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Here’s How to Properly Boycott France So it Hurts

Here’s How to Properly Boycott France So it Hurts

What is Happening?

Following the recent attacks in France, President Macron and France have taken an increasingly belligerent approach towards the French Muslim community and Islam.

The French state has been shutting down and raiding Islamic schools, centres and mosques as well as making life extremely difficult for practicing Muslims in France. This is of course in the backdrop of the French state’s historic veil ban, the hijab ban from public institution jobs, and generally muscular secularism.

There has also been widespread support and solidary for, and re-publication of, the offensive cartoons of the Prophet (PBUH) that lie at the heart of this recent furore.

Presidents Erdogan and Macron have also engaged in a war of words, which ultimately culminated in Erdogan calling for a boycott of French products.

This call has also been echoed by a number of leading Muslim figures such as Sh. Omar Suleiman:

Boycotting is useless if not strategic

Done effectively, boycotts can literally bring down regimes and end apartheids. But the problem with these calls of boycott are that they are not particularly effective if done in an unthoughtful way.

For example, many of the companies listed on the list above are food companies – and yet food and agriculture only constitute 2% of the French GDP[1].

And look at this breakdown of the France’s key trading partners[2].

The important point here is that there are no Muslim countries in the top ten and only two in the top 20. In other words, even if the entire Muslim world boycotted France, it’s not going to have a huge impact.

Muslims in Europe and the USA constitute around 5% of the population on average so our boycotting will likely have little to no impact.

The point is clear: boycotting needs to be strategic and focused.

So how do we show our displeasure at France’s actions? How do we make sure we protect the 10% Muslim population in France? How do we strategically target the areas of the French economy that France actually cares about?

In this article we dig into the economics behind this global boycott movement.

We explain:

  1. What a boycott is;
  2. Who we are actually boycotting;
  3. How they work;
  4. Strategic considerations to keep in mind;
  5. Who we should boycott and why; and
  6. How to make sure French Muslims don’t get hurt by the boycott.

Or, if you just want to skip to what we think you should be doing for this boycott – skip ahead to the conclusion at the end.

1.      What is a boycott?

Really simply, a boycott is cutting economic ties in some way with a country. Most people think it just means not buying French cheese, but it can actually be much deeper than that.

It can include the following:

  1. Putting import restrictions on that country’s goods – or the proxy to that – not buying French goods.
  2. Not investing in France or French companies.
  3. Not working in France or French companies.
  4. Not selling raw materials or fuel – such as steel or oil – to France.

Why do it?

There are three broad and overlapping reasons why anyone would boycott another country:

  1. To punish them for their actions or decisions.
  2. To protest against their actions or decisions.
  3. To change behaviour for the better.

Number 2 on that list is very easy to achieve. You kick up a big fuss, burn a few flags, and go after French cheese.

But (1) and (3) are the aims that are much harder to achieve but also much more effective.

Achieving (2) is fine – it can raise awareness of the issue and perhaps cause a political shift – but long-term it is more likely to make the protestor feel better about themselves rather than actually giving real food for thought to the relevant people in France.

2.      Who are we actually boycotting?

This is an important point to keep in mind as France is not a monolithic entity.

Ideally we want to be boycotting those elements of the French population that are influential and voted for Macron’s La République En Marche Party.

We don’t want to overly target those segments of the economy that Muslims in France work in.

3.      What are the mechanics of a boycott?

Let’s take each of the key levers we have to boycott with and assess their impact.

Boycotting French goods

We stop buying certain French goods. That then means the demand for these products go down and they become cheaper. If no one buys them at that cheap price they need to be disposed of in the home market or destroyed.

Not investing in France

This is primarily private direct investment into France via companies investing in France, or private equity and venture capital investments. It also includes public equity investing, but that is not so vital.

If foreign investment dried up it will gradually lead to a depreciation of the capital stock in France and reduce productivity.

Practically this means French companies would not be able to invest in latest technologies as effectively and that would mean they become less efficient compared to their counterparts. In the long-run this would make their products and pricing less competitive.

