Lifting the Veil: France Sees ‘Alarming’ Rise in Islamophobia

Written by | Monday, November 11th, 2019

French Muslims have become the target of an alarming increase in Islamophobic violence and actions, as well as incendiary statements by politicians, over the past few years. The latest high-profile case was about two weeks ago when an 84-year-old man attempted to set fire to a mosque in the southwestern town of Bayonne. When two passersby tried to stop him, he shot and wounded them both, before being eventually arrested. Meanwhile, at about the same time at Elysee Palace in Paris, President Emmanuel Macron was meeting Muslim leaders, whereby the topic of their discussion were not threats against the Muslim community, but instead how they could step up efforts to combat religious extremism in their ranks.
Muslims in France have been subject to a witch-hunt following the stabbing of four policemen by a colleague who converted to Islam on 3 October. Last week’s events were just part of a vicious cycle of recrimination and demonization that has erupted in France ever since the stabbing of the policemen. The incident attracted little attention internationally, and even within the European Union, especially when compared with the mass killings in Paris in November 2015 and Nice in July 2016. But people in France are deeply concerned about the escalating Islamophobia that is being fuelled at least to some degree by the rhetoric and actions of President Macron and other political leaders.
Thus, more than 10,000 people marched through the French capital yesterday (10 November) to protest against hostility toward Islam and discrimination against Muslims, two weeks after the incident in Bayonne. A similar demonstration took place in the southern city of Marseilles, both being called by left-wing organizations and media outlets, and also received backing from various Muslim groups. Muslims joining the rallies say they have had enough, with a recent IFOP poll finding that four in 10 French Muslims also believe they are discriminated against because of their religion. Another survey finds more than 60 percent of French citizens considered Islam incompatible with French values. While anti-Islamic attacks are not new, these recent events helped catalyze these protests.

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