Rights watchdog warns of rising attacks against Muslims in France

Rights watchdog warns of rising attacks against Muslims in France
2 min read
15 February, 2022
The European Network Against Racism has accused the French government of unjustly targeting Muslim communities and attacking anti-racism civil society organisations.
France has imposed severe restrictions on mosques and Islamic schools [Getty]

A European watchdog has warned that far-right ideologies and attacks against Muslims were increasing in France, adding that all of Europe should be concerned. 

The statement by the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) accused French governmental organisations of targeting Muslims and civil rights groups who fought racism. 

“The French government has not been shy about its increasingly divisive discourse and strategies,” the ENAR statement read.

"Under the guise of national security, civil society organisations have been dissolved, mosques have been raided, and schools and Muslim-owned businesses closed in ways that defy the rule of law and free association and expression, with a chilling effect on Muslim communities and civil society, who are being considered guilty until proven innocent," the statement continued. 

Anti-Muslim sentiment has been rising in France for a number of years, but particularly saw a spike following some Islamist attacks in the country. 

Two popular candidates for the upcoming French presidential elections, Éric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen, have both stood on far-right and anti-Muslim platforms. 

In their statement, ENAR said that the French government’s policies declared French Muslim communities and civil society groups to be “guilty until proven innocent”.

Live Story

“In the process, the government has been aggressively promoting vague constructs, such as ‘Islamism’,” the statement read. 

“It is attacking and silencing peaceful speech that argues that manifestations of racism, including Islamophobia, are grounded in structural and institutional racism and demands a response from the state to protect the rights and dignity those affected by it.”

ENAR said that they, along with several other human rights organisations, had been targeted by an official French governmental body.

“The actions of the French government in this witch hunt are alarming,” Chair of the ENAR Board Karen Taylor said.

“Instead of championing freedom of speech and listening to the voices of radicalised communities impacted by discriminatory policies, it is doubling down on them and marginalising these communities even further,” she continued. 

ENAR expressed concern regarding France’s presidency of the European Union Council and urged other European Union members to take action and remember its obligations to fight racism. 

“The discourse and action of French government is contrary to the recent positive commitments the EU has undertaken in its Anti-Racism Action Plan, which stresses the need for all Member States to bring structural racism to an end all over Europe,” ENAR’s vice chair, Ghislain Vedeux, said.

“We would have hoped that countries such as France, who had been key in setting up the European project, would not seek to undermine the progress in tackling racism in Europe and contribute to the erosion of key EU principles.”