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French Muslim community blasts anti-Semitism letter as attack on Islam

A French manifesto calling for certain passages of the Koran to be removed on the grounds of rising anti-Semitism sparked anger Monday from Muslims who said their religion was being unfairly "put on trial".

French Muslim community blasts anti-Semitism letter as attack on Islam
Photo: AFP
The open letter published Sunday in the Parisien newspaper blamed “Islamist radicalisation” for what it said was “quiet ethnic purging” in the Paris region, with abuse forcing Jewish families to move out.
   
After a series of high-profile attacks on Jews, Muslim leaders contacted by AFP acknowledged that anti-Semitism was a problem in France.
   
But they charged that the nearly 300 signatories, who included ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy and former prime minister Manuel Valls, were blaming a whole religion for the actions of an extremist minority.
   
“The only thing we can agree on is that we must all unite against anti-Semitism,” said Ahmet Ogras, head of the French Council of the Muslim Faith umbrella group.
   
Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, said the manifesto “subjected French Muslims and French Islam to an unbelievable and unfair 
trial”.
 
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Photo: AFP   

“It creates a clear risk of pitching religious communities against one another,” he said in a statement.
   
The manifesto calls for verses of the Koran calling for the “murder and punishment of Jews, Christians and disbelievers” to be removed on the grounds that they are “obsolete”.
   
But Tareq Oubrou, imam of the Grand Mosque of the southern city of the Bordeaux, pointed out that Islam was not the only religion whose ancient holy texts contain anachronistic passages.
   
“Any number of holy texts are violent, even the Gospel,” Oubrou said, adding that the signatories, who also included celebrities like actor Gerard Depardieu, had misinterpreted the Koran.
   
The writer Pascal Bruckner, among those who signed the letter, told France Inter radio it had not been intended “to stigmatise but to spur on the goodwill of reformist Muslims”.
   
The letter said that since 2006, “11 Jews have been assassinated — and some tortured — by radical Islamists because they were Jewish”.
   
The latest attack rocked France last month when two perpetrators stabbed an 85-year-old Jewish woman 11 times before setting her body on fire, in a crime treated as anti-Semitic.
   
Officially, the number of anti-Semitic crimes fell in France in 2017 for a third year running, according to the interior ministry, down seven percent. 
   
But Jews are the target of about a third of France's recorded hate crimes despite making up only about 0.7 percent of the population.
   
The half-a-million-plus Jewish community is the largest in Europe but has been hit by a wave of emigration to Israel in the past two decades, partly due to anti-Semitism in immigrant neighbourhoods.

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COURT

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.

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