Nazi graffiti and pig’s head left at mosque site

Police have launched an investigation after vandals 'desecrated' the building site of a planned mosque near Paris, spraying Nazi graffiti and leaving a pig's head. It is only the latest in a series of Islamophobic attacks in France.

Nazi graffiti and pig's head left at mosque site
Graffiti mars the facade of a mosque in Ozoir-La-Ferriere in a picture taken on February 3rd. Photo: ACMO/AFP

Muslim groups and French authorities were quick to express their condemnation after it was discovered on Sunday that vandals sprayed Nazi graffiti and left a pig’s head on the building site of a planned mosque, branding the attack as “Islamophobic” and “racist”.

Construction on the site of the planned mosque, in Meaux, a town in the Seine-et-Marne department near Paris, is due to be completed in July.

Abdallah Zekri, president of the Observatory on Islamophobia told French daily Le Parisien he felt nauseated “when confronted by people who continue to desecrate places of worship”.

Mayor of Meaux, Franck Riester condemned the attacks as “unacceptable”, adding: “We must try to calm tensions and respect every citizen, whatever their religion.”

“Muslims have been practicing in unfit conditions,” he continued, “in a room in the town’s old abattoirs. We are renting this land to them so they can build a hall.”  

The offensive graffiti is the latest in a spate of abuse directed at Muslims and mosques in France in recent months.

In February it was reported that red swastikas had been daubed on the wall of a mosque in a town near Paris. Six swastikas were drawn on the front of the mosque at Provins, in the Seine et Marne department outside the French capital. 

The symbols at the Provins mosque were discovered by worshipers when they turned up for morning prayers.

The attack came just a week after several mosques across France were also targeted with similar Islamophobic graffiti.

In an interview with The Local following the attack, Marwan Muhammad from the Collective against Islamophobia in France blamed the current anti-Muslim climate in France for the recent attacks. 

“Muslims are being stigmatized and presented as a problem in France,” he told The Local. “Negative signals are being sent out by politicians, including those on the left, and this helps to empower people to take action.

“Police need to find them and punish them in the strongest way possible. They need to send a message that people cannot get away with this," said Muhammad.


French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts

A French court has ordered Twitter to give activists full access to all its documents relating to efforts to combat racism, sexism and other forms of hate speech on the social network.

French court orders Twitter to reveal anti-hate speech efforts
Photo: Alastair Pike | AFP

Six anti-discrimination groups had taken Twitter to court in France last year, accusing the US social media giant of “long-term and persistent” failures in blocking hateful comments from the site.

The Paris court ordered Twitter to grant the campaign groups full access to all documents relating to the company’s efforts to combat hate speech since May 2020. The ruling applies to Twitter’s global operation, not just France.

Twitter must hand over “all administrative, contractual, technical or commercial documents” detailing the resources it has assigned to fighting homophobic, racist and sexist discourse on the site, as well as “condoning crimes against humanity”.

The San Francisco-based company was given two months to comply with the ruling, which also said it must reveal how many moderators it employs in France to examine posts flagged as hateful, and data on the posts they process.

The ruling was welcomed by the Union of French Jewish Students (UEJF), one of the groups that had taken the social media giant to court.

“Twitter will finally have to take responsibility, stop equivocating and put ethics before profit and international expansion,” the UEJF said in a statement on its website.

Twitter’s hateful conduct policy bans users from promoting violence, or threatening or attacking people based on their race, religion, gender identity or disability, among other forms of discrimination.

Like other social media businesses it allows users to report posts they believe are hateful, and employs moderators to vet the content.

But anti-discrimination groups have long complained that holes in the policy allow hateful comments to stay online in many cases.

French prosecutors on Tuesday said they have opened an investigation into a wave of racist comments posted on Twitter aimed at members of the country’s national football team.

The comments, notably targeting Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, were posted after France was eliminated from the Euro 2020 tournament last week.

France has also been having a wider public debate over how to balance the right to free speech with preventing hate speech, in the wake of the controversial case of a teenager known as Mila.

The 18-year-old sparked a furore last year when her videos, criticising Islam in vulgar terms, went viral on social media.

Thirteen people are on trial accused of subjecting her to such vicious harassment that she was forced to leave school and was placed under police protection.

While President Emmanuel Macron is among those who have defended her right to blaspheme, left-wing critics say her original remarks amounted to hate speech against Muslims.