In an unusual trial that will provoke a certain amount of controversy in some quarters, a man will stand before a judge in Paris on Friday accused of carrying out a violent assault that was motivated by “anti-white racism”.
The attack, which took place on the Paris Metro, dates back to a night in September 2010 when two young men approached the white victim and asked him for a cigarette. When he refused they began insulting him, shouting the words “dirty white” and “dirty French”.
The victim was then set upon and attacked with broken bottles. He was left seriously injured.
To French prosecutors, the attacker's words were not just ordinary insults, they were a clear sign the beating was racially motivated.
A fact that might cloud the issue for some is that the man accused of carrying out the attack is white himself, according to French daily Le Parisien. Two other assailants who were involved in the beating have never been found.
'Anti-white sentiment is thriving in some neighbourhoods in France'
The issue of anti-white racism is a sensitive subject in France. Up until recently it was a concept invoked mainly by members of France's far-right organizations.
However, leader of the opposition UMP party, Jean-François Copé, provoked uproar last October when he claimed “anti-white sentiment is thriving in some French neighbourhoods."
"Some people, of whom many are French nationals, despise other French people because they don't follow the same religion," Copé added.
The UMP leader provoked further ire when he suggested a young boy had been beaten up for eating a French pastry during the Muslim festival of Ramadan.
Friday's landmark court case, however, has thrust the issue into the mainstream.
'Anti-white racism is just like any other form of racism – it cannot be ignored'
Significantly, the prosecution’s stance is being supported by the International League against Racism and anti-Semitism (LICRA).
"We are acting just like we would for any kind of racism case, whether it's anti-Semitic or anti-black," Vice president of LICRA Philippe Schmidt told The Local on Monday. "We cannot just pull a blanket over our eyes because this is a case of anti-white racism."
"It's obvious that incidents of anti-white or anti-French racism are less common, but that does not mean we have to ignore them.
"It is important not to make this into a political issue, the only principle we have is not to ignore it. In the early 2000s, French politicians made the mistake of ignoring the issue of anti-Semitism, no kind of racism can be ignored," he added.
For sociologist Nacira Guénif, however, the very concept of 'anti-white racism' doesn't make sense.
"Racism implies a system of domination which allows the denial of rights, and discrimination. And there is no oppression of whites as a group, in France. What we have is a changing world, in which being white is no longer a privilege," she told Le Parisien.