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Charlie Hebdo speeds up Islamophobia in France

12 February 2015 16:21

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A new report from France’s leading watchdog fighting Islamophobia reveals that discrimination and violence against Muslims has exploded 70% in the month following the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks.

In their annual review, the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) also reported that anti-Muslim racism was up 11% overall in 2014.

Since January 7 more mosques have already been desecrated, 33, then in all of last year. The total number of physical attacks is nearly half of the total in 2014, with one murder attributed to anti-Muslim bigotry.

The CCIF registered 764 Islamophobic acts in 2014, compared with 691 in 2013. Nearly 77% of the cases involved discrimination at work, school or an institutional setting, causing the report to conclude that Islamophobia is currently deeply ingrained in the French culture.

“Our biggest difficulty is that the state is simply inactive when it comes to Islamophobia,” Lila Charef, the CCIF’s legal advisor, told Press TV. “It refuses to intervene with even small measures, such as declarations from higher authorities that condemn specific acts of discrimination.”

No protection for Muslims

While there are detailed laws against anti-Semitism and racism, there are no laws which explicitly protect Muslims. Despite the increase in violence against Muslim citizens, there is no apparent political support for the creation of such protections. It was only recently that Islamophobia gained general acceptance as a form of discrimination which could possibly exist in supposedly-secular France.

“Islamophobia simply isn’t taken seriously in France,” said Thierry Vincent, an independent journalist who attended the CCIF’s press conference. “Under our cover of laïcité (secularism) we have permitted, in my opinion, way too many Islamophobic acts and racist language for many years, and this fact is not really relayed by our media.”

The press conference was poorly attended, with only 2 or 3 representatives of major French media. The lack of interest from France’s mainstream media is in spite of the historic wave of violence, mosque desecrations and mass arrests for so-called “supporting terrorism speech”, which also targets Muslims and their supporters.

“In our media there is a bit of Islamophobic prejudice, because journalists in general are on the left or center-left, and are very hostile to religion in general but Islam in particular,” Vincent added. “I’m not surprised at the lack of media coverage here today, but it is a pity.”

Notably, 82% of the victims in 2014 were female, with the CCIF noting that a large percentage of the women were pregnant or in the presence of their children. The group added that Muslim women are being discriminated at every level of their life, as young girls report being forbidden to wear black to schools or being told to wear clothes which are more revealing.

France’s schools were the source of 310 discrimination complaints in 2014. Despite several years of austerity and the cutting of important social programs which could alleviate the nation’s rising economic inequality, France recently rushed through €320 million in funds for teachers to indoctrinate students on the values of the French republic. The funds go to “re-establish” the authority of teachers and to ensure certain nationalistic classroom activities, such as the singing of “La Marseillaise”, the national anthem.

Jingoism

A wave of dangerous jingoism has been witnessed along with the rise in Islamophobia, with many commentators saying the recent terrorist attacks have produced a political “hysteria” and “witch-hunts”. At least 117 have been arrested for so-called “supporting terrorism speech”, with many going from accusation to trial to a multi-year prison sentence in just 3 days.

“France is, once again, unable to consider its Muslim community as an integral part of the nation, and that’s why French nationalism or patriotism cannot include any Muslim aspects either,” said Hanan Ben Rhouma, editor-in-chief of Saphir News, a popular Franco-Muslim website. “Patriotism cannot exclude any citizen, and when it does it increases the overall complacency towards hateful and divisive discourse.”

Muslims are far from the only minority currently experiencing unprecedented levels of racism in France:

Nationwide, 851 anti-Jewish acts were registered in 2014, compared with 423 the previous year, according to the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France. Acts of physical violence recorded against Jews (241) was nearly 11 times greater than those recorded for Muslims (22), despite the fact that Muslims are estimated to outnumber Jews 10 to 1.

Last year France evicted four out of five Roma slum-dwellers, a higher rate than any other country, according to a report last week from EurActiv, a leading online media on EU affairs.

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