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Steep rise in racism and intolerance in France

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Steep rise in racism and intolerance in France
File photo of a mosque in France with a swastika daubed on the door. Photo: AFP
10:05 CET+01:00
Racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts and threats have risen steeply in France, according to a report published on Thursday by the country's racism watchdog. Levels of intolerance in the country were a real "concern", the watchdog concluded.

In its annual report, the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH) revealed that racist acts and threats in France had risen by 23 percent in 2012.

The country's police and gendarmerie forces reported 1,539 racist acts and threats last year, the report says.

In its report entitled ‘Racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism in France’ the commission concluded that intolerance had become entrenched in a ‘concerning’ manner.

Bernadette Hetier, co president of anti-racism group MRAP said poverty was partly to blame for the rise.

"When there's social injustice and social misery it gives allows far-right ideas a basis to take hold," Hetier told The Local.

"When there is social misery, people always look for someone to blame and that someone just happens to be from North Africa or Romania or where ever."

The commission reported that cases of anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism exploded in 2012 by 30 percent and 58 percent respectively.

Part of the reason for this, the commission says, was the impact of Mohamed Merah, the self-proclaimed Islamist extremist who killed seven people, including three Jewish children in March last year.

Political tensions in the Middle East and the release of a controversial film caricaturing the Prophet Muhammed were also to blame for a rise in racist acts.

But the jump cannot be blamed on Merah or political tensions alone, with the commission noting that for the last three years in France “indicators of racism and intolerance are rising".

“This phenomenon is rooted in the long term, which is a particularly worrying trend," it says.

The Commission singled out the internet and the country’s politicians as being contributory factors for legitimizing racist language.

"We are witnessing a dangerous trivialization of racist rhetoric,” the commission says. “The internet is contributing to this trivialization but it has also become part of the political discourse for certain themes such as immigration, religion and secularism.”

Last week a Roma rights groups threatened to sue Interior Minister Manual Valls for “discrimination” after he said some of the Roma community did not want to “integrate”.

"The politicians need to stop saying that when things go wrong in France, its someone else's fault," Hetier said. "In all the public discourse they need to uphold the principle of respect for all citizens, not matter where they come from."

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