other French people – the economy, corona, the environment and so on. We all of us have several identities at the same time, and there is no reason why one identity should exclude another.