What is the event?
It's a march planned for Sunday, November 10th in Paris, setting off in the 10th arrondissement from 1pm.
It was called after the attack against a mosque in Bayonne on October 28th, when a man with links to the far right tried to set fire to the mosque door, and shot two men who tried to stop him.
But the demonstration is a more general one against all types of Islamophobia in French society. It was launched with an article in French newspaper Libération which was signed by many leading figures in French politics and society.
Opposing hatred doesn't sound very controversial, right?
No, but since the article was published some participants seem to have been having second thoughts, several of whom have either asked for their name to be removed from the list of signatories or announced they will not be attending on Sunday.
Some people have distanced themselves from the event because of the identity of one of the groups organising the demonstration – the Collectif contre l'islamophobie in France – accused of having links with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Others say they do not agree with all aspects of the text, while some debate whether the word Islamophobia should be used at all in France.
Both the Socialist party and far-left party La France Insoumise prefer not to use the word Islamophobia.
The latter's leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has previously stated: “I contest the term Islamophobia even though I understand it. (…) I defend the idea that we have the right not to love Islam, we have the right not to love Catholicism, this is part of our freedoms.”
A demonstration organised by the Collectif contre l'islamophobie in 2010. Photo: AFP
Why is this such a controversial subject?
France has long had trouble reconciling the right to the freedom of its Muslim population to practice their religion with the French secular tradition of laïcité, which states that religion should play no part in state affairs. It is this tradition that is behind the ban on wearing visible religious symbols in government buildings such as town halls and schools.
The law covers all visible religious symbols – from crucifix necklaces to the Jewish kippa – but in recent years there have been attempts to widen to ban on religious attire, the majority of which have focused on what Muslim women wear.
This saw some local mayors banning the full body burkini swimsuit from beaches in 2016. The ban was later overturned by the courts.
More recently a 'runners hijab' on sale at sportswear retailer Decathlon was withdrawn after furious protests – even though there is no ban on the hijab in public spaces – and earlier this year a mother who was accompanying her son's class on a school trip was ordered to remove her hijab.
The niqab – the veil that covers the face except for the eyes – has been banned in all public spaces in France since 2010.
Muslim mums on school trips are the latest flashpoint in France's debate over the headscarf. Photo: AFP
So are these public arguments leading to a rise in Islamophobia?
The demo organisers say they do. In their manifesto calling for people to attend, they say: “For far too long, Muslim women and men in France have been the target of speeches sometimes from 'political leaders', insults and attacks relayed by certain media, thus contributing to their growing stigmatisation.