Each year the US Department of State publishes its annual report on Human Rights Practices across the world. In its 2015 report the Department of State expresses concern with anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim incidents in France. Although this concern is justified, it must be put into context.
Too many anti-Muslim incidents were reported in 2015. An increase of over 281%, i.e. 400 in total, for the most part insults, threats or graffiti on Mosques. A figure well below the violence which followed the September 11 attacks in the USA, where Muslim shopkeepers were attacked, as well as Indians and Sikhs mistaken for Muslims because of their turbans. Some were even killed.
Racism exists in France also, but the reaction here to the terrorist attacks was mainly in the form of demonstrations and slogans of solidarity. According to the highly respected Pew Institute, in 2015 it was in fact in France that Muslims were most highly considered. More than in England or Germany, despite France being the most targeted by terrorists. But above all, in periods of calm, outside terrorist attacks, the number of anti-Muslim incidents has decreased considerably: -82% during the first half of 2016. But this is not the case for anti-Semitic incidents.
Twice as many anti-Semitic as anti-Muslim incidents
The number of anti-Semitic incidents is still double that of anti-Muslim incidents. 800 to 400. Even at a time of terrorist attacks, when terrorists murder Jews in the name of Islam.
When we talk of anti-Semitic incidents, we are not only referring to insults or graffiti, but knife attacks on the streets, attacks aimed to kill, terrorists armed with kalachnikovs.
It is important to highlight this. Not to create rivalry between the victims of racism, but because we live in a time when in order to radicalize and persuade young Muslims in France to kill Jews, extremists tell them that they are more persecuted than the Jews. This is the context which cannot be ignored; it should be treated more responsibly by those involved in public debate. And yet, the more our country is targeted by terrorist attacks, the more we observe this senseless passion for “victimhood” and inflammatory propaganda.
We see the irresponsibility of journalists who, instead of providing the official statistics of racist aggressions, relay the deliberately misleading figures put out by the Collective against Islamophobia. Close to salafist imams, the CAI regards any secular criticism of fundamentalism or the expulsion of radical imams as “islamophobic”.
Then there are those who do not understand, or do not want to understand, the difference between wearing a kippah (which is not a sexist symbol) in solidarity with a Jew who had been stabbed on the street and the organization of a “Hijab Day” at Sciences Po (University of Political Science), forgetting that the veil is permitted in universities, that dictators have made it their emblem and that, in some countries, women are beaten or killed for not wearing it. Despite intense media coverage the “Hijab Day” initiative, launched by a student member of Les Républicains party, was a flop.
And now we have an “Islamophia” commission in Place de la République in Paris, where we see the usual proponents of “victimhood” propaganda, mobilized to give credence to the theory of “State racism”, whereas in fact the problem is racism in society and we have laws fighting fight racism.
On the subject of irresponsibility, the US Department of State could perhaps do some soul-searching. In its report a significant part of the chapter on “Freedom of Speech and Press” refers to the trial and sentencing of the former comedian Dieudonné. Based on the Anglo-Saxon view on freedom of expression, the report defends the freedom of hate speech, which amounts to attacking France’s efforts to punish racism.
Misunderstandings and cultural warfare
These differences of opinion stem from our respective histories and approaches regarding secularism and equality. And when the main threat comes from religious or sectarian radicalism, we are no longer on the same wavelength. This was the case with the anti-sect laws of 2001 or the law of March 2004 on religious symbols in state schools, all measures taken to protect emancipation and equality, but which the US Department of State saw as serious violations of religious freedom.
It would not be such a serious issue if American “soft power” didn’t also encourage young people in France to view these laws in this way, via their “Young leaders” or “community organizing” programmes, aimed at the elite or to structure our youth on a community basis, notably in the suburbs, on the pretext of overcoming discrimination.
What might be a very positive approach in the US, making up for the absence of a welfare state, is much less so in France where the main danger is seeing the social fabric split into separate communities which are played off against each other.
This is indirectly encouraged by such programmes, as many activists who have taken part in them now play an active role in public debate, telling us that secularism in France is “islamophobic” and that France is intolerant towards its minorities. Contrary to the United States.
A country where the police regularly shoot Black citizens in the back and where Donald Trump is a big hit when he promises to ban Muslims from entering America. Not even Marine Le Pen, in France, would dare go that far.