To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the French government has launched a video campaign to underscore the dangers of prejudices and racism.
Gathered under the banner #TousUnisContreLaHaine (translating into Everyone United Against Hate) the government has released a total of six videos inspired by real hate crimes that have occurred in France.
Prior to watching the videos, people are warned that they may find the comments and images “shocking”.
In one video, viewers see how a horrified group of Muslims discover a pig’s head stuck on the gate to a mosque. In another, two young Jews are brutally beaten a group of hooded youths, and in a third a young couple is the target of an unprovoked attack in the street.
All videos have been shot in the same way; filmed with a smartphone and with several people heard commenting in a xenophobic manner in the background until one person finally speaks up and questions the ongoing dialogue: “Are you serious? Do you really believe what you are saying?”
The 30-second long sequences end with the text: “Racism, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim acts - it begins with words, it ends with spitting, blows and blood”.
The campaign comes as France, recently hit by a number of deadly terrorist attacks, has seen a rising number of hate crimes, particularly aimed at Muslims and Jews.
Government figures released in January showed that the number of hate crimes in France jumped 22 percent in 2015, to 2,032 incidents.
Some members of France’s anti-immigrant National Front (FN) party weren’t too impressed by the campaign, however. While FN senator Stéphane Ravier tweeted that the “grotesque campaign is costing €3 million”, the party’s No. 2 Florian Philippot suggested Prime Minister Manuel Valls should make a clip himself. Philippot was referring to a 2009 incident when Valls, then mayor in the town of Evry, joked that “some whites” were needed to balance out participants at a local market.
In a stinging report released earlier this year, the Council of Europe’s Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) slapped France on the wrists for what it described as a worrying increase in hate speech and intolerance, including by the country’s politicians.
The council’s Secretary General, Thorbjorn Jagland, said that in France “hate speech has become commonplace in the public sphere” and “remains a matter of concern”.
“I call on political leaders in particular to refrain from making comments which stigmatise already vulnerable groups and fuel tensions in French society,” he urged.
The report particularly pointed the finger at French politicians whose political discourse has been used to target both Roma and Muslim communities.
In the report, even Valls was reprimanded for his comments made in March 2013 about Roma people having “no interest in integrating in France”.
French Mayor and MP Gilles Bourdouleix was also pulled up for his comments about Roma made in July 2013, when he was recorded as saying "Hitler didn't kill enough".
National Front leader Marine Le Pen was singled out for picking on Muslims, particularly with her rants against the distribution of halal meat and comparing Muslims praying in the streets to the Nazi occupation.
And Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicains party were chastised for hosting its “conference on Islam” last year, which was boycotted by many Muslim groups.
And there was the infamous recent case of MEP Nadine Morano repeatedly insisting "France was a country of white race."
“ECRI is concerned about this situation, which is helping to trivialise the stigmatisation of these vulnerable groups,” the report read.