French Muslims call on Hollande to speak out on Islamophobia
French Muslim leaders have appealed to President François Hollande come out as strongly against Islamophobia as he has against anti-Semitism. They estimate that the number of anti-Muslim acts in France rose 34 per cent last year.
Leaders of the Muslim umbrella body, the CFCM, which was set up by former president Nicolas Sarkozy when he was interior minister, met Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on
Thursday to call for action against what they claim is a rise in Islamophobia.
They called on Hollande to condemn it in a “solemn declaration”, similar to his call for the fight against anti-Semitism to become a “national cause”.
Islamophobic incidents rose 34 per cent in 2011 and 14 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, according to Abdellah Zekri of the CFCM’s Observatory of Islamophobia.
Zekri blamed a number of factors for the rise, among them:
- The debate on “national identity” initiated by the Sarkozy government;
- The polemic over the burka, which led to a ban on and face-covering garments;
- An escalation of anti-Islamic rhetoric during this year’s election campaigns;
- Leading UMP member Jean-François Copé’s recent claims of “anti-white racism”;
- The reaction to Islamist Mohamed Merah’s killing spree in Toulouse and Montauban.
On 7 October he declared that “France’s Muslims should not suffer from radical Islamism, they are also its victims”.
Two French bishops have also expressed concern at the rise in prejudice against Muslims.
“It’s with great sorrow that I see the emergence of a Catholic anti-Islamism, just as there was a Catholic anti-Semitism for centuries,” Bishop Claude Dagens of Angoulême told the AFP news agency during the annual meeting of France’s bishops in Lourdes.
And Marseille’s Archbishop Georges Pontier commented that “those who speak a language of fear are those who meet Muslims least often”, while also pointing to a hardening of attitudes in the “Muslim community”.