Not selling key raw material to France – e.g. oil or steel

This would be a hugely impactful boycott and would bring France to its knees very quickly. This is because there are only a handful of large oil exporters globally – e.g. Saudi Arabia, Russia Iran and the USA. If Saudi Arabia and Iran pulled oil exporting to France, for example, that would be incredibly impactful.

However, it is such a high impact option that it would have severe geopolitical impact.

So, even if the Saudi and Iranian government were in theory supportive of making a point to France, it probably is not worth actually doing this as it would have long-term destabilising impacts that are very hard to predict and likely to not be favourable for Saudi Arabia or Iran.


4.      Strategic Considerations

The first thing we need to take into account is how the French economy is constituted.

France is a country primarily made up of the services sector (78.8% of the GDP) and the industrial sector (19.5% of GDP). This totals to 98.3% of the GDP. So if any boycott is going to be successful, it needs to focus hard on these sectors.

The second thing we need to focus on is where France has a competitive advantage; where French companies are actually leaders in their field. Here is a quick list we can use (ordered in terms of impact):

  1. Insurance: AXA
  2. Finance: BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Société Générale
  3. Energy: GDF-Suez, Areva and EDF
  4. Luxury: L’Oreal, LVMH, Kering
  5. Oil: Total
  6. Pharma: Sanofi Aventis
  7. Tyres: Michelin
  8. Airlines: Air France
  9. Infrastructure: Veolia
  10. Construction: Vinci SA, Bouygues, Eiffage
  11. Advertising: JCDecaux, Publicis
  12. Consultancy: Capgemini, Atos
  13. Retail: Carrefour, Danone
  14. Car manufacture: PSA
  15. Hotel: Accor
  16. Rail: Alstom

Thirdly, France is the world’s most popular tourist destination, so we should obviously stop going there on holiday. Not much chance of that right now anyway, but one to bear in mind for the future.

Fourthly, given the relatively limited impact we as a Muslim community can have on French economics given the table below, we should consider strategic focus on only a small group of companies rather than going after a bunch of them. Why?

  • Firstly, when a company gets boycotted exclusively, they tend to get much more worried and will raise this with the French government etc. When its an economy as a whole that effect gets diluted.
  • Secondly, it is much harder for us as a community to boycott 25 companies than it is to boycott 4. Its just easier to remember 4.

Who should we boycott and why?

In light of all the strategic considerations, we propose 3 key things we should all do/not do:

Large corporates

We should boycott the following large companies:

  1. Insurance: AXA
  2. Finance: BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Société Générale
  3. Energy: GDF-Suez, Areva and EDF
  4. Luxury: L’Oreal, LVMH, Kering
  5. Oil: Total

These are large prominent companies that many Muslims will have engaged with, purchase from, or are customers of. They stick in the mind as we see them all around us.

Of course, if you can boycott more you should. A fuller list is found here.

You should also be aware that most of these brands have a large range of subsidiary brands that you should be aware of. This is particularly applicable when it comes to the luxury brands. They own a vast range of brands in clothing, perfumes, cosmetics, jewellery and watches. Whenever you’re making a purchase from an upmarket brand – just do a quick Google. It’s the easiest way to check.

Where you work matters

You should consider carefully which company you work for, or which companies you are applying to work for – and make sure they are not French companies.

I am not advocating quitting your job in protest overnight as I appreciate that is a pretty precarious position to put yourself in at this time.

But if you work for a French company I would sincerely urge you to explore your options elsewhere. And if you are applying, I would sincerely encourage you to not apply to the French companies.

There is a really important reason for this.

80% of the French economy is down to the services sector – and the fuel of the services sector is people and talent. The companies who can uncover the best talent win. That is why you see large corporates desperate to access the best talent at universities and supporting diversity. They know there is talent everywhere and the wider the net they can cast the better.

Don’t be part of that net. As being part of that net strengthens France.

