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ISLAMOPHOBIA

Attacks in France on Muslims, Jews and churches soar

Hate crimes against Muslims in France tripled last year, anti-Semitic assaults remained at an already "high level" and attacks on Christian sites rose by a fifth, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says.

Attacks in France on Muslims, Jews and churches soar
Abdallah Zekri, head of the observatory against Islamophobia poses in front of his house, after it was tagged with Islamophobic graffiti. Photo: AFP

Cazeneuve told the Catholic daily La Croix in an interview for Wednesday publication that islamophobic threats or assaults “tripled to some 400 for the year 2015.”

He said more than half occurred in the first quarter of the year after jihadists attacked the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in January, claiming 17 lives.

Across the year as a whole “we note a drop of five percent in anti-Semitic attacks, which nonetheless remained at a high level with 806 recorded,” Cazeneuve said.

The number of anti-Semitic acts in France reached a peak in 2014, when a number of anti-Israel demos led to violence in Paris.

As is often the case, the conflict between Israel and Palestinians in the summer of 2014, spilled over into France which is home to Europe's biggest Muslim and Jewish populations. 

Cazeneuve added that attacks on Christian places of worship and cemeteries rose 20 percent to 810.

Overall, 2014 had seen 133 attacks on Muslims and 851 of an anti-Semitic nature based on complaints logged with police.

“I cannot accept such acts – they must be severely punished,” Cazeneuve said.

The official tally for 2015 is to be published on Wednesday by Dilcra, the acronym for an inter-ministerial office charged with fighting racism and anti-Semitism.

The massacre by Islamic extremists of 130 people in coordinated Paris attacks in November have also stoked fears of attacks on Muslims and Islamic sites.

Cazeneuve and the French government are desperately trying to keep the lid on rising tensions, which have been stoked by the far right.

The interior minister has repeatedly condemned attacks on Jews, Muslims and Christians.

He said France's Christian roots are undeniable when we look at its history but we “should not create “a reason to exclude those who are not Christians” or “forget their contribution also to the history of our country.” 

Abdallah Zekri, president of the National Observatory against Islamophobia, said 429 islamophobic attacks or threats had been registered in 2015, the highest since his organization was established in 2011.


(Jewish gravestones knocked over and vandalized in one act of anti-Semitism in France last year. Photo: AFP)

“Islamophobia must be fought and condemned not only by Muslims but also by the national community as a whole,” said Zekri in a statement. “It is no longer possible to hear and accept that politicians can say that Islam is incompatible with the values of the Republic.”

While the number of anti-Semitic attacks in France may have fallen slightly there has been some shocking incidents in recent weeks, notably the case of a self-proclaimed jihadist attacking a Jewish teacher with a machete in Marseille.

That attack led to a row in the Jewish community over whether men should stop wearing the kippah on the grounds of safety.

“Jews continue to be targeted as specific victims within the national community. It is understandable that some make the choice not to wear signs that can point them out and others leave France for Israel or other countries,” said the president of the LICRA (League against Racism and Anti-Semitism), Alain Jakubowicz.

 

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ISLAMOPHOBIA

Islamophobia in Paris and London – how it differs and why

Islamophobia has increased in both Paris and London in recent years but anti-Islam behaviour shows itself very differently in the two capital cities, as this article from The Conversation explains.

Islamophobia in Paris and London – how it differs and why
Muslim leaders attend a rally in memory of the victims of 2015 terrorist attacks across Paris. Photo: AFP

Islamophobia in France and Britain has intensified in recent years, particularly in the wake of terrorist incidents, such as the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris and the London Bridge attack. This led British prime minister, Theresa May, and French president, Emmanuel Macron, to meet in January 2018 to agree a shared approach to counter-terrorism.

In many respects, France and Britain face similar challenges. They are both in Western Europe and have significant Muslim populations. It’s estimated there are 5.7m Muslims in France and just over 2.7m in the UK. But our research shows that Islamophobia operates differently in each country.

In an effort to shed light on the complexities of Islamophobia, our research into anti-Muslim acts focuses on where Islamophobia happens in France and the UK – mainly in Paris and London. Data from 2015 from the associations Collectif contre l'islamophobie en France  (CCIF) in France and Tell MAMA in the UK reveal the specific contexts of Islamophobia.

In both countries, most anti-Muslim acts take place in the two capital cities, but the distribution of Islamophobic acts varies. In Paris, anti-Muslim acts take place more in the Parisian centre and they decrease progressively the further out from the centre you go. This creates a contrast between the centre and the suburbs.

 
Anti-Muslim acts in Paris and London. Authors provided.Author provided (No reuse)

This is different to London, where there are similar numbers of Islamophobic incidents in both inner and outer London. Many anti-Muslim acts take place on buses and trains, or in transport hubs. The phenomenon is therefore spatially more diffuse, because anti-Muslim acts occur mainly in everyday spaces.

Latifa, who took part in our research in London, explained to us that:

“A man walking onto the bus decided to lean over me, and directed a few derogatory Islamophobic comments calling me ‘ISIS terrorist’ – he was actually touching me.”

In France, the majority of Islamophobic acts take place in public institutions such as a town hall, a school or a hospital. In Paris, most anti-Muslim acts are based around personal discrimination. One of the people we interviewed in France, Kenza explained:

“One of my friends arrived in the school, while the director snatched her veil in front of everyone. I always have this image in my head, seeing her climbing up the stairs ashamed.”

The reason why most discrimination takes place in public institutions is largely due to the impact of a 2004 French law which bans the headscarf in state-funded schools, in the name of laïcité or secularism. Some civil servants – whether they know the law or not – believe that they have the right to extend its scope to all the users of diverse public institutions and not only schools. While the wearing of the niqab, or full face veil, has been banned in public in France since 2010, headscarves are not. As a result, Islamophobia in France is more institutionalised.

Different victims and perpetrators

In both France and the UK, the main victims are veiled Muslim women and in France, many of them are students. Victims in the UK tend to have a South Asian background, while in France they tend to be from North Africa. This connects with the immigration history and colonial past of each country.

‘I am French. I am Muslim. I condemn these barbarous acts.’ A woman holds up a sign in Paris after the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks. from www.shutterstock.com

White men are the main perpetrators of anti-Muslim acts in the UK. In France, it is equally likely to be a man or a woman. Some French women – notably French feminists – resist the wearing of the veil, and consider that a hijabi woman cannot be a feminist. In the UK, Islamophobia is often related to white men’s domination over ethnic and religious minority women.

The role of the state

Our findings consider the role of the state in fostering where and how Islamophobia happens. The French republican model sees all citizens as French and does not differentiate between people on the basis or race or religion. This could partly explain why there are fewer Islamophobic acts reported in France as it is challenging to make a claim based on religious intolerance or racial discrimination when such divisions are not easily recognised by the French state.

The UK tends to promote an approach that is built around multiculturalism and the promotion of diverse ethnic and religious communities. Unfortunately, some resist this multicultural approach and are racist against those who they feel do not “belong” in the UK. These factors are also likely to shape how Muslim communities engage in politics and participate in society.

Both the French and British approaches demonstrate the role that the state plays in shaping where anti-Muslim acts take place and who is involved. The state has been described as one of the five pillars of Islamophobia – so the governments in both countries should be more critical and aware of the role their policies play in shaping everyday experiences of Islamophobia.

This article was written by Kawtar Najib and Peter Hopkins from Newcastle University and was published in The Conversation.

 

 

 

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