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Pig’s head and animal blood left at site of new mosque in south west France

Workers building a mosque in south west France found a pig's head and animal blood at the entrance to the site on Monday, the latest in a series of attacks on Muslim places of worship over the past decade.

Pig's head and animal blood left at site of new mosque in south west France
Police in Bergerac are investigating the vandalism as a hate crime. Photo: AFP

Construction of the mosque in the small town of Bergerac — known for its fine Bordeaux wines and for its association with literary figure Cyrano de Bergerac — has been contested since it was first proposed in 2017 and finally approved in October 2018, despite widespread local opposition.

“The perpetrators smeared the walls with animal blood and placed a severed pig's head” on the front gate of the construction area, the deputy public prosecutor of Bergerac, Charles Charollois, told AFP.

The vandalism took place overnight and wasn't discovered until workers arrived in the morning.

“This building project is controversial,” Charollois said. “There have been administrative and legal appeals to stop it, so there are many leads for us to follow.”

Bergerac's police commissioner, Frederic Perissat, “strongly denounced and condemned these acts that damage our freedom of conscience and expression and are contrary to the principles of separation of church and state,” and called for “mutual respect” in the community.

Over the past few days, posters declaring “Bergerac is the city of Perigord, not Islam!” — referring to the former name of the Dordogne region — had been pasted around the town, according to its mayor Daniel Garrigue.

“I can't say that they're connected, but I note that they're in the same spirit,” Garrigue said.

In France, desecrating a religious facility is a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The attack on the site in Bergerac comes less than two weeks after a gunman killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, and injured another 50, during a shooting spree at two mosques.

Following the massacre, French President Emmanuel Macron ordered police to increase security at all places of worship.

France is home to Europe's biggest Muslim and Jewish communities alike, and both faiths have been recurring targets of hate crimes in recent years.

Attacks on mosques and Islamic sites have been a yearly occurrence since 2007, when 148 Muslim headstones in a national military cemetery near Arras were smeared with anti-Islamic slurs and a pig's head was placed among them.

Dozens of French mosques were also assaulted following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January 2015, with some targeted with firebombs, grenades or gunfire.

Similar hate crimes have targeted Jewish sites.

In February, vandals spray-painted swastikas on around 80 graves in a Jewish cemetery in Quatzenheim, near the German border. 

LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/cartesfrance.fr
But while the map – created by cartesfrance.fr – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.
 

 
 
 
Here are some of the key points.
 
1. Everyone hates Parisians
 
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
 
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
 
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
 
 
2. Staycations rule
 
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
 
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
 
 
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
 
3. Northerners like a drink
 
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
 
 
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
 
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
 
 
4. Poverty
 
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
 
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
 
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
 
5. Southern prejudice
 
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
 
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
 
 
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
 
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
 
For more maps that reflect France, head to cartesfrance.fr
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