True, Muslims are only 5% of the population in USA and Europe – France’s main trading partners. But if 5% of your workforce starts leaving, and you find that 5% of the applications are down – that has a much larger impact than just 5%. Because losing a worker isn’t just a matter of replacing them. It is also a matter of having to rework all the various workstreams that worker used to contribute or lead on.


Don’t go on holiday to France

This is a big one. Muslims have one thing going for us globally. We make up 25% of the world’s population. And if France is the number one tourist destination, then lopping off 25% of that is very significant.

How do we make sure Muslims don’t suffer as a result of the boycott?

Muslims are 9% of the population in France and we don’t want them to suffer of course. They are also relatively practicing with 70% observing Ramadan and becoming more practicing every year[3].

Muslims primarily live in cities, with 10-15% of the population in metropolitan areas being Muslim. They typically have struggled since they migrated to France and have low-income low-skilled jobs, particularly as French heavy industry has languished and automated (so cut jobs).

As a result , Muslims have almost double the national unemployment rate at 15%.

Most Muslims will work in construction, domestic services, automotive industries and service industries.

In our strategic list of companies to really focus on for the boycott, we have avoided these sectors.

Concluding Thoughts

If any boycott of France is going to be more than just posturing, it needs to be strategic. In our humble view, the way to be most strategic given the facts is:

  1. To boycott the following companies
    1. Insurance: AXA
    2. Finance: BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole and Société Générale
    3. Energy: GDF-Suez, Areva and EDF
    4. Luxury: L’Oreal, LVMH, Kering
    5. Oil: Total
  2. To aim to not work for a French company and to transition away from a French company if you work for one right now.
  3. To not go on holiday to France.

Please share this article widely so we can be as impactful as possible with this boycott inshAllah.


Economic Effects of a Trade and Investment Boycott against South Africa, Author(s): Mats Lundahl. Source: The Scandinavian Journal of Economics , Mar., 1984, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Mar., 1984), pp. 68-83,second%20in%20Europe%20after%20Germany)%2C





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7 Comments. Leave new

  • Nice Article….Like it…Thanks for sharing

  • CherryJubilee
    November 5, 2020 2:12 am

    Jazakallah khayran for this explanation. I agree that strategic boycotting will have an impact. If affluent Muslims in Asia and the Middle-East refused to buy French luxury goods, that alone would send a message.

    What would you advise me to do with luxury bags from Givenchy, purchased pre phobic Macron?

    • Probably keep that but don’t buy any more!

      • Assalamu alaykum wrwb respected maulana. Great beneficial article .Allah accept and make it a means of strengthenING the ummah ameen Please need advice we desperately need a 7 seater car and we recently going n tested drived it .it’s 2012 second hand everything is well and made istikarah but problem is its a peugot 5008 and we are currently trying to boycott french items .jzk .

  • Best of the best article in regards TO France THE CULPRIT

  • assalamualaikum Ibrahim.
    enjoyed the article and your reasonings and conclusions.
    I had a thought after reading this, is there value in highlighting this issue to these companies on a common platform e.g
    linkedin/twitter where they can be tagged and addressed together, there is a ‘global’ audience/visibility and these are platform where companies often do respond directly to posts. likely most of these companies you’ve highlighted would be on the platforms. calling them out directly, addressing them together with the global audience could increase pressure on them to respond/act especially as most if not all of these companies likely mention diversity within their company values/mission/recruitment. particularly linked in could be a good platform as it is a professional social media and people/companies in those industries will be following these companies so there may be more onus on them responding correctly as it will affect public perception of them (within their industries as well) and possibly their business/sales/recruitment. a social media platform would also allow sharing/reposting to increase visibility and awareness of the underlying issues with the French policies.
    just some thoughts that came to mind.
    jazakallah Khair

  • Maasha Allah excellent advice. Most Muslims in Western countries can focus on avoiding France as a tourist destination as well as buying their luxury goods. So can rich Muslims in the rest of the Muslim countries insha Allah.